The best (and worst) food at SoFi Stadium
This is the first in an ongoing series called Stadium Eats, which explores the best (and worst) food at sports stadiums across California.
The cheeseburger sub at the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood looks like the burger version of a beat-up Mister Fantastic. It’s a cheeseburger with a slightly overcooked patty blanketed in an impressively long, single piece of American cheese, with pickles, chopped onions and the usual condiments. The entire submarine burger hybrid is pulled and flattened to nearly a foot long, and it looks and tastes like someone stretched a McDonald’s cheeseburger.
The verdict? It’s no better or worse than the fast-food version.
“The burger is an elongated burger,” says Jon Shook, in a promotional video for the stadium. “Over the past year and a half, we worked very closely with Legends [the company that actually produces the stadium’s food] to R&D and develop what we think is the best food for a football stadium.”
Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the James Beard Award-winning chefs behind Animal and Jon & Vinny’s, signed on as culinary consultants for SoFi earlier this year and have been working alongside the Legends team to develop the food.
Despite the celebrity chef connection, my expectations remained low. While Los Angeles is the best food city in the country (no bias here), the same cannot be said for the fare at this city’s sports stadiums. Dodger Dogs, while nostalgic (I’ve been eating them since my teeth came in and probably before then), are not my favorite hot dog. Will I ever sit through a game without one? Of course not. Those garlic fries? They’re always mushy, but I leave every game breathing garlic all the same.
Shortly after SoFi hosted its first preseason NFL game in August, attendees took to social media to pronounce the food a disaster. “Still feeling utterly betrayed at how disgusting the food was at SoFi stadium,” @syrupyswt tweeted. “Pretty sure that crusty hot dog is still sitting at the bottom of my stomach giving me indigestion.”
“@SoFiStadium your food is garbage,” @rocha_916 wrote.
“It’s been three days and I’m still thinking about how bad the food is at SoFi Stadium,” @jackie_lie5 wrote. “Just a travesty.”
The food isn’t as bad as Twitter critics would like you to believe. It’s not great, but what it lacks in taste, it makes up for in variety.
At SoFi, general-admission ticket holders have access to four concession stands, each themed for a specific street in Los Angeles. The Fairfax Avenue stand is what Shook and Dotolo describe as “a sub, deli, cheeseburger concept.” The Olvera Street stand serves Mexican food. There are Japanese-inspired items at Sawtelle Boulevard and Italian food at San Vicente Boulevard.
In-person football is always a multihour event, which means you’ll have to eat something. Here’s a breakdown of what to get — and what to avoid — at each stand:
Twitter users hated the hot dog and called it wrinkly and shriveled. It’s deep-fried, which gives it the old-man-arm look, but it isn’t bad and actually has quite the snap. Drown it in condiments and you’re good to go. The veggie chili has discernible chunks of vegetables and beans. The chicken salad sandwich tastes like something you might find at the corner store. The chips and onion dip are a less exciting version of the Lipton onion soup mix and sour cream situation that makes it onto most potluck tables, but it’s still satisfying. The chocolate chip cookie is one of the best bites in the stadium. Crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle, it’s textbook excellent. If you go to the stadium and eat one thing, make it this plastic-wrapped cookie.
This is where you can find Burritos La Palma flour tortillas — the perfectly elastic and chewy tortillas used to make the restaurant’s famous burritos. Here, they are used for beef barbacoa, chicken tinga, and bean and cheese burritos. As at Taco Bell, the burritos are stuffed with crushed tortilla chips that go limp before you make it back to your seat, so I’d suggest that you avoid the disappointment of flaccid chips and order your burrito without them.
Steer clear of the crispy shrimp taco and crispy potato tacos. The shrimp filling tastes like a creamy fish chowder that’s past its prime, and the potato filling is what I imagine a yoga mat tastes like. Do ask for a side of the orange sauce — which comes with the nachos — for whatever you order. In fact, just ask for a tortilla and a cup of that sauce and call it dinner.
San Vicente Boulevard
I am a sucker for processed meat of any kind (the saltier and flabbier the better), so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed the Stromboli dog. It’s a wiener wrapped in capicola, mortadella, salami and provolone, tucked neatly into a cocoon of pizza dough. You bite into meat, then more meat and melted cheese. But don’t order the pizza. The Detroit-ish focaccia-ish square is as hard as a brick in some parts and squishy in others, and it’s brushed with what seems to be straight tomato paste. If you’re expecting something similar to what you love at Jon & Vinny’s, you will be disappointed.
Do order the meatballs, which resemble but don’t quite measure up to the ones you’ll find at the chefs’ Brentwood and Fairfax restaurants. They’re plated nicely, as well, with two softball-size meatballs, tomato sauce, a dollop of whipped ricotta and two slabs of toasted focaccia. This stand was also home to my second favorite dessert, which I thought was a chocolate pudding/butterscotch budino hybrid but was actually chocolate pudding covered in a layer of salted caramel. The pudding is rich and smooth, and I would lick that salted caramel off of just about anything. If you’re smarter than I am, you’ll save part of your chocolate chip cookie and dunk it into the caramel.
This was a sad but well-intentioned homage to one of the best eating streets in the city. The sesame ginger salad is better than most salads that come in a plastic bowl, with a dressing reminiscent of the chunky carrot-ginger dressings that adorn most salads in strip-mall sushi restaurants. The chicken tenders are moist with a crisp crust that will maintain its crunch through the first half of the game. They are good on their own but come drenched in a cloyingly sweet teriyaki-ish sauce on the crispy chicken sandwich. If you try one thing from this stand, make it the tsunami tots. There’s a mound of crispy tater tots covered in every sauce you’ll encounter at your local sushi joint: eel sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise and Sriracha, plus furikake and togarashi.
A lot goes into sourcing and preparing food for a place that holds 70,000 people. And they might not get it right the first couple of weeks or even months. But even though the food is far from great, SoFi Stadium is a remarkable place to watch a game. The 70,000-square-foot LED halo video board is mesmerizing. It’s like watching a game in outer space, with food that will bring you back down to earth.
Eat your way across L.A.
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