The Most Unique Food Item in Every NHL Arena
A ticket to an NHL game brings more with it than the on-ice action. Sure, the games themselves are the force driving most fans to arenas around North America, but there's still an entire experience that comes with watching your favorite hockey team in person.
These are billion-dollar-plus pieces of real estate—consider that the New York Islanders' new home, UBS Arena, cost over $1 billion to complete. It's not just a sheet of ice, some seats and boards. As a viewer watching games at home on television, it's easy to forget that fans in the buildings have a plethora of dining and drinking options.
UBS Arena features a whopping 17 bars, for example, giving Islanders fans a lot of watering hole possibilities.
While most NHL buildings don't feature food as wild as that of MLB ballparks, that doesn't mean there aren't some interesting options. We avoided chains where we could, but some arenas make that a difficult task.
Also worth noting: We're doing these in alphabetical order by city, so there's no need to read into the placement of each food item.
Ducks, Coyotes, Bruins and Sabres
Anaheim Ducks (Honda Center): We're going to cheat a little and talk about The Wine Cellar, Preserved By Sub-Zero. There's no food on offer here, but it does have sommeliers on hand to help fans find the perfect bottle of wine. Of which there are more than 240 to choose from. That's awesome.
According to the Honda Center's website, this is "the first dedicated wine bar with this variety offered at an entertainment venue in the United States," and we think they deserve a shoutout based on that fact.
Arizona Coyotes (Gila River Arena): It's a shame the Coyotes don't draw more of a crowd because the Westgate Entertainment District is stunning. Fans can scan a QR Code and have food brought directly to their seats when attending games.
Vienna Beef's Chicago dog is the standout. If you're going to bring in hot dogs from anywhere, the Windy City is the no-brainer choice, and the folks at Gila River Arena got this one right. Vienna has been making hot dogs since 1893, and its Chicago-style offering is lights-out.
Boston Bruins (TD Garden): The TD Garden is home to Legends, a members-only restaurant that opens two hours before Bruins and Celtics games. The menu has a variety of options, but the loaded pork carnitas nachos are can't-miss.
The Frito-Lay test kitchen also appears to whip up some pretty outrageous items, such as the Cheetos Chicken and Waffle.
Buffalo Sabres (KeyBank Center): A few years back, the KeyBank Center revamped its concession experience in an attempt to elevate its food offerings. We haven't had any desserts make the list yet, so Perry's Ice Cream seems like a good place to start.
While not unique to Buffalo, Perry's has been making ice cream since 1918 and has the sweet science down pat.
Flames, Hurricanes, Blackhawks, Avalanche
Calgary Flames (Scotiabank Saddledome): The Flames will call the iconic Saddledome home for just a few more seasons, as their new arena is slated to open in 2024. Canadian chains such as Tim Hortons and Pizza 73 offer a majority of the food here, making the award-winning Saddleroom stand out even more.
There are a handful of can't-miss offerings in play here, but the five-spice honey-glazed duck breast might be the standout. Saddleroom focuses on sourcing its ingredients locally, which we also think is rad and noteworthy.
Carolina Hurricanes (PNC Arena): Kayem is another old-school hot dog and sausage producer and is worth checking out if you're attending a Hurricanes game at PNC Arena. While there's a variety of choices available, such as bratwurst and Italian sausages, the Torpedo Hot Dog with a Cheddar Bacon Roll is the standout.
Chicago Blackhawks (United Center): Not surprisingly, the United Center is home to some of the most outstanding concession options in any arena in the United States. Chicago is famous for its deep-dish style pizza, and if you're feeling that at a Hawks game, you have options.
However, the walking taco with pimento cheese chips from Lillie Q's is the most unique offering available. Chef Charlie McKenna knows a thing or two about amazing BBQ, so the six-hour smoked pulled pork makes this creation impossible to pass on.
Colorado Avalanche (Ball Arena): Breckenridge Brewery is one of Colorado's more notable microbreweries, and its restaurant inside of Ball Arena offers a handful of intriguing food options. It, too, focuses on sourcing local ingredients, upping the freshness compared to your usual arena fare.
The loaded waffle fries are a standout because of the use of bison chili. If you don't want the chili on your waffle fries, you're also able to get a cup of it on the side.
Blue Jackets, Stars, Red Wings, Oilers
Columbus Blue Jackets (Nationwide Arena): Nationwide Arena leans pretty heavily on nationally recognizable chains and established brands. There's nothing wrong with that, but for our money, give us the Cincinnati-style Skyline Chili.
