- Ligaya Figueras The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is host to Atlanta’s favorite teams− Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United. Ever since the stadium opened in late August, fans have arrived with a winning appetite.
To satiate that hunger, the 2 million-square-foot sports facility offers many ways to fill the belly and wet a whistle.
Here’s what you need to know to eat and drink well at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — on game days and nongame days alike.
AMB Sports & Entertainment Group, subsidiary of AMB Group comprised of the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United FC and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, have introduced a fan-first model for the new venue. To improve the fan experience when it comes to food and beverage, it addressed pricing, variety, quality and speed of service.
As a result, stadiumgoers will see more affordable food and drinks, plus a breadth of offerings from food service contractor Levy Restaurants and partner restaurants.
Certain operational and design elements should translate to faster lines. These measures include tripling the number of concession stands compared to those at the Georgia Dome, placing free-standing soda stands in the concourses rather than behind concession counters, and using whole-dollar pricing to shave off time at the register for those who pay in cash.
Much has been said about the low prices for food and beverages. If you’ve missed that chatter, here’s a recap on the cost of core concession items: Soft drinks and water are $2 and come with unlimited refills. Popcorn as well as hot dogs are priced at $2. Waffle fries, a bag of peanuts, a slice of pizza and nachos with cheese all run $3. A cheeseburger is $5; a basket of chicken tenders with fries is $6. A 12-ounce domestic draft beer, such as Bud Light, is $5.
Out of a massive kitchen — one twice the size of that at the Georgia Dome — come more chef-driven menu items, a change-up from average stadium fare.
On the snack side, there are Bavarian pretzels and pretzel bites served with a house mustard made with Goose Island’s Goose IPA, as well as cinnamon-sugar coated pretzels with cream cheese icing.
More substantial hand-held items include a brisket grilled cheese sandwich of braised beef, fontina cheese and barbecue aioli on Texas toast with a side of kettle chips.
Burgers are hand-packed, and meat, like the brisket piled on an order of burnt end nachos or the barbacoa beef for tacos, is smoked in-house. Pickles, dressings and other condiments — a Bud aioli for the brat burger, for example — are made on-site.
Those seeking healthier options can expect a portobello mushroom burger that features the mushroom cap grilled and topped with lettuce, tomato and a swath of herbed aioli on a challah bun. Salads include a chicken Caesar as well as a vegetarian Cobb holding chopped romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, Gorgonzola cheese and chopped eggs with blue cheese dressing.
Levy Restaurants’ regional executive chef John Nicely oversees its culinary operations at the stadium. According to Nicely, the kitchen sources meat from Atlanta-based meat wholesaler Halperns Steak & Seafood Co. The majority of produce comes from Georgia farms, he said.
Familiar names in dining
You need your daily dose of Chick-fil-A? You can get that here. King of Pops is your go-to for a frozen pop? You can have that at the stadium, too. Antico is your pick for Neapolitan pizza? It’s in the mix as well.
In total, nearly a dozen and a half area restaurants and food producers have a presence at the stadium. This “Best of Atlanta” group includes: Antico, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, Chick-fil-A, Delia’s Chicken Sausage, Farm Burger, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, Gamechanger, Iberian Pig, Jim ‘N Nick’s, King of Pops, Miss D’s Popcorn, Snackology 101 Market, Sublime Doughnuts, the Varsity, and two concepts from Concentrics Restaurants group.
Specialty items from these partners can be found on each concourse throughout the stadium, either at a dedicated concession stand or a portable pop-up cart. In addition, items are priced the same at the stadium as at their brick-and-mortar restaurant or on retail shelves.
Some partners have developed custom menus for Mercedes-Benz. Spanish tapas restaurant Iberian Pig will have pork cheek tacos, a serrano ham sandwich, and a bacon-wrapped beef dog topped with manchego cheese sauce, crispy onions and a spicy red pepper aioli on a poppy seed bun. Its side offerings include Spanish fries of twice-fried potatoes with an accompanying dipping sauce and Ensalada Marcona, a lettuce salad with Marcona almonds, dried cherries, manchego cheese and crisped onions dressed with a Champagne vinaigrette.
A few restaurateurs have launched brand-new concepts at the stadium. Fox Bros. will man four stands throughout the venue. One of those, Tex Mex-a-Cue, located on the 300 concourse, is a hybrid that will serve up popular Fox Bros. ‘cue along with Tex-Mex. Items on this brief menu include a trio of a la carte tacos as well as barbecue nachos. Taco choices include chopped brisket with charred tomato salsa, guacamole and cotija cheese, a chopped pork taco with avocado, tomatillo salsa and charred jalapeno slaw, and smoked fried chicken with charred tomato slaw and barbecue sauce. All tacos come on a flour tortilla. Co-owner Jonathan Fox said to watch for an expanded menu that will include quesadillas and a chicken-fried steak taco.
Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow and Revival is the player behind Gamechanger. This concession stand has Gillespie’s personality inflected in a concise menu of sandwiches that include his longtime crowd-pleaser, the Closed on Sunday Chicken Sandwich, plus a French dip and a Philly cheesesteak.
“I love cheesesteaks, but am torn between melted cheese or cheese sauce, so this one comes with both,” Gillespie said.
For that French dip, Gillespie swaps beef for slow-roasted Berkshire pork shoulder and serves it a on Holeman & Finch hoagie with horseradish sauce and pork jus for dipping.
There’s also one side item: sour cream and onion french fries.
All food will be prepared in the Gamechanger kitchen at the stadium, and Gillespie is using the same high-quality products, such as Georgia-raised chicken, that he uses at his restaurants.
Concentrics Restaurants, the group behind such establishments as One Midtown Kitchen, Two Urban Licks and Parish, will operate the Golden Brown & Delicious concession. This concept will offer what One Midtown Kitchen’s exec chef Matt Weinstein conceