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October 28, 2019

2019 NFL press box food spread ratings

Eagles NFL
091619JimmyFood5 Jimmy Kempski/PhillyVoice

This is Joe. He works in the Falcons press box dining room. He makes good food.

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. 

If you're fake-appalled by a sportswriter playfully complaining about free food, shut up.

Please note that we'll have the most recent press box reviews at the top.

121418BillsLogo

Eagles vs. Bills, Week 8

What'd they have? The Bills made it easy on me, printing out their full press box food spread offering, which I just had to re-type here. These are their words, not mine. Pregame, they had: 

  1. Fresh baked pastries and bagels, butter, jellies, and cream cheese
  2. Cereal variety and milk
  3. Assorted yogurts and toppings
  4. Sliced fresh fruits with strawberries and grapes
  5. French toast with butter and syrup
  6. Herb scrambled eggs
  7. Breakfast potatoes with seasoned peppers and onions
  8. Crisp bacon and sausage patties (#JimmyNote: They were sausage links, not patties.)
  9. Waffles and syrup
  10. Warm oatmeal

The waffles were "make your own." You've probably seen these in hotel lobbies at some point in your travels.

102719Waffles

Evidently, Mike Quick never has, and he had no idea whatsoever how to use this thing. In fairness, it's not exactly self-explanatory. You pour the batter into a cup, dump it onto the griddle, close the griddle, then flip the whole thing upside-down with the handle, at which point a countdown from 2:30 automatically begins. I helped Mike with that part, but did not wait around for the 2:30 to count down to help him retrieve his waffle when it was done.

When his waffles were ready and the timer went off, I'm told that Quick tried to lift the griddle without turning it right side up once again, and had to be helped by Sal Paolantonio. For those of us in the hotel lobby self-serve waffle-making community, we've all been there, Mike.

Paolantonio declined comment.

At halftime, they had:

  1. Chicken wings, celery and carrots, and blue cheese
  2. Butternut squash bisque
  3. Garden salad with various dressings
  4. Caeser salad, shaved Parmesan cheese, croutons, Parmesan crisp, and caesar dressing
  5. Chicken and herb roasted potatoes
  6. French-cut green beans, and blistered tomatoes
  7. Beef on Weck, Kimmelweck rolls, regular rolls, horseradish, and au jus

They also had a snack table throughout the day, which included:

  1. Kettle chips and French onion dip
  2. Popcorn
  3. Mixed nuts
  4. Snack mix
  5. M&Ms, and Peanut M&Ms
  6. Soft pretzels, beer cheese, and honey mustard

Some legitimate effort went into the presentation of the snack area, with a fall theme.

102819Pretzels

And then of course, the beverages:

  1. Bottled water
  2. Assorted sodas
  3. Hot and iced coffee, including a "create your own latte" station (Pumpkin spice creamer, mocha coffe creamer) Tim Bit Kabobs
  4. Assorted cakes, cookies, pastries, and Dunkin Donut Munchkins

What set the Bills apart from the rest of the crowd here was the iced coffee, which is an interesting add-on, given that Buffalo is one of the coldest cities in the NFL. If the Miami Dolphins' food service team reads this before our trip down there next month, take note.

102819BillsSpread

What'd I have? For breakfast, I had a waffle, sausage links, and bacon. Bo Wulf of The Athletic and Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94.1 WIP felt that the breakfast spread was very hotel-like. I would agree, seeing as they had the waffle machine, cereal, and some of the more basic breakfast foods. The waffle was exactly like any hotel waffle-maker-made version you've ever had, as were the sausage links and bacon. Wulf was not a fan of the bacon.

I also had a giant pretzel for breakfast. That was good, but I'll make one observation of giant pretzels, just generally speaking. I think the perceived appeal of them is that they're huge. However, in my view, 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.

Conversely, I applaud the Bills' inclusion of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins. Dunkin Donuts is a sponsor of a number of teams, including the Eagles. As such, the Eagles have Dunkin Donuts as part of their spread, except they don't have Munchkins. With Munchkins, you don't have to commit to eating a full donut. You can have a glazed Munchkin, maybe throw in chocolate glazed, or a even a powdered Munchkin, and even if you eat all three, it still isn't as much donut as a full donut. You can better regulate your donut intake, leaving room for some of the other offerings.

