Stadium food sure has changed from the days when it was limited to hot dogs and peanuts — and Cracker Jacks, if you were lucky — but Las Vegas tends to do things big, and that extends to fan fare. During a Wednesday event at Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas Raiders and stadium officials gave members of the media a sample of what will be served there, beginning with Saturday’s Illenium concert.
“In Las Vegas, the culinary experience is elevated,” said Raiders president Marc Badain, “so expectations are even higher.”
At Allegiant, he said, “the food and beverage experience is going to be one of the best in the entire city.”
To prove it they’ve brought in some culinary stars, such as Border Grill founders Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, whose BBQ Mexicana served barbecued-pork burritos, the smokiness of the meat balanced by a scattering of cabbage and just enough rice to make its presence known.
Holsteins Shakes & Buns, a longtime restaurant at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (and whose chef, Billy Richardson, just opened Marigold at Resorts World), was on hand with The Gold Standard Burger, a ground-sirloin patty with plenty of beefy heft topped with aged cheddar, bacon, aioli and arugula on a brioche bun substantial enough to handle it all.
Local favorite Fukuburger offered its Raider Burger, topped with American cheese and miso-bacon slaw. Las Vegas-based Capriotti’s had the Bobbie, a beloved sandwich known as Thanksgiving dinner on a bun. And stadium vendor Silver & Black Hospitality served skewers of lobster tempura.
Which is not to imply that some comparative bargains won’t be available at the stadium. Silver & Black also displayed its House Deals — large soft pretzels, popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, peanuts and fountain sodas that will sell for $3 each.
But, of course, soft drinks won’t be the only beverages available. Tony Abou-Ganim, a longtime local who’s known as the Modern Mixologist, was stirring up some Raiders cocktails.
“It’s been quite a journey,” said Abou-Ganim, best known for his work in local resorts but who also heads the beverage program at T-Mobile Arena.
He said he presented 16 cocktails to Raiders representatives, who liked all of them. Three or four, he said, will be proprietary, available only at Allegiant Stadium — but everywhere in Allegiant Stadium. They include the Bloody Fist Mary, named for what Badain called “an iconic Raider moment.”
“Everyone does a bloody Mary,” Abou-Ganim said. “How do we make it special and unique?”
The answer was to use Diane Mina’s Bloody Mary Mixer along with a Demetri’s proprietary spice blend created specifically to complement the mixer, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and a garnish of an olive stuffed with a cornichon. The mixer also will be used in the stadium’s micheladas — but with a pepper for garnish.
“Never underestimate the importance of the garnish,” he quipped.
Then there’s the Chucky, the nickname of Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. It’s a mix of Jack Daniel’s Gentleman Jack, apricot liqueur, lemon juice and Abou-Ganim’s own chicory pecan bitters, spritzed with Q ginger beer.
Even the more mundane cocktails will get a Raiders touch, with such ingredients as black and silver sea salt rimming glasses for some drinks.
Raiders great Charles Woodson, soon to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, also was at the event, pouring samples of his Intercept Wines. He said he first became interested in wines because of “proximity,” since the team’s training camp is in Napa, Calif. Woodson said he started trying some of the great restaurants in the area, and “wine was always part of it.”
“I got into the culture and decided to get into making it,” he said, producing his first single barrel of merlot in 2001.
Raiders senior vice president for strategy and business Brandon Doll reminded that Allegiant is a cashless stadium.
“Cash transactions just take longer,” he said, but customers who prefer cash will be able to convert it to a card at a stadium kiosk.
It’ll all be introduced to Raiders fans at their first open-to-the-public home game, a preseason matchup with the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 14. But Badain said the stadium also will be busy with special events, with 17 scheduled in the next 16 weeks.