The Sports Stadium Where You Can Get Deep-Fried Pop Tarts And World Class Ceviche
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When the 22,000-seat Banc of California Stadium, located near USC and the L.A. Coliseum, kicks off the 2019 men's pro soccer season this weekend, you'll be able to fill up on a slew of snacks that seem like they were created by a stoner with knife skills. (Weed is legal now, people! Why are you clutching your pearls?)
We're talking deep-fried Pop Tarts...
loaded shredded beef nachos...
and stacked grilled cheese sandwiches...
Some of these concoctions come from the in-house kitchen, overseen by chef Matt Eland. Others are made by local restaurants Beer Belly, Chicas Tacos and Seoul Sausage Co.
After its inaugural season in 2018, the soccer stadium, which is home to the Los Angeles Football Club, revamped a few of its food offerings.
You can still get the usual fare -- hot dogs, burgers, nachos and pizza, burgers -- but now, you can also order Korean sweet and spicy fried chicken served on a bed of waffle fries. It's made by Seoul Sausage Co. and it's probably the venue's crowning concession.
"In L.A., a lot of people love their Korean fried chicken," says Yong Kim, one of the owners of Seoul Sausage Co. "We're trying to represent a little bit of Korea to Los Angeles."
Made with a gochujang-based sauce (gochujang is a fermented chili paste), the wings are one of Seoul Sausage's best-selling items, available at their Oxnard food stall, their food truck and their catered events.
The esquites are another welcome addition to the stadium's menu, especially because it's hard to look hot when you're eating corn on the cob. While Chicas Tacos is hardly the first restaurant to take grilled Mexican-style street corn, cut it off the cob and serve it in a dainty cup with spices and crema, they do it well.
"Last year, we did it on the cob and we recognized you have so much food and drink in the stands, so we decided to go with a simpler version," says Eduardo Miguel, chef of the DTLA taqueria. Chicas Tacos returns for its second year at the LAFC, serving tacos (on custom, extra thick corn tortillas from beloved Boyle Heights tortilleria La Princesita) and nachos in addition to the esquites.
If you want battered and fried Pop-Tarts, you can thank Beer Belly, which is also offering stacked grilled cheese sammies and pork belly chips.
What the LAFC is doing is tasty but it isn't unique. Around the country, sporting venues, concert arenas and shopping malls are revamping their fare to reflect a more modern, more local and often more upscale palate.
There's a reason the concessions at these places once had a bad reputation, with neon orange cheese and Sbarro franchises as far as the eye could see. While tins of gooey industrial nacho cheese will always have a shelf in our heart, corporations are working hard to bring foodies back to food courts.
Your choices include burgers (Shake Shack), fried chicken (Crack Shack), upscale Chinese food (Meizhou Dongpo) and delicate cookies ('Lette Macarons). In between, there are tacos, ramen, bibimbap, poke, kabobs, salads, xiao long bao, gelato, pizza, panini and, of course, Panda Express.
Forget the prefab blandness of the shopping mall food court, which reached its zenith in the 1980s and '90s. These days, food is a crucial part of performing individuality in public. Why would you want the food at one venue to be exactly the same as it is at every other venue? Why wouldn't you want it to represent the ethos and originality of its hometown?
That's what excited Kim when he was approached about setting up a Seoul Sausage outpost at the stadium.
"We try to rep Los Angeles and we really rep our city, Ktown," Kim says, "so I think they wanted a slice of that cuisine reflected at LAFC."
The esquites, wings, tacos and other dining options will be available either at concession stands throughout the stadium or, in some cases, in your seats. If those don't tempt you, you have a cornucopia of options next door, at the Fields LA, the luxe food hall that opened in August 2018.
The Fields LA features nine vendors including Burritos La Palma and its petite burritos...
Ms. Chi and its vegan mapo tofu...
Coni'Seafood and its ceviche...
C.J. Boyd's with its crisp fried chicken sandwiches...
barbecued ribs from Barbra Jean's Soul Food...
...and plenty of other options.
Many of these vendors are longtime foodie favorites, but the Fields LA puts them all under one roof. You don't have to head to Inglewood to find Coni'Seafood's world class ceviche then to Culver City for Shirley Chung's vegan mapo tofu (yes, it can be done!) or visit El Monte for a couple of Burritos La Palma's tinga de pollo burritos then pop into Norwalk for Jason Fullilove's ribs and hushpuppies.
Let's see if the strategy of gluttonous stadium food on one side and carefully curated SoCal favorites on the other -- stoner in the seats, foodie in the sheets -- pays off and soccer fans develop a serious case of the munchies.