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Arena eats: anything out of the oridinary at the United Center?

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Fellow CH'ers: I'm a west coast Hound headed to your amazing city in a couple of weeks. I'll be catching a game at the United Center and want to know if there are any great food stands that I should check out (realizing, of course, that it's an arena). I've seen enough venues to know that some can actually do a half decent job. I'm a sucker for enjoying dinner and a beer in my seat, so please let me know if there's anything worth searching out, or whether I should keep it together long enough to grab a proper dinner post-game.

I'll no doubt be asking for some more tips regarding my itinerary before I arrive.

Many thanks in advance!

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  1. I'm a Blackhawks season ticket holder and I have to say after several years of eating at the UC, there's nothing different from the standard stadium food. They've changed a few things a little bit this season and I've only been to one pre-season game, so I may have missed something new, but it looked like they just raised the prices and made the portions smaller. We used to like to have Nachos Grande (not different, but one of the better values), but they made them much smaller this year. Otherwise, it's mostly pizza, hotdogs, boneless chicken wings, etc. Are you going to be enjoying a hockey game?

    5 Replies
    1. re: mlc66

      Thanks for the heads up, mlc66. Here I thought people on the board must think I'm crazy for even suggesting that there might be something worth chowing on at a stadium. But you know what I'm saying, right? Some venues have really done wonders with their offerings (dosas, roti, sushi, mexican...). I was at Safeco Field a couple of months ago and I searched what I thought was every level looking for something decent. When I finally settled on something abysmal, I found out that I'd missed an amazing sushi spot that was on a level I hadn't explored.

      As for the UC, I figure I'll hit Avec after the game or maybe grab some pizza. Do you know if any of Nick & Vito's, Spacca Napoli or Sapore di Napoli are close to the venue?

      And yes, you're bang on: I'm hoping to enjoy at least one hockey game (Avs, Flames, both?!) while I'm in town. I have yet to see a game (or even a show) at the UC, so I'm really looking forward to it.

      1. re: sf toronto

        Some thoughts:

        I can't offer suggestions about in-the-stadium food options. I know some stadiums have done fantastic things with concessions stands, and our White Sox Park is known for some of that, but not United Center (as far as I know).

        Now, for near the stadium: during the daytime, Bombon Cafe serves some of the best Mexican-inspired sandwiches in the city, and ones that supercede anything Rick Bayless is serving at his new Xoco restaurant.

        For pizza, some of the very best in the city (not the touristy deep-dish, but something better) - Coalfire. The restaurant is maybe a 5 minute taxi ride from the UC.

        For Italian, there's the classic Tufano's Vernon Park Tap - a popular pre-game spot for people going to the UC.

        Bombon Cafe
        36 South Ashland Avenue
        Chicago, IL
        http://www.bomboncafe.com/

        Coalfire Pizza
        1321 W Grand Ave
        Chicago, IL 60642-6447
        http://www.coalfirechicago.com/

        Tufano's Vernon Park Tap
        1073 W. Vernon Park Pl.
        Chicago, IL 60607
        http://tinyurl.com/lj6o2h

        1. re: gomexico

          These are wonderful suggestions, thank you so much. Bombon is definitely striking a chord, but if we're aiming for post-Game, then I think we'll be out of luck given their hours. Mexican (street fare and higher end) and pizza are both on my must hit list while visiting, and I think I'll be sampling a variety of both throughout the trip depending on where I'm standing when hunger strikes.

          That said, I'm keen to try some excellent thin crust pizza (not a fan of deep dish) because there is a frightening shortage of excellent pizza in Vancouver. I still dream of the piping hot thin crust I had at Remo in Testaccio (Rome). My preference is a simple white pizza, with minimal, fresh ingredients, and a bubbling (charred in some places) thin crust. Do you think Coal Fire fits that bill? More so than Spacco or Sapore? If so, I'm sold.

          1. re: sf toronto

            "Do you think Coal Fire fits that bill?"

            Absolutely. Although I waouldn't necessarily rate it above Spaccanapoli. Both prepare a very "Italian" pizza, where the crust, the flash-heat of the oven, and the quality of the ingredients really matter. Spacca has a wider menu and more choices (antipasti, dolci, vino) surrounding the pizza and has more of a restaurant atmosphere as opposed to Coalfire's pure pizza ambience, but Coalfire is closer. Other than quattro formaggio, I'm not certain Coalfire has many "bianca" choices (I'm a fan of their sausage, amyway), but Spacca has several. I haven't been to Sapore.

            1. re: jbw

              The toughest part will be the timing of post-game and whether you are going on a weekend or weekday. The hockey games usually run until 10:00 and Coalfire closes at 10:00 on weekdays, 11:00 on weekends. I think you might have a similar problem with Publican. Just something to keep in mind--you might want to consider pre-game eats.

    2. There's tons of places on Randolph Ave. It's a bit of a hike, but not bad. You should try Publican.
      http://thepublicanrestaurant.com/

      1. Okay, I live across the street from Bombon.
        First thing to know is that Chicago is a grid. For the most part, 8 city blocks equal a mile, although in this area that is not often true. That said, Madison Street, where the United Center is on is 0. The dividing line between N and S.

        So:Vito and Nick's is good, but you are at 0 North and South and 1900 West and Vito and Nick's is at 8400 South and 4000 West.

        Coalfire is the closest, and while a trot, I do walk it every time I eat there. They do have a great white pizza and have the char parts you'd like. It used to be BYOB, but no longer.