Chicken wings called Drummies, Jets wine, and Korean pulled pork bahn mi will keep fans well fed
For ten games a year—two preseason games and eight that count, unless they manage to somehow win the AFC East—fans of the New York Jets can schlep out to East Rutherford, New Jersey to see Gang Green in person at the relatively new MetLife Stadium.
While the cost of seeing an NFL game grows from year to year, the in-stadium experience has become an important aspect that teams have to get right in order to keep fans happy when the team is in the midst of a down year (which, let's be honest, the Jets most likely will be), the game is a real stinker, or they're bored and waiting around for the game to come back from a TV timeout or for the zebras to debate Schrodinger's latest rules change. For a lot of teams, that means chasing after big spenders to create unique luxury experiences outside of personal seat licenses and skyboxes. The Jets are no different, recently holding its Gameday Upfront at the stadium's 30,000-square-foot Toyota Club, one of two such spaces in the stadium that offers good sight-lines to the action on the field as well as exclusive food and beverage options, among other amenities, like restrooms, that the hoi polloi cannot befoul.
Shortly after 11 a.m., DJ Jon Blak (wearing a throwback kelly green #12 Joe Namath jersey, naturally) wound down a tasteful remix of Jock Jams, and Bob Wischusen, the Jets' radio play-by-play man, took the stage as a promotional video played on a pair of big-screen TVs at each end of the platform. The mellifluously voiced Wischusen served as the event's MC and introduced several members of the Jets' business side who talked about the team's new partnerships (Marvel! Def Jam! WWE!) and in turn introduced heavy-hitters from those partnerships. Marvel is teaming up with the team for their October 21 game against the Vikings and offering an exclusive comic book where The Incredible Hulk (who is green) and Thor (who is a Norse god) will duke it out in the MetLife parking lot. Some early-bird fans will pick up a Hulk bobblehead that day, too. The WWE's The Miz was on hand to hype next spring's Wrestlemania event at the stadium as well as to remind the staffers on hand about potential franchise savior and rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. That's all well and good, but the thing that matters the most to a lot of people was the event's closer: food and beverage.
As a Chicago sports fan living in New York, I try to see "my" teams when they come to town, but just as important to securing tickets and making sure the corresponding t-shirt is clean and its partner cap still fits is what I'm going to eat around the game's midpoint after I've had a couple of overpriced beers. Of the city's arenas and stadiums, Citi Field has, in my honest opinion, the best food and drink options, but if Tuesday's trip to MetLife Stadium told me anything it’s that the Jets are nipping at the Mets’ heels.
In honor of this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Jets' only Super Bowl triumph, the team is offering its own branded wine at the stadium (as well as in stores in the tri-state area): Jets Uncorked Championship Reserve, a California red from fifth-generation winemaker Joe Wagner of Napa Valley's Copper Cane that goes for $25 a bottle. The Toyota Club offers premium spirits, craft beer, Pepsi products, and Buds both heavy and Light, covering all of its bases. Since it was not yet wine (or beer or gin o'clock), only the PepsiCo drinks were available to sample.
Jets Executive Chef Camilo Baquero was, without a doubt, the most dynamic presenter at the event. Standing at a different station than the previous speakers, Baquero went over the new dining items that will be available in both the Toyota Club as well as on the stadium's various concourses, including on the 300 level, the stadium's highest.
Noting that the organization had heard from fans and figured it was a smart thing to do, Baquero first introduced the team's newest in-stadium food brand, Petite Greens and Grains, which will offer a variety of both made-to-order as well as grab-and-go salads, bowls, and wraps for $10. For an additional six bucks, you can add grilled chicken breast to your kale Caesar, chop, or farro salad. There's a plant burger ($10) and a garbanzo bean stew ($5) you want a vegetarian option that includes protein. The grab-and-go section offers a few extra options, like a number of fresh juices, including ginger and lemonade kombucha ($7), and a fruit salad with pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes, apples, and strawberries ($6).
Baquero beamed when he arrived at the newest offerings from Fat Rooster, the team's take on Nashville hot chicken, which this year is adding Drummies ($15), bigger-than-average and very juicy wings that are coated in a buttermilk-and-hot-sauce-brine and come with a number of different sauce options. Fat Rooster is also opening an outpost on the 300 level this season, giving more fans exposure to items like their hot chicken sandwich, honey hot wings, and loaded fries (hot chicken, honey mayo, dill pickled slaw and sweet pickles, cheese, bacon, and scallions) that look absolutely decadent.
Next up was the team's bahn mi spot, Bahnbekyu, which debuted last year, but is expanding its menu in 2018 with a Korean pulled pork bahn mi with carrot and cabbage pickled slaw ($12, very filling) and not-quite-bite-sized pulled-pork-and-slaw boa (li'l sliders, 3 for $12). There'll be veggie tots with Green Giant broccoli and melted cheese this year, too.
For Tacos Roqueros—at five, one of the oldest brands on hand—the tacos and burritos from years past will now be joined by chicken tinga, carnitas, barbacoa, or wild mushroom tostadas ($10). Each one is topped with grilled corn, slaw, and creamy cheese. A number of new Tacos Roqueros stalls are opening up throughout the stadium this year, as well.
Over at Nonna Fusco's, a brand that's been with the team since MetLife opened in 2010, the meatballs which have become a stadium staple will this year be accompanied by a deluxe warm chicken cutlet sandwich ($16) topped with a roasted garlic spread, sharp Provolone, arugula (how the Jets aren't using 'garden rocket' here is beyond me) and radicchio, and pickled onions.
While not new this season, Global Pies, an empanada spot that plays around with a number of different cuisines, and Stadium Gyro, are both back this year as well.
Aside from the food and beverage options, the Toyota Club has a few other distractions on hand if you're looking for something to do during pre-game or during the late-season cold-weather months, like a caricature artist, 50/50 raffle, a spinning wheel for merch, giant Jenga, and selfie stands from Hong Kong's YungDuo, to name a few.
While Sam Darnold could very well be the NFL's next star quarterback, experts predict that the Jets will struggle this season potentially leading to the league's next defensive superstar, Jets fans are in for a lot of culinary excitement in 2018. Play ball!