The Bills waited until halftime to serve lunch, which is slightly unorthodox. Normally, teams will serve lunch before the game, seeing as they start at 1:00 p.m., and then the halftime spread is more of smaller offering. Halftime in Buffalo is the main event. Opinions on that approach varied. Personally, I was fine with it.

I had some wings (duh), potatoes, and the Beef on Weck. My plate:

102819BeefOnWeck

That doesn't look special, but the Beef on Weck was so good that I almost housed it before I remembered that I had to take a picture of my plate. The Beef on Weck will 100 percent be making the 2019 Jimmy Food Spread All Star team.

The wings were OK. My personal preference is for my wings to be slathered in hot and honey sauce, but I realize that the Bills can't realistically offer a number of different sauces. For non-sauced wings, they were very good. Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com named a number of different wing places he went to during his trip up to Buffalo (apparently he goes wing-hopping, lol), and he thought the Bills' wings were the best.  

Grade: The Bills are a small-market team, and as such, expectations aren't going to be as high as they would be in, say, Dallas, Chicago, New York, or even Philly. Their effort was excellent, and the halftime spread was legitimately very good. I felt that the Bills' spread overall was comparable to the Packers', and had them earmarked for a solid B when the game was over, as long as they kept the coffee machines on after the game.

BUT THEN... unexpectedly, after the game, there was beer! And I had some. B+.

090418Cowboys

Eagles vs. Cowboys, Week 7

What'd they have? I arrived at the press box three and a half hours before kickoff, and my expectation was that the Cowboys would have a few things out, like popcorn, and their candy display, and maybe some cupcakes or cookies or something. Nope. Dinner was already being served! And as always, they did it up, and then some.

Carving station:

  1. Smoked chipotle and black garlic strip loin
  2. Horseradish cream
  3. Artisan dinner rolls, with butter.

Buffet presentation:

  1. Caesar salad: Romaine and heritage salad blend with shaved Parmesan cheese, kalamata olives, roasted tomatoes, Texas toast croutons, and jalapeno Caesar dressing
  2. Southwest bean salad: Black beans, black eyed peas, roasted corn, sliced banana peppers, green onions, roasted red peppers with citrus-cilantro dressing
  3. Open face roast beef caprice: Roast beef, mozzarella, arugula, marinated tomatoes with a balsamic spread on an herbed braided loaf, lol
  4. Grilled chicken thighs with caramelized onions and beer cheese sauce
  5. Grilled broccolini and roasted tomatoes
  6. Macaroni and cheese

Here's the roast beef balsamic bread jawns:

102019CowboysSpread3

Desserts:

  1. 66% chocolate crumble shooters
  2. Caramel apple and toffee mousse cream puffs
  3. Oatmeal raisins cajeta sammies
  4. Cannolis
  5. And then, as always, they have a Mr. Bulky-style candy setup, that included Snickers, Starburst, Peanut M&Ms, Three Musketeers, Milky Ways, malted balls (Whoppers, maybe?), and one of my personal favorites, Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers. In fact, they didn't just have Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers, they had VERY BERRY Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers. (Standing ovation.)

101919CowboysSpread

Drinks:

  1. In addition to regular old coffee, the Cowboys have espresso, cappuccinos, and a bunch of other hoity toity options.
  2. They had a bunch of different drinks with various fruits floating in them.
  3. And as we mention every year, they serve beer after the game, and give you a ride back to your hotel if you want one.

Oh, and uh, ALL OF THE ABOVE FOOD WAS JUST WHAT THEY HAD PRE-GAME!!! At halftime, they brought out a whole new smaller food spread that would kick most regular food spread's asses.

