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October 28, 2018

2018 NFL press box food spread ratings

Eagles NFL
081818EaglesTailgate Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

OK, so this is tailgate food, not press box food, but shut up.

Throughout the season, we'll be posting press box food spread rankings for each of the Philadelphia Eagles' road games. This is probably of no interest to you if you're a sane human being, and, well, I don't care. I'm doing this anyway.

090418Patriots

What'd they have? Pregame, they had Caesar salad, various pasta salads, turkey and Italian hoagies, roasted veggies, chicken, New England clam chowder, cookies, fruit, Häagen Dazs ice cream bars, and Häagen Dazs ice cream. At halftime, they had some chicken Caesar wraps, and added a few different kinds of brownies.

Throughout the year, it will just be assumed that every team has bottled water, a soda machine, and coffee, unless otherwise noted.

What'd I have? Pregame, I had the Ceasar salad, and added chicken to it, two cookies (one with chocolate and peanut butter chips, and one chocolate cookie), and a tiny thing of ice cream, which was melted. It was almost like doing a shot of liquid ice cream, which was actually really good. At halftime, I had a chicken Caesar wrap and a brownie.

Grade: Overall, the food was good, but the pregame Caesar salad paired with the chicken Caesar wrap at halftime is some pretty uninspired repetitiveness. Still, not a bad effort for the preseason. I’ll give them a B+.

091618BrownsLogo

What'd they have? Pregame, they had a salad bar, bruschetta chicken, penne bolognese, green beans w/tomatoes, rice pilaf, beer brats, hot dogs, popcorn, and some assorted cakes and cookies. At halftime, they had giant pretzels. Postgame, they had mozzarella sticks and chicken wings.

What'd I have? Pregame, I had the bruschetta chicken, penne bolognese, and rice. I also had a hot dog, because it's a common press box food, and I felt like the hot dog would help me differentiate from other press boxes. And I also managed to shove both a chocolate chip cookie and a piece of red velvet cake into my face. 

The chicken was tough, the penne bolognese was watery, the hot dog was just bad, and the cookie was arguably the worst of all the press box cookies in the NFL that I've tried. On the bright side, the rice pilaf was OK, as was the red velvet cake.

At halftime, I had the giant pretzel, and meh, it was OK. I think the perceived appeal of it is that it's huge. Unfortunately, being a big pretzel is less important than being a good pretzel. Anyone can go back for seconds, so my preference would be to have a normal-sized pretzel, and if I really want to eat like I'm in a shame spiral, I can go back for more.

Postgame, I could tell the mozzarella stick was going to be awful, and it was. It's hard to mess up mozzarella sticks. Then again, it's hard to mis-evaluate Carson Wentz as badly as the Browns (and Cian Fahey) did. But ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The wings looked equally gross, so I didn't even bother getting my fingers messy to try one.

Grade: I give the Browns credit for having some variety. I remember covering the Eagles-Browns Week 1 game back in 2012, and they had little more than a basket of fruit. However, the food itself was mostly bad, and the setup was even worse.

The food was in this room in which the line went to the left upon entry. The first thing in the line is the salad bar, which takes the longest amount of time among any of the press box foods. You'll have some dude getting individual pieces of lettuce with tongs, and then croutons, and then carrots, and then cucumbers, and then chopped up hard boiled eggs, and then dressing, etc etc. It just takes forever.

Normally, you'd be able to just skip ahead of the salad dorks, but that's not an option in Cleveland, because the line extends outside the door. You can't just walk into the room ahead of everyone else in line and be line, "Nah, it's cool. I'm just getting a hot dog, bro." Your ass is waiting in that line whether you want salad or not. Diagram here:

082818BrownsPressBox

A much more line-friendly setup would be to switch the salad with the hot dogs. 

Anyway, I'll give the Browns a D+.

090618BuccaneersLogo

What'd they have? Pregame, they had southern andouille sausage, roast beef, chicken with peppers and onions, buttermilk mashed potatoes, hoagies (Italian, turkey), salad, potato salad, cole slaw, cookies, brownies, popcorn, and various snackies (Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos, and Lays chips). They also said they were going to have carved turkey, but that never showed up.

At halftime, there was more of the same, but they also had cake on a stick, as well as banana's foster.

Postgame, they had nothing, and they even took away the coffee setup, a huge no-no in my book.

