First Taste

New Concessions at US Airways Center: The Taste Test

Last week we reported on US Airways Center's plans to upgrade their concessions line-up, with a push toward incorporating more fresh and local ingredients. This week we're bringing you the verdict on some of those new items from ZZ to Go, G'rilla Dogs, and Southwest Grill.

How do these new stadium eats fare against the more familiar Subway, Peter Piper Pizza, and the fried 'n' true Bargain Bites menu? Are they worth the price or will you be left with buyer's remorse, and the consolation that at least you might have a couple of free tacos from Jack in the Box to look forward to?

Check out the verdict on the new menu items after the jump...

G'rilla Dogs (Get it? Gorilla dogs?) boasted a line-up of all-natural Niman Ranch sausages and hot dogs. These hormone-free, environmentally sustainable sausages were available in gourmet flavors like Apple and Gouda, Chipotle Cheddar, and Spicy Italian. These upgraded dogs come at an equally upscale price of $8.00.

We tried the Chipotle Cheddar Dog, a juicy sausage that had just a bit of spicy kick. The promised cheddar flavor was sorely lacking, but that may have been due in part to the gigantic bun we were forced to do battle with to get to the meat. It was a bland hunk of dried out breading that required a hefty swig of beer to lubricate. It was almost cartoonish how large the bun was compared to the skinny little dog it encased, and we had a huge mound of excess bread left over at the end.

ZZ to Go was a much improved option for stadium eats compared to the somewhat disappointing G'rilla Dog. Warm lighting, homey brick-a-brack, and a colorful gelato case added some much needed atmosphere to this quicky Italian joint. It was surprising how much less cookie cutter and sterile it appeared compared to the standard stainless steel food vaults lining the corridors.

We snagged a Sicilian Pizzan ($9.75) and a Turkey Meaball Grinder ($9.00) and settled in at the Bacardi Rum Bar during half-time to sample the eats. Both were a bit on the pricey side, but either one was certainly large enough to share between two people. The Sicilian Pizzan was a doughy, flavorful flat bread sandwich packed with spicy capicola, salami, smoked ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli and giardinera. It was an awesomely massive sandwich with a good balance of ingredients, but if you finish this thing solo it would be one heck of a gut bomb.

The Turkey Meatball Grinder was also done well, with tender and flavorful meatballs smothered in tasty marinara sauce and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. This grinder was much too big to pick up and eat, but we were pleased at the generous meat to bun ratio that we received for just a buck more compared to the bitsy cheddar chipotle G'rilla Dog. Much improved.

We rounded out the evening by ordering some Elote (Mexican grilled corn) from Southwest Grill ($4.50). When we asked for the menu item we were greeted with befuddlement, as the cashier went to converse with the grill before returning and admitting that, "You're the first one to ever ask for that." A statement that did not bode well for the corn in question.

After watching three people engage in the act of preparing the questionable "elote," we were greeted with a cup filled with corn-off-the-cob that was dusted with red chile and accented by a wedge of lime and a sprig of cilantro. It looked pretty great, but all it took was a single bite to dispel this illusion. It was tart and cheesy and sour and just plain off. It was like they mixed cheese sauce and sour cream together and tossed it with corn.

To give you an idea of how bad that corn tasted, we would have considered our complimentary 99 cent tacos duo from Jack In The Box fine dining by comparison. Stick with ZZ to Go for reasonably priced (for the size) Italian-style sandwiches and gelato. US Airways Center, your new concessions are batting an average of 0.333. Wait, wrong sports metaphor. Let's just say some of the new menu items are technically foul, and leave it at that.

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Erica O'Neil