(Editor’s Note: While we cover the NBA as obsessively as we can around here, there are still numerous ancillary parts of the game experience that we want to uncover and explore. Being involved with the NBA can mean everything from serving up exotic foods to firing shirts into the crowd. We will delve into these angles of the NBA as part of a new regular (and perhaps a bit irregular) All Ball series, NBA Behind The Scenes.)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — If you live in or around the New York area, you’ve been hearing about the Barclays Center for a while. A new arena in Brooklyn was initially announced about a decade ago, and was first scheduled to open in 2006. But the project hit bumps along the way, the way that pretty much any large-scale building scenario in the New York area seems to find delays. When the Barclays Center finally opened for business in 2012, and started hosting Brooklyn Nets games soon after, all it took was one lap around the concourse to realize there was something really cool and different happening.
When they built the Barclays Center and started figuring out details, someone made the wise choice to eschew generic concession stands in favor of highlighting food from local Brooklyn restaurants. Brooklyn is a borough with a broad and varied history — why not look close by when you’re looking for something to eat? They call the program Brooklyn Taste, and in the first year of the program, there were 37 Brooklyn restaurants represented in Barclays. This season that number has swelled to 55 Brooklyn restaurants.
Not only are there are a ton of different foods available, there are so many different styles of food available. You want a slice of pizza? Sure, you can get pizza made by L&B Spumoni Gardens, a restaurant in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, that has been serving pies since 1939. Then there’s food from well-known places such as Nathan’s, from Fatty ‘Cue, from Paisano’s Butcher Shop. Junior’s cheesecake? Yeah, that too.
Even though I’ve been to numerous games at the Barclays Center, the life of a writer generally dictates hanging around in subterranean tunnels while the world happens above you. But last week we decided to investigate the Brooklyn Taste program, so I emerged into the main concourse with a camera crew and met up with Chef Alphonse Lanza, the executive chef of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Taste program. Chef Al took me to several places and let me sample as many of the delicacies as we had time for (and my stomach had room for).
I will stake my professional reputation on this one sentence review: It was all amazing. I think the video above shows how great it all looks, and you can probably tell by my reaction to a few of the bites that was an authentic take. And it wasn’t just generic hot dogs and nachos — basic stadium food. This was all above and beyond.
Maybe the best thing I ate? The cheddar bratwurst from Brooklyn Bangers and Dogs. A traditional brat with pork and cheddar, smoked, then cooked to a crispy perfection, nestled in tender bread, topped with tasty Red Hook Relish (mixed mustard and pickles). Three ingredients, all prepared perfectly, and all amazing. The simplicity was profound and perfect.
Because of the limits of TV, we didn’t even get to include the slice of Junior’s cheesecake or the red velvet cake I topped everything off with. We also didn’t include the part where I came home and laid down in the fetal position for half an hour, after gorging on so much delicious food.
Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.