This is Hurtado BBQ. They have a location in Ft. Worth, and their original spot in Arlington. They make really, REALLY great food. I’ve eaten a lot of it over the last few days. But that’s not entirely why I’m telling you this. I’m telling you this because, GOOD LORD ALMIGHTY THERE’S A FOX IN THE HENHOUSE! That’s right, a real-live, honest-to-goodness, mom-and-pop restaurant has penetrated the previously unscalable walls of the Texas Rangers’ home field. And Brandon and his wife Hannah are the perfect people to pull the pork at the park. But first, a little background on why this is a big deal.
Let’s make something super clear: cooking for tens of thousands of folks within the compressed time frame of a couple of hours is hard as hell. HARD AS HELL. That’s why not many people do it. To this day, there’s only a handful of companies who not only have the people-power and know-how to execute operations on this scale, but also the history and proven track record of actually doing it. The concession business has mega-massive barriers to entry and requires a cash outlay that would make even the cockiest financier blush. But something happened over the last 20 years in the stadium concessions business. Well, a couple things happened. 1) Consumers’ tastes evolved. More people are more aware of what they’re eating, and what they love, than they were 20 years ago. And 2) the concession companies got greedy, lazy and flat out boring, and made crappier and crappier food while charging more money for it.
Necessity being the mother of invention, teams in all sports looked for solutions to the fans’ objections and complaints about the state of their concourse offerings. A heightened awareness grew that, “hey, I bet there’s something better we could offer.” Hence, more teams began turning to scores of local, talented service industry workers for ways to make the gameday experience better. And it worked. Venues all across the country now have local flavor sprinkled amongst the Aramark, Levy, and Delaware North behemoths manning the regular channels. (Delaware North handles Globe Life Field’s concessions) You can travel to watch a game just about anyplace in the country and the chances of getting a local beer or some native grub these days has gone up tenfold. Local eateries won’t ever be the main providers at sports venues, as we discussed- cooking 30,000 hot dogs and employing 400 seasonal workers takes a unique background and ability, but they’re there. Local restaurants are definitely there. And now, finally, they’re here too.
Hurtado BBQ, specifically, is here. In 2022, the Rangers began a program rotating a small selection of local eateries through semi-permanent spots on the concourse. It went well, so now for the first time ever, a local eatery has a full-time, permanent spot in the park. And it’s Hurtado. And they sure earned it. Really damn good food and a very, very local heritage. Brandon Hurtado is an Irving native who remembers well the salad days of Trevor Story and Blake Beavan dominating their high school diamond. A digital marketer by trade, his love, passion and obviously his ability to smoke incredibly tasty meats morphed from a part-time pursuit to a full-time gig over the last half-decade or so. And now, here he is helming the first ever “Official BBQ Restaurant of the Texas Rangers.” A relationship that began with fellow DFW man/lefty hurler/rock solid human Taylor Hearn publicly declaring his affection for Hurtado’s BBQ has become not only a chance for Brandon and his crew to consistently feed the team his tasty goods, but now they’ll also be (finally) hooking up the fans.
The Hurtado squad will be cooking everything on site using smokers installed at the birth of the new park. If those smokers could talk, whooeee imagine how happy they’ll be to see the pitmasters from Hurtado gently easing themselves in front of those flaming openings.(a select few Delaware North folks will be trained to chip in too) Brandon said the plan at the moment is to do his brisket elotes, loaded brisket nachos, birria tacos, a brisket sandwich and a big ol’ beef rib. Everything cooked in house, everything prepped on site using a lot of Nolan Ryan beef, and everything cooked to order. Pay special attention to that last part, “cooked to order”. That’s the plan at the moment and that means they’re not chopping or cuttin’ much until you get directly in front of them. The way BBQ is supposed to be. Will that mean some long lines? Probably. Will Brandon and his crew get better and better at the execution throughout the season? I have no doubt. But it’s the product, man, it’s the product in this case that will just be so much better than the other options.
So am I excited for Hurtado BBQ to be out at the ballpark? Yeah, you could say that. Am I equally excited for Hurtado BBQ to serve as a trojan horse for a few more local joints to get their armaments through the door at Globe Life Field? Yep, you could say that too. The Rangers are 1 of 6 teams in Major League Baseball who’ve never won the World Series. The defending World Champs are in the Rangers’ division, and even in the same state. The team has rattled off 6 straight losing seasons. But they’ve spent 3⁄4 of a billion dollars on players to try and get that part of the business corrected. And now, let’s be serious, they’ve really gotten their priorities straight. Hurtado BBQ goes permanent and live, slotted next to section 101, in a few weeks time. I haven’t done more than 30 seconds of research on this, but will still say it anyways: the Texas Rangers are the first team in MLB history with an “Official BBQ Restaurant”. And that makes World Champs of us all.
As Always, Enjoy Baseball!