What'd I have? I'll go bullet-point form for the pregame food, since there were so many things to try:

• The chicken was... interesting. It was buried under a pile of peppers and onions, which gave it nice flavor and tasted good, but it looked gross. Because of the added moisture from sitting in an aluminum pan and then the UFO-shaped serving thing, the chicken skin shriveled up, and looked like when you get prune hands from staying in the water too long, as shown here:

091618BucsPressBox

That look is fine if it's fried chicken, but it looks and feels gross if it's not crispy. 

• The roast beef didn't look good either, but it was.

• I had a piece of Italian hoagie, which wasn't good. Super dry, little flavor. Coming from Philly, I'm spoiled by good hoagies, so I won't hold that against them too much, though maybe the Bucs should just reconsider offering it at all going forward. That reminded me of the one year WASTEAM had cheesesteaks the week they played the Eagles. I'm guessing they offered cheesesteaks because it was "Philly week," which is dumb. Don't do what the visiting team already does well. Just do you. (That cheesesteak was one of the worst things I've ever bitten into, in case you were wondering.)

• The southern andouille sausage was very good. Good flavor, and had a little heat to it.

• To note, I'm not a potato salad guy, but Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia gave it a thumbs up. "It tastes just like my grandmother's," Frank said, while also making clear he meant that in a complimentary way.

• I also skipped the salad, because there's just so much for me to eat, and I can't gum up the works with empty vitamins and minerals. "It's fine for a press box salad, but nothing special," said Eliot Shorr-Parks of WIP.

• At halftime, I had the cake on a stick. To note, I don't know if that's what they call it, but that's essentially what it was. It was cake, you know, on a stick, with sort of a hard shell coating. It looked kind of like a candy apple, but... good. I chose the pink one with rainbow sprinkles, because it matched my shirt. My daughter likes her nighttime stuffed animal to match her pajamas, and she likes the color of her snacks to match her shirt, so I now do the same if it makes sense, and in this case, it did. And it was awesome.

Update: I'm told by multiple readers that I was probably eating a "cake pop." After googling cake pops, I can confirm that that is correct.

• There was a long-ass line for the bananas foster, and I had work to do at halftime, so I did what I had to do and checked back a little later when I thought the line would be smaller. As it turned out, there was no line, because there was no more bananas foster. Boooooo! Zach Berman of the Inquirer had some though. 

“I feel confident saying this is the best banana foster I’ve ever had in a press box,” he said.

Grade: As noted above, taking away the coffee postgame is not good. The Eagles do this too, and I don't know why. Just leave it there. What's the rush? Anyway, that lack of postgame coffee sullied what was otherwise a pretty decent spread, overall. I'll give the Bucs a B-.

090418Titans

What'd they have? Pregame, they had a BLT salad, country mustard potato salad, coleslaw, hickory smoked brisket, BBQ pulled chicken, seasonal mixed veggies, and brownies. At halftime, it was more of the same.

Postgame, they had a pathetic-looking setup that included a small tray of wraps, and a half dozen or so bags of snackies, shown here:

101818Nashville

Lol.

Grade: For a city with so many outstanding restaurants and signature dishes like "hot chicken," for example, this was one of the lamer press box spreads you'll see. The hickory smoked brisket was OK, I guess, but two things there:

  1. It didn't come remotely close to any of the other food I had on the outside while in Nashville.
  2. They served it at like 10 a.m. Who would ever normally eat brisket at 10 a.m.?!?

Postgame, one of the other Philly reporters (who I'll leave nameless) took one of the wraps, which prompted me to suggest he just pass on that, and then eat actual good food somewhere else after he leaves the stadium, to which this reporter remarked, "Oh, I'll try it, but trust me, this wrap already has one foot in the trash can."

I'm giving the Titans a D.

090618GiantsLogo

What'd they have? Pregame, they had hoagies, salad, tuna, potatoes, coleslaw, and chicken francaise. The chicken francaise was fine, but overall, it was a weak pregame spread. Normally for 1:00 p.m. games, the Giants will put out a breakfast spread, which is usually pretty good, but obviously wouldn't have made sense for a Thursday night game. I'll try not to hold their pregame spread against them too much.

At halftime, the Giants came strong with a completely new spread. Kudos on that. They still had the hoagies, but they also added buffalo chicken sandwiches, cheesesteaks, a fruit spread, a robust selection of cookies, and an ice cream freezer (!). 