Halftime presentation:

  1. Guacamole Fiesta Bar: Guacamole fiesta served with tortilla chips and pulled brisket, pulled pork, queso fresco, grilled jalapenos, and spicy creamed corn
  2. Kosher-style hot dogs:
  3. Mini cheesesteak sliders
  4. Nacho Bar: Queso, pico de gallo, roasted beef, caramelized onions, jalapenos, and blue corn tortilla chips
  5. Soft pretzel station: Salted and non-salted pretzel bites stuffed with sausage, plus regular bite-sized soft pretzels with spinach and artichoke dip, Texas chili, yellow melt cheese, beer mustard, cream cheese, horseradish, and cilantro pesto.

 Oh, and they brought out a whole new round of desserts, lol.

102119CowboysFoodSpread

What'd I have? My dinner plate included the steak, the chicken thighs in the beer cheese sauce, the roast beef balsamic bread jawns, and the mac and cheese (duh). Everything was outstanding, but the steak was especially good because the carving station lady had already carved my two slices, and they had been sitting there on the cutting board soaking up the juices for an undetermined amount of time. Outstanding. Here's my plate. You can see the juice soaked into the steak: 

101919Cowboysspread2

I also had a chocolate crumble shooter, a cream puff, and some worms. 

At halftime, I had the soft pretzel sausage sandwich, which was awesome, a chocolate-coated pretzel stick with sprinkles, and some dark churro thingy.

If I had to dig hard for one gripe, it's that in the past on games close to Halloween, they had spooky cupcakes (cupcakes with Halloween designs on them). For example, from 2016:

102019SpookyCupcakes2

I figured that because the Cowboys don't play again until after Halloween, this would be the week they had spooky cupcakes, but (sad face), there were no spooky cupcakes.

Grade: I'll let the lack of spooky cupcakes slide, I guess. A++.

090418Vikings

Eagles vs. Vikings, Week 6

What'd they have? The Vikings served breakfast, which isn't a given for early start games, at least in the eastern time zone, though I guess when it's a noon start in the central time zone, you kind of have to. Their breakfast was pretty good:

  1. Omelette bar
  2. Scrambled eggs
  3. Hash browns
  4. Sausage
  5. Bacon
  6. Croissants
  7. Fruit
  8. Trail mix

Personally speaking, eggs offend all five of my senses, so the omelette bar does nothing for me. That said, I understand I'm very much in the minority on that, and the omelette bar is a nice touch. The Eagles used to have an omelette bar that everyone raved about, but they did away with that after they stopped caring.

At halftime, the Vikings had cheeseburger and pulled pork sliders, some additional cold sliders, like caprices (attn: Sheil Kapadia), and "Queso Blanco Tequeños." I can't speak for the rest of you, but when I think Minnesota, I think "I gotta get me some tequeños, son." They also had ice cream, with an impressive assortment of fixins, just like the Falcons did, as well as cookies and mini cupcakes.

What'd I have? Croissants, and sausages at the breakfast spread? Obviously, that means improvisational sausage sandwich time. That was good, as was the bacon. The hash browns could use some work. I also grabbed a Planters "Nuts & Chocolate" trail mix, until I realized it was polluted with raisins. Like, on the packaging, it says in big letters, "NUTS & CHOCOLATE." If Planters thought raisins were appealing, the raisins would have made the marquee as well. But they're not appealing, and yet, Planters included them anyway, and put them in the fine print. Come on, Planters. 

The Vikings should consider just putting out a gigantic bowl of Planters Cheez Balls, which are the undisputed king of orange-finger-coloring snacks, even ahead of Doritos. Yeah I said it.

At halftime, I grabbed a cheeseburger slider, a pulled pork slider, a tequeño, a sugar cookie (the most underrated of the cookie family), a mini red velvet cupcake, and a cup of vanilla ice cream with Hershey's chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and rainbow sprinkles. Boom.

101319HalftimePlate

"The tequeño made my poor wittle tum tum hurwt," said Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94.1 WIP. For the record, the tequeño did not make my tum tum hurt, because I'm a tough, rugged man. I was pleasantly surprised by the tequeño, personally. I've now mentioned tequeños seven times, and should probably stop.

Grade: The Vikings showed effort, which is really the most important thing, even if their food selections weren't exactly my preferences. Extra points for the ice cream bar, and for keeping the coffee on, post-game. A-.

