North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Taking a bite out of the Air Canada Centre’s new menu

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This offseason, the Toronto Raptors made some major changes. They let Shawn Marion go and signed Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack, among others.

But no move was as hotly anticipated as their overhaul of the Air Canada Centre menu.

Over the offseason, something like two-dozen new items were added to the menu. No longer would Raptor fans have to be content with hard pizza, lukewarm RC Cola and a bag of $20 popcorn.

Okay, things weren’t quite that desolate. But still, as somebody who likes basketball almost as much as I like eating, this was something that definitely piqued both my interes and my stomach. And it definitely pinched my wallet.

In rating the ACC’s food, I went with a system of my own design: the Sanchez, named for the New York Jets Quarterback who ate a hot dog on the sideline of a Jets/Raiders game a couple weeks back.

There were two new food stalls added to Air Canada Centre this offseason: Burkie’s Dog House, an upscale hot dog eatery, and Wally’s Donut Shop, which is exactly as it sounds. And as much as I was looking forward to eating a type of hot dog that shares a name with a player I don’t like, I was spared simply because I couldn’t find the atrium.

But the ACC is big and there are a lot of places to eat. So I went with the flow and ended up getting my food at one of the many stalls (one by section 307, in particular).

First up was the Grilled Vegetable Panini, which set me back $8.50. Served warm on a ciabatta bun, it’s a nice sandwich. It’s topped with lots of grilled peppers, some onions and a few slices of some mild cheese. It also claims to have some special kind of mayo, but I couldn’t really tell. It was pleasant, although it could have used some kind of a kick – some mustard, maybe.

I gave the sandwich four Sanchez out of five. I’d recommend it to any QB bored between snaps.

Meanwhile, my buddy Big E bought a giant double cheeseburger and a large coke (came with a coupon for a free angioplasty). After quickly scarfing it down and spilling only a little of it on his jeans, he gave it the nod of approval, but expressed displeasure over it’s price and made an idle threat towards Brian Burke.

I suppose that’s a three on the Sanchez scale (recommended only for those with a lot of poise).

A quick digression. The game we both attended was a loss to Orlando where two things were immediately apparent.

  1. Orlando wasn’t going to give Toronto a chance to get in the game and shot the lights out from downtown
  2. The Raptors were having a hell of time getting rebounds early and had a hard time defending the three (probably because they were so keyed into Dwight Howard).

These two observations led me to a third thought: that the food at the ACC must be good, since it looked like the Raptors eat overeaten before the game.

Later in the game, I went back to the food stand for something else to eat. The menu, in part, reads like this:

  • Pulled Pork Sandwich: BBQ pork on a bun. $8.50
  • Cuban Sandwich: Swiss Cheese, Pork and Pickles. $8.50
  • Beef Dip Sandwich. Going by the picture, a French Dip sandwich served with an Au Jus dip. Again, $8.50.
  • Various kinds of stir-fry. Started at around $7. I didn’t see a single one of these being eaten all day.
  • Slices of pizza. No types listed, but they all looked like pepperoni. I didn’t write down the price.
  • A single unsalted pretzel. $3.50.

While I was waiting in a huge line, halftime ended and the game resumed. Not wanting to wait for another sandwich or break the bank, I ended up buying the pretzel. It was almost as bad a decision as the time I bought a Jamario Moon jersey.

As somebody who eats hot pretzels at almost every opportunity, I happily tried to eat it. But as somebody who also enjoys living a sodium-rich lifestyle, it was hard to swallow something so… bland. A pretzel without salt just doesn’t taste right – it’s like drinking flat cola.

It’s also really, really dry. Like dry enough I needed a Coke (sweet, slight spice notes and a smooth finish) to choke it down. Poor show, pretzel. You only get one Sanchez (just get a hot dog instead).

As I ate the pretzel, the stands around me filled to capacity and honestly, I didn’t feel like making a bunch of people stand up so I could spend more money on food I didn’t really want and couldn’t really afford. So I didn’t buy anything else.

Overall, I liked most of what I ate and nearly all of what I saw – it beats the pants off what I remember the ACC having last time I went, three years ago. And it’s a good answer to the Rogers Centre’s recent menu revamp. It’s better, too.

Just don’t get the pretzels.

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Written by Mark

November 4, 2009 at 1:54 pm

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