Skyline is something people either love or detest. We fall on the love side of that equation, and you can't really go wrong with any of the various presentations available here. Just don't spill it on yourself when the cannon goes off following a Blue Jackets goal.
Dallas Stars (American Airlines Center): Not surprisingly, the American Airlines Center has some outstanding Southern-inspired foods. There's a lot to like on the El Taco Tex menu, but you can't go wrong with their take on Mexican street corn.
If that isn't your thing, their tacos are well-regarded, and we're total suckers for anything with pork carnitas.
Detroit Red Wings (Little Caesars Arena): Believe it or not, Little Caesars Arena offers plenty of Little Caesars Pizza. We're going to shy away from the pies here, however, and go with the cheesesteak burgers that 313 Grill Co. offers.
You could also swing by Kid Rock's Made in Detroit, where many of the items on the menu pay homage to local areas, such as the Hamtramck or the Clarkston, which sounds particularly delicious, as it "features cherry peppers, bacon jam, roasted garlic aioli and havarti cheese," per the Detroit News.
Edmonton Oilers (Rogers Place): Rogers Place has an outstanding selection of food, including burgers with the Oilers logo branded onto the top of the bun and sushi. As far as uncommon options go, though, any of the various perogies will do.
We like the sound of the perogy and smoked brisket bowl, but all of the offerings sound fantastic.
Panthers, Kings, Wild and Canadiens
Florida Panthers (FLA Live Arena): There's a handful of food options worth entertaining if you're at a Panthers game, from Nashville hot chicken sandwiches to hot dogs from Feltman's. We think the coolest thing available at FLA Live Arena, however, is the Gloves Off IPA from Funky Buddha Brewery.
Produced in Florida, this is a beer made especially for the Panthers and FLA Live Arena. Not everyone loves beers that feature mosaic hops, but it's still unique to see an NHL team partner up with a local brewery to create a brew.
Los Angeles Kings (Staples Center): One of the most iconic arenas in the United States, the Staples Center is always offering high-end food. Still, the chicken from LudoBird is notoriously tasty, with both light- and dark-meat options available. Their signature "spicy bird sauce" is also noteworthy and compliments the remarkably juicy chicken well.
Minnesota Wild (Xcel Energy Center): The Reserve cocktail lounge has a variety of interesting options available to adventurous diners. Executive chef Jack Bowles revamped the dining experience at Xcel Energy Center in October, and there are a lot of fun options to choose from.
As far as "unique" goes, though, we think the Walleye Dip sounds delicious. How can you not love the idea of giant, house-made goldfish crackers?
Montreal Canadiens (Bell Centre): The Centre Bell, as it's known in Montreal, has struggled to offer foods that match the Canadiens' seasoned and fabled history. Fine. Twist our arms. Centre Bell, you've finally given us an excuse to include poutine on our list. Now we can breathe easy, though it won't be the last time.
Predators, Devils, Islanders and Rangers
Nashville Predators (Bridgestone Arena): Here we have another NHL arena that updated its food offerings within the last few years, trying to boost the off-ice product to go along with a quality on-ice team. Bridgestone is frequently nominated for best-arena awards, and it's easy to see why.
The Patron Platinum Club serves a Western Conference Champ hot dog, which sounds stellar. It's a hot dog topped with brisket, grilled onions and white barbecue sauce, giving it a little bit of a Nashville twist.
New Jersey Devils (Prudential Center): We're tempted to pick Auntie Anne's pretzels, just because it's nostalgic for us. We'll go with a different kind of dough, though. The Boardwalk brings the taste of the Jersey Shore to the Prudential Center, offering a variety of the beach's top options to the arena.
As good as deep-fried Oreos are, the zeppole are more unique. These deep-fried dough balls look delectable.
New York Islanders (UBS Arena): Shaquille O'Neal brought his Big Chicken brand to the New York area for the first time in the new arena. Which makes this selection a rather easy one. He collaborated with Huntington-based Blue Line Deli and Bagel to create "The Islander."
This is a fried chicken sandwich that is topped with cream cheese, buffalo sauce and bleu cheese and is served on an Islanders-colored bagel. Seriously, check this thing out. You don't have to be an Islanders fan to appreciate this so-gaudy-it's-good sandwich.
New York Rangers (Madison Square Garden): One of the most famous arenas in the world is also home to some of the most outstanding food options in the NHL. We've been picky about which pizza we include on this list, but we can't pass up Paulie Gee's here.