On the whole, it's been a solid showing so far for Eagles' regular season opponents, and I'm itching to blast someone once again.

090418PackersLogo

Eagles vs. Packers: Week 4

What'd they have? The Packers rolled out a nice pre-game spread, with plenty of options:

• Carving station, with braised short ribs

• Brats and hot dogs, with like four different varieties of mustard

• A robust salad station, with the fixings organized neatly

092619Salad

• Grilled chicken

• Roasted red potatoes, and corn

At halftime, they rolled out the star of the show, cheese curds with marinara. 

What'd I have? My pre-game plate consisted of the carved short rib, potatoes, a brat on a hot dog bun with mustard, chicken, a sugar cookie, and a mini red velvet cupcake with vanilla cream. Behold the gluttony:

092619Brat

The brat was the best thing on that plate. "I thought the chicken was dry," Mike Kaye of NJ.com said. "Also, I peed the bed last night." I'm not sure why Mike added that last part in, but I wish him the best in overcoming that issue.

Solid plate, nothing special.

At halftime, I had the cheese curds. They would absolutely make an all-star team of the best NFL press box offerings, even though the Packers employee I chatted up while in line was clear to mention that they aren't "proper Wisconsin cheese curds." Whatever they were, they were delicious. 

Grade: Packers games are extremely difficult to get to. You can fly into Green Bay or Appleton, but you're going to have to take a connecting flight to get there. The other option is to fly direct into Milwaukee, which is a 1:45 drive to Green Bay. I always fly direct to Milwaukee and do the drive.

The drive to the stadium is fine. It's the drive home that is brutal, especially after a night game. I didn't get back to my hotel until roughly 3:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. EST) last night.

Because of the absurdly late drive after a long day of work, it is absolutely crucial (like, more so than anywhere else in the NFL) that they LEAVE THE COFFEE ON AFTER THE GAME! And they did. And I'm thankful for still being alive this morning.

Anyway, I'll give the Packers a solid B.

090318Falcons

Eagles vs. Falcons: Week 2

What'd they have? The Falcons brought it. Pre-game, they had all kinds of good stuff:

• A carving station with beef brisket, as well as a mustard sauce, and a bacon aioli sauce. This was Joe. That's not an action shot. Joe actually posed for this picture, lol. Nice guy.

091619JimmyFood5

• Jerk chicken

• Chicken fried steak with gravy

• Three-cheese mac and cheese

• Cheeseburgers

• Tangy Jamaican cole slaw

• Potato salad

• Yuka fries

• Red beans and rice with coconut curry milk

• Salad bar

• A dessert table, with cupcakes, cookies, and brownies

091619JimmyFood2

• An ice cream bar (they had vanilla and chocolate, with add-ons such as sprinkles (yeah, I say sprinkles), cherries, chopped M&Ms, and various sauces (caramel, chocolate, etc.)

At halftime they had these mini chicken sandwiches, with sauce and pickles that were absolutely delicious.

What'd I have? I came in hungry, and I ate a lot. First, I had a cheeseburger, mac and cheese, jerk chicken, and a piece of chicken fried steak.

091619JimmyFood

All of that was very good, and I was full before I finished the above plate. But because I'm a journalist for the people, I continued to sample the offerings, and went back for some brisket, with the mustard sauce and the bacon aioli.

091619JimmyFood3

I don't know if it was because I already had 3 pounds of food sitting in my stomach, but that was just OK. In an upset, the mustard sauce was better than the bacon aioli.

And then even after all of that, again, because journalism, I had some ice cream, with crushed M&Ms, rainbow sprinkles, and caramel.

091619JimmyFood4

The ice cream with crushed M&Ms, rainbow sprinkles, and caramel sauce, was, you know, ice cream with crushed M&Ms, rainbow sprinkles, and caramel sauce. It's pretty hard to mess that up.

At halftime, still full from all the food pregame, I had a mini chicken sandwich, which again, was very, very good. I skipped the empty vitamins in the salad bar.

Also, to note, the potato salad was a fan favorite. I'm not a big potato salad guy, but Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94.1 WIP said that it was "f****** bangin."

