LOS ANGELES -- Whatever people choose to eat at LAFC’s new stadium, ideally, they won’t have to wait very long to do it.
Ahead of Sunday's opening game at Banc of California Stadium, when LAFC host the Seattle Sounders (9 pm ET | FS1; Full TV & streaming info), the priority at the concession offerings around the new facility is to offer quality, a local connection, and to get food and drinks in a timely manner.
“We wanted to offer the ultimate fan experience when it comes down to technology with [wireless internet], getting people into the gates quickly, and fast lines at the concession stands,” said Benny Tran, senior vice president of development and strategy at LAFC on Wednesday morning during a culinary media day for Banc of California Stadium.
Tran, affectionally known as “Stadium Benny” to LAFC supporters and those involved with the club, referred to the culinary offerings at the new venue as one of the features he cared most about during his three long years researching venues across the world, the sport, and the league.
“We looked at how other stadiums did it,” Tran added. “We did not want to focus on what everyone got all the time, which was, depending on the stadium, okay food or junk food.”
Tran spoke to the club’s ethos of being authentic, young, and community-oriented, pointing out that none of the eateries at MLS’s newest venue were influenced by national chains.
“We ended up with great local partners,” Tran added. “Starting with Beer Belly, then everyone knows Bludso’s in this town, Chicas Tacos is a newer enterprise, but they have wonderful food right in downtown, and Seoul Sausage is German sausage meets Korean food.”
Media members embarked on a tour of those local eateries, as well as several in-house concessions stands created with the club’s hospitality partner Legends, before finally being invited to the Founders Club to sample the food on offer.
Ahead of Sunday’s home opener, here are the top five culinary items not to miss:
1. Beer Belly’s duck fat fries (with raspberry mustard and Three Weavers Expatriate IPA)
Keep your peanuts. Keep your crackerjacks. Even the venerated local institution, Dodger Dogs, may not be able to compete with Beer Belly’s duck fat fries. Dunk one of the savory, crispy potato slivers in the biting raspberry mustard and relish a bite of brutal sweetness that only a Carlos Vela curler or the right craft beer can top.
Thankfully, owner Jimmy Han’s outpost of the restaurant that introduced craft beer to nearby Koreatown will also feature a rotating local beer menu with Three Weavers (Inglewood), Mumford (Downtown LA) and Eagle Rock Brewery all available for Sunday’s kickoff.
2. Seoul Sausage’s kalbi pork sausage (w/ kimchi relish, garlic jalapeño aioli & fried onions)
After starting out making sausages in apartment kitchens, Seoul Sausage won season three of "The Great Food Truck Race" as Ted Kim and his co-founders set out to make a to-go version of Korean BBQ. As many Angelenos already know, with their kalbi pork sausage, they nailed it: a gushing, fresh-grilled link, cut with a distinctive kimchi buzz and smidge of jalapeño fire.
With their booth opening at The Banc, now the restaurant’s most famous item can travel easily with LAFC supporters whether they are bound for the 3252 North End, regular seats, or the club’s more exclusive spaces.
3. Bludso’s brisket sandwich (with mac 'n cheese)
Compton isn’t the first neighborhood visitors to Los Angeles conjure up when choosing where to grab a meal but for the last decade, native Kevin Bludso has produced the best Texas-style BBQ in Southern California, perhaps the whole state.
Their “slow and low” approach has achieved unreal flavors that taste like they took lifetimes to produce and their saucy brisket sandwich is among the South LA institution’s greatest victories. Paired with a couple scoops of gooey mac 'n cheese, the meal reaches an echelon of soul food you’d never expect a fancy new stadium to feature.
4: Chicas Tacos barbacoa tacos (with chips & guacamole)
While it’s true that you can essentially throw a rock from Banc of California Stadium and find a street vendor serving up $1 tacos that are tough not to love, America’s home for good Mexican cuisine doesn’t disappoint when the Angeleno staple is offered inside the confines of the stadim. Case in point: Chicas Tacos. In just a couple of years, the downtown Los Angeles restaurant has created an assortment of regional delights with one eye toward tradition and the other on evolution.
Their barbacoa tacos, especially when drenched in several stripes of red salsa, deliver without reinventing the wheel: what Angeleno wouldn’t be keen to scarf a quick couple tacos before the black-and-gold takes the field? All the better if you keep a bag of chips and guacamole at the ready for mid-match snacking.
5. The Roost’s pita nachos (with feta, tzatziki, and cucumber salsa)
Apart from the local restaurants invited to open branches at Banc of California Stadium, the in-house concessions team created several eateries (with names like The Crest, The Press, and LA Rotisserie) but its Mediterranean-inspired booth — The Roost — which produces the most novel take on a basic stadium snacks, something Tran called “elevated fan fare.”
Pita Nachos feature lightly fried, unleavened bread piled with feta bricks, diced cucumber, and smothered in tangy tzatziki. I was skeptical the foray into a “healthy” alternative to the hand pumped liquid cheese would fall short of either goal but in-house Chef Matt Eland might be onto something stadium goers had no idea they always wanted — the creation is a fresh take on an old classic.