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Audi Field, D.C. United’s gleaming new home on Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C., will open on Saturday evening. There will be fans. There will be pomp and circumstance. There will also be a ton of food.
The club hosted a preview of the stadium’s culinary offerings on Thursday afternoon, laying out a smorgasbord of food to sample. In field-level suites on the west side of the stadium, media and other invited guests pecked away at a variety of menu items.
The selection at RFK Stadium, the club’s old home, felt like a cross between prison grub and an MRE. Aside from a few choice offerings–most notably the pupusas–fans were faced with the usual stadium fare: nachos, pump cheese, and unidentifiable meat cylinders.
The offerings at Audi Field are a big improvement.
D.C. United has partnered with Chicago-based Levy Restaurants on their stadium concessions. José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, who collaborated on the efforts, is also involved. The resulting menu feels a lot like the stadium itself: modern, upscale, and a tad fancy.
“We really just kind of wanted to bring the local flair here, we wanted to bring a wide array of offerings,” Levy Executive Chef Adam Carter tells City Paper. “We have everything from our ‘match special’ summer pizza that’s going to change every game, to a fried chicken biscuit biscuit to a local double smoked burger with smoked bacon jam and smoked cheddar cheese.”
Andrés’ influence can be felt throughout the stadium’s offerings. Big-wigs who pack the stadium’s luxury suites will get some Spanish exclusives, while La Pepa–a spin-off of Andres’ widely-loved Pepe food truck–will serve items geared more towards the average fan, like a “Bikini Quatro Quesos,” The chef describes that as a “crispy grilled cheese filled with quince paste, manchego, goat, provelone and blue cheeses.”
Other offerings from Andrésinclude tacos, chips and guac, and mole-covered fries. Local Venezuelan kitchen Arepa Zone also has a presence at the stadium, and Maria’s–makers of those pupusas that United fans loved at RFK–is also setting up shop.
Levy is also offering a bit of local flavor: half-smokes, crab pretzels, and crab cakes are available at stands throughout the facility.
Carteris quick to stress that something Levy has focused on at Audi Field is speed of service. “Soccer fans, they don’t move when the ball is in play,” he says. “So for us it’s all about getting the fans a good bite to eat, and to do it fast.”
During construction, Levy had some influence on how the concession stands were built out. On Thursday, Carter seemed confident that fans wouldn’t experience the long waits present at many other venues.
“The back of our concession stands basically goes prep, cook, fulfill,” he said. “So nobody has to move. It’s laid out, it’s quick, it’s just a line. It’s like restaurant service–it’s thought out. I think it’s gonna be revolutionary what we’re doing here. It’s going to be trend-setting.”
There is also plenty of booze to be had at Audi Field. The Crossbar Beer Garden will have eight taps from four breweries–three of them local. The club also touts having a “wine on tap” system offering “impeccable pours” at perfect temperatures throughout the stadium. Andrés’ team at ThinkFoodGroup will offer draft specialty cocktails as well. Alcohol will be served through the 75th minute of the match.
All of this sounds expensive, obviously.
“We have something for all gamuts,” assures Carter. “We have our regular hotdog for $6. That’s a very fair price in the market right now. We also have the more upscale things. If you want to come try something–you can get a cheese pizza for a very reasonable price. But if you want to try that match special, it’ll cost you a little bit more–but it has those fresh local ingredients that a lot of people in this medium and atmosphere haven’t tried yet.”
On Thursday, reviews were generally positive among those in attendance. The crab cakes were tender and largely devoid of filler. The “hongos”–corn tortillas filled with trumpet and portobello mushrooms, salsa serrano and cilantro–were flavorful as well.
On Saturday, we’ll find out how the general public responds. It’s doubtful they’ll miss RFK’s food.