Torchy's Tacos has a cult following for a reason.
TThe Shake Shack and Torchy's Tacos are locked in an early Minute Maid Park battle.
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane keeps a close eye on things in his office at Minute Maid Park. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan.)
Shake Shack's throwback roadside burgers are loved across the country.
It’s the early upset of the baseball season — and maybe the most unexpected development at Minute Maid Park since Matt Fiers of all pitchers threw a no hitter there. For another upstart is taking it to an established national power in what’s shaping up to be the food fight of 2017.
Local Texas favorite Torchy’s Tacos drew a much longer, snaking line than national darling Shake Shack on Opening Day. Don’t get the wrong idea — the Shake Shack line was long too in the hours leading up to first pitch. It just wasn’t as long as the Torchy’s Taco queue.
To be fair, Shake Shack seemed to do a better job of moving people through its line on day one. But that along didn’t account for the noticeable difference in the pregame. In the battle of gourmet fast casual food, Texans may still prefer something… well, more Texan.
Torchy’s Tacos and Shake Shack are both located in the snazzy new centerfield concessions concourse of Minute Maid. One of the offshoots of the elimination of Tal’s Hill, one of the few original ballpark touches that were left, is that there is a lot more space out there behind centerfield. While the field level seating that puts fans eye-to-butt with outfielders is the most buzzy change that seating is limited to Diamond Club suite ticket holders.
The new centerfield food is something many more fans will experience. And the crowds wasted no time in finding it. For most of the pregame, the centerfield area was the most crowded part of the park by a wide margin. Shake Shack actually gets the more premier locale. It’s on the 100 level. To get to Torchy’s, you need to take an escalator up to the next deck.
Still, tacos reigned supreme on opening night. Torchy’s takes round one in what will be at least an 81-game battle (and more if the Astros’ playoff visions come true this season).
The new centerfield area is part of Astros owner Jim Crane’s vision of creating more of an entertainment complex feel around Minute Maid. The Texas Rangers may be building a new mega entertainment mixed-use center dubbed Texas Live! around their new retractable roof stadium ballpark, but Crane believes the original roof-ready Texas baseball stadium can still more than compete.
“We’re kind of doing our own thing,” Crane says. “The new centerfield area is a big deal for us.”
Early on, Torchy’s Tacos is winning the battle of the big deal.