Grade: The gold standard for NFL press boxes is Dallas, and while Atlanta gave them a run for their money, I would still have Dallas comfortably ahead. The Cowboys, for example, have maybe the best mac and cheese I've ever eaten. It's that good. Maybe it's unfair to pit the Falcons' mac and cheese against the Cowboys' mac and cheese, but the difference in quality is notable.

That said, as noted above, the Falcons bring it. They had a ton of options, and everything was very good. The only gripe I have, and this is a big one if you know my feelings on the topic, is that they take the coffee away post-game. THAT'S WHEN WE NEED IT THE MOST. Come on, Arthur Blank. 

Still, the coffee snafu wasn't enough for me to downgrade them, given their superb effort across the board otherwise. We have a new leader in the clubhouse in 2019. A.

090418EaglesLogo

Eagles vs. Washington: Week 1

What'd they have? Pregame, because it was a 1:00 p.m. start, they had a mix of breakfast and lunch:

• Breakfast stuff: Bacon, mini sausage links, scrambled eggs, and potatoes.

• Lunch: Salad, fruit, hoagies, and chopped smoked beef brisket on tiny dinner rolls.

They also had a junk food table that included soft pretzels, popcorn, donuts, tiramisu squares, devil's food cake, and assorted Frito-Lay brand chips. 

090819EaglesSpread

At halftime, they always have their customary (and questionable) chicken fingers.

Post-game, they always have the worst pizza ever.

What'd I have? I had a sausage sandwich (like, literally just three mini sausage links on a dinner roll, a staple of the @JimmyKempski diet), smoked beef brisket on a dinner roll, a soft pretzel, and a piece of devil's food cake. That was all fine. I almost never have any of the awful post-game food. You know how some people say there's no such thing as bad pizza? Well, they've never had the Eagles' post-game press box pizza.

I've also had the chicken fingers at many an Eagles home game. They aren't good, and other reporters have said they have gotten sick from them in the past (I haven't experienced that, personally). But they're there, and I usually have a few of them, with regret.

Grade: To begin, the Eagles' press box used to be among the best in the NFL. They had an omelet bar, a carving station, and ice cream (including greats such as the Choco Taco, etc.). More recently, the Philly press box spread has become average, at best.

Anyway, let's review the pros and cons of the current spread:

Pros:

• The soft pretzels are legitimately excellent, and have been a staple of the Eagles' press box spread for years. In the old days, the soft pretzels could just be great, without having to carry the rest of the team. Nowadays, they're sort of like that aging star player who can still play, but no longer has quality talent around it/him/whatever, and they're being asked to do too much to make up for mediocrity surrounding them. Ultimately, because they've been around so long, you become bored by them. They're kind of like the Aaron Rodgers of the NFL's press box foods.

• The other junk food is good as well, which is fine, except if you eat too much of that crap pre-game, the sugar rush you experience as a result will be gone by halftime, and then you crash. Still, in the moment, they're tasty. The devil's food cake, for example, was very good.

• They keep the coffee on post-game, which, as we've noted in these reviews repeatedly, is crucial.

Cons

• No bottled water! That is, of course, part of the Eagles' "green" initiative. Of course, the Snapple that they serve is in plastic bottles, and they have all the lights on in the stadium for a sunny 1:00 p.m. game, but the environment!

090819EaglesLights

Instead, if you want water, you're filling it up at the water fountain like some kind of animal.

• While the junk food table is dazzling to the eye, the actual meal options typically just aren't very good (the brisket today was OK). All flash, no substance.

The Eagles care enough to provide some tasty food, but it's inconsistent. They certainly put out a much better spread than the Jaguars, Jets, Rams, and WASTEAMs of the world, but they are also pretty far from the elite spread they used to be. C+.

091218JetsLogo

Eagles vs. Jets: Week 4, preseason

What'd they have? Pregame, they had Chicken Francaise (does that get capitalized?), rolls, roasted potatoes, salad, steamed vegetables, fruit, and some pre-made sandwiches (turkey, Italian, vegetarian, and tuna).