We love the Neapolitan-style pies. The Hellboy, in particular, is a standout. Especially if you're fans of savory and sweet, with Mike's Hot Honey covering the pepperoni pizza.
Senators, Flyers, Penguins and Sharks
Ottawa Senators (Canadian Tire Centre): We've done our best to shy from chains when possible, but it's difficult to do when sports arenas and corporations make for such natural partnerships. Smoke's Poutinerie is the standout, with its classic poutine being considered one of the best takes on the dish available.
It's not overly unique...aside from how outstanding it is compared to some other poutines that are available across North America.
Philadelphia Flyers (Wells Fargo Center): The Wells Fargo Center joins the ranks of sports arenas that upgraded their offerings over the last 12 months, adding new options for Flyers and 76ers fans to enjoy. You might expect some form of cheesesteak to win out, but the "Street Corn" dip and nachos is probably the most intriguing addition.
We've seen street corn-style offerings on various other menus, but not in this dip form.
Pittsburgh Penguins (PPG Paints Arena): There's not much deliberation needed when it comes to which food stand you should line up at when visiting PPG Paints Arena. Primanti Brothers sandwiches are famous around Pittsburgh, and with good reason: They're really, really good.
Their "Almost Famous" line features house-cut french fries on the sandwich itself, melted provolone cheese, sweet-and-sour coleslaw, tomatoes and a house recipe Italian bread. Get it with grilled meat of your choice and you're good to watch Sidney Crosby and Co.
San Jose Sharks (SAP Arena): Cookie nachos? Just take our money. Yes, all of it.
The wild dessert takes the idea of a sweet tooth to another level. The dish entails loading up ice cream-covered cookies with your choice of various candies and sweets. Moreover, the finished products just scream "post me to Instagram."
Kraken, Blues, Lightning, Maple Leafs
Seattle Kraken (Climate Pledge Arena): We haven't listed any vegetarian options yet. There have been some "impossible" burgers and tacos, but nothing that stood out as can't-miss. Leave it to the Kraken to roll out a menu with half a dozen outstanding vegan and gluten-free options.
You just don't see things like pressed watermelon "sashimi" elsewhere in the North American arena dining scene. To us, the foraged mushroom poutine from Seattle Eats is the standout, featuring mushrooms from Cascadia Farm.
St. Louis Blues (Enterprise Center): The Enterprise Center does a great job incorporating local favorites into its overall arena experience. Sure, there are Dippin' Dots carts around, but they're the exception instead of the rule.
It's a toss-up between Mission Taco Joint and Sugarfire, pitting tacos against BBQ. We'll give the nod to the former due to its unique BLT taco. You don't see those on every Mexican-inspired menu in North America.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Amalie Arena): In terms of variety, it's tough to beat Amalie Arena, home of the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning. The list of offerings is about as deep as Tampa's roster, which is saying a lot.
Still, we're taking the Mr. Empanada from Havana Nights.
Toronto Maple Leafs (Scotiabank Arena): We love a good bowl of macaroni and cheese; it's just not the most novel dish most of the time. That's why Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment partnered up with Cheese Boutique to create a menu full of awesome mac and cheese dishes and delicious sandwiches.
With cheese this good, you can't go wrong with any option.
Canucks, Golden Knights, Capitals, Jets
Vancouver Canucks (Rogers Arena): If you're taking in a game at Rogers Arena, you need to make your way to Steamers to get one of their signature hot dogs. Named after Canucks legend Stan Smyl, it's one of the best examples of branding we have on this list.
For our money, we like the Croque dog, which features a steamed hot dog with ham, gruyere cheese and strawberry jam.
Vegas Golden Knights (T-Mobile Arena): What happens off the ice is just as much a part of the Golden Knights experience as what happens on it. Their food is no exception, featuring various favorites from around Vegas.
We're light on desserts to this point, which means that we can pop Freed's Bakery in here without feeling too indulgent. It's known for its over-the-top cakes, and as such, you can't go wrong with any of them in terms of uniqueness.
Washington Capitals (Capital One Arena): We're big fans of a good fried chicken sandwich. What can we say? We are focusing on another such place in Washington; this time it's David Chang's famous Fuku. There's nothing particularly over the top or gimmicky about these offerings.
It's a standout because of how good it is despite its simplicity.
Winnipeg Jets (Canada Life Centre): We made it this far without featuring Tim Hortons, and finishing a list about eating at NHL arenas without tipping the cap to this chain feels like sacrilege. The Canada Life Centre leans heavily on chains for its food options, so let's go with a large black coffee and some Timbits as you settle in for your Jets game.