CHICAGO (WLS) --Not too long ago, a trip to the United Center meant barely warm hot dogs, nachos and burgers, and maybe some watered-down beer. But thanks to a local company, and some new partnerships, the food and drink at the U.C. is better than ever. So much so, it warrants a trip to the stadium before game time, to beat the lines.
The first sign of a difference at the United Center comes from the taps. Not some overpriced, mass market beer, mind you, but whiskey sours and margaritas, courtesy of Wicker Park's Big Star, one of the local operators part of the new "Chicago's Plate" program, linking chef-driven menus and stadium eating.
"As we know now, food is a big part of coming to an arena for an event. So we got together, we wanted to develop what that food story is for the United Center," said Michael Arcomone, the Exec. Chef for Levy Restaurants.
It's local. Not just the excellent tacos, loaded nachos and fresh guac from Big Star, but also slow-smoked pork shoulders, briskets and tri-tip sandwiches, as well as fried chicken and sweet potato fries from Lillie's Q in Bucktown; plus the crispy firecracker or smoldering Buffalo wings from Jake Melnick's downtown.
"It's their food. It's prepared their way and served the same way they would serve it at their restaurant," said Arcomone.
Levy Restaurants did create some of their own kiosks, like the Legacy Burger, which does a mean double patty with crispy fries, also Mrs Levy's Deli, with two-fisted pastrami and corned beef sandwich combos. But in the case of recognizable brands, like Big Star, Lillie's and The Publican, those chefs train Levy employees, to recreate their recipes.
"We had to figure out how to make sure we execute at the quality and their standards but in the time frame we're gonna be serving the food," he said.
Just because it's a stadium, doesn't mean it's all burgers and nachos these days, I mean buttermilk fried chicken and slow smoked tri-tip? It is a new day on West Madison.