At halftime, they had steak fries with chili and cheese, the second road game in a row in which chili and cheese were offered as complementary pieces to some kind of super-cheap food. Personally, I'm a cheese dipper, as I prefer to regulate exactly how much cheese I want with each bite, and can't understand why anyone would pour the cheese directly on top:

083019FriesAndCheese

Post-game, they had ruebens, Cubans, and grilled cheese on rolls. They smelled a little weird to me, so I passed. One reporter who spoke to PhillyVoice on the condition of anonymity tried the grilled cheese, and had this to say: 

"I had the grilled cheese as I walked out because I had successfully managed to avoid all the previous food and, hell, how can you F that up? It was halfway decent but a poor midnight snack choice."

Lol.

At least they didn't take the coffee away, which is especially important for this annual fourth preseason horror show, as most visiting reporters have to drive an hour and a half home, typically well past midnight.

What'd I have? I had some Chicken Francaise, a couple dinner rolls, and some salad. That was all fine. I also had the fries at halftime, which were fine as well. 

Oddly, despite sharing the same stadium, the Giants' food spread is way better than the Jets'. The Giants came in second in our food spread ratings a year ago, and even earned an A-. Personally, if I were a billionaire owner of an NFL franchise and I shared a stadium with another team, I'd be embarrassed if the other team had way better amenities, but whatever.

In fairness, I will note that in comparison to the Jaguars' spread a couple weeks ago, the Jets' spread was on par with the brunch buffet at the Wynn Las Vegas.

Grade: The stuff they had was perfectly edible, but was definitely of the "we're offering food because we feel like we have to, but don't expect any sort of real effort here" variety. I'll give the Jets a little bit of a break, seeing as it was the most meaningless of the already super-meaningless preseason games, and they passed the most important test, which is simply to continue serving coffee after the game is over. If this were the regular season, however, I would not be as kind. C-.

090418Jaguars

Eagles vs. Jaguars: Week 2, preseason

What'd they have? Pregame, they had burgers, salad, potato salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, and apple cobbler. It's nice to have Ross Tucker around calling Eagles games, because he always takes video of the press box food, which he did here.

At halftime, they had bad tortilla chips with even worse chili and cheese. Seriously, this is gross:

081519JagsCheese

And this is grosser: 

081619JagsChili

After the game, they had nothing, and they took the coffee away, a huge press box no-no, as that is when coffee is needed the most.

What'd I have? I didn't want to, but I tried the burger for journalistic purposes. It wasn't good. I even tried the chips and cheese. Awful. 

I'll also note two other things about the spread:

  1. I'm a big corn on the cob guy, but that is a bad choice for a work setting. To begin, they're messy to eat. You can't toggle back and forth between bites of the corn, and typing. But also, you can't be picking corn kernels out of your teeth in public. Corn on the cob is a food for your own home, a summer cookout, or, like Chili's or something.
  2. I'm not a baked beans guy, but even if I were, those bad boys in Ross' video above are swimming in liquid grossness.

Grade: Before we get to the food, let's first note that the Jaguars have the worst press box setup in the league, of the stadiums I have been to. From the press box, you have to walk down a flight of stairs to get to the food area, which is fine, except the line has nowhere to go except up the stairs. A visual:

081519JagsPressBox

Why is that problematic? Several reasons:

  1. Waiting in a line on stairs just sucks, so there's that. 
  2. More importantly, you can't get a sneak preview of the food they have. Personally, I like to scan the options in its entirety so I can plan out what I want. That's not an option with this setup, as you'll look like a jerk if you just bypass everyone on the steps. Even if you don't care about being that jerk, that's probably not even an option during high-volume times, like halftime for example, as there's a steady stream of people going up and down the stairs, which aren't very wide.
  3. If you take a panoramic pic of the setup, you get police officers looking at you like they want to taze you.

It's just the preseason, and mayyybe that's too early to give out overly harsh grades, but holy hell, Jaguars, have some pride. F.

Season, to date

 RankTeam Grade 
 1Cowboys A++ 
 2Falcons 
 3Vikings A- 
 4Bills B+ 
 5Packers 
 6Eagles C+ 
 7Jets C-
 8Jaguars 

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