What'd I have? I have many thoughts on the Giants' halftime spread, so let's go bullet-point-style:

• The buffalo chicken sandwiches were really good, and I applaud the Giants for having something spicy (I mean very mild spice, but whatever), which most press boxes wouldn't think of doing.

• Don't serve cheesesteaks. Like, I get it. Philly is coming to town, so you have the cheesesteak theme. Stop. We're coming from the place that has the good cheesesteaks. If we want a good cheesesteak, we can just walk around the block and get one. We don't want some bobo cheesesteak from North Jersey. Pass.

• The fruit spread isn't something I'd ever eat in a press box, but I have to admit it looked really good. The fruit spread nerds (Jeff McLane of the Inquirer, for one) were big fans.

• There was a strong variety of cookies. Unfortunately, they weren't very good.

101818IceCream
• And finally, they had an ice cream freezer (!) with like 6-8 different kinds of ice cream. I believe they were all Good Humor brands like Chocolate Eclairs, Strawberry Shortcake, Toasted Almond Bar, and King Cone, to name a few. I had the Chocolate Eclair initially, and went back later for a King Cone, both shown to the right. 

More importantly, the Toasted Almond Bar reminded me of the ice cream man bit from Eddie Murphy's Delirious comedy album from the early eighties that I used to listen to on my Walkman every time I mowed my parents' lawn. It was either Delirious, or Jody MacDonald and Glen Macnow on WIP. Murphy does an impression of his mother throwing money out the window, telling him to grab his father a Toasted Almond Bar. I then did the Toasted Almond Bar part of Murphy's bit in the press box for one of the food service employees. I think she just wanted to get away from me as quickly as possible, and rightfully so.


Earlier this season, we noted that the Patriots had 
Häagen Dazs ice cream bars, but no way of keeping them, you know, frozen. Maybe invest in an ice cream freezer like the Giants, Kraft?

Grade: While there were certainly some small, but valid gripes, overall the Giants did a good job, and seemed to care. They get bonus points for the ice cream, and for leaving the coffee machines on, on a night in which many members of the Philly media were leaving the stadium to drive down the NJ Turnpike at around 2:00 a.m. That was clutch on their part, and extremely well appreciated by me. I'm maybe feeling a little generous here because their actual football team and front office are both disgraces, but I'm going A-.

090418Jaguars

What'd they have? As you know, this game was played at Wembley Stadium, so as a disclaimer, I have no idea how much involvement the Jags had in the food selection. Pregame, "they" (whoever "they" is) had pan-fried salmon, sorrel sauce, "bubble and squeak cake," salad, and cookies. They also had warm autumn fruit crumble with clotted cream.

At halftime, they had "wedges and chicken," which was basically a cup of steak fries and two small pieces of chicken at the bottom (shown below). Apparently, they ran out of these cups of chips and chicken rather quickly. They were fine, I guess, but it wasn't much of a meal.

Postgame, they had nothing.

102818ChipsAndChicken

What'd I have? To begin, I assume most of you are wondering, "What's bubble and squeak cake?" It's basically cabbage (and sometimes other veggies) mixed together with eggs, mashed potatoes, and cheese, then fried. That's a hard pass for me, though Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94.1 WIP said they were "bangin.'" Otherwise, the salmon looked good, but it stunk up the place. If it smells bad, I'm not interested. I'm also not putting anything called "clotted cream" in my mouth. 

As for the cookies, they had fruit in them that looked like chocolate chips. No. Bad! The raisin (or other fruit) in the cookie is the Trojan Horse of the culinary world. Come on, Brits. The Revolutionary War was over 200 years ago. That kind of petty payback is unnecessary. 

Grade: Serving salmon and "bubble and squeak cakes" is fine and good, except that a lot of people don't like seafood, or otherwise acceptable foods mixed with cabbage for no good reason. If you want to serve that stuff, go right ahead, but you should probably also add in other options for people like me with infantile palates. The Wembley press box spread was Titans-level bad, but we'll forgive them to some degree, as England isn't exactly known for their food, while Nashville is. D+.

Season, to date

 RankTeam Grade 
 1Giants A- 
 2Patriots B+ 
 3Buccaneers B- 
 4Browns D+ 
 5Jaguars D+ 
 6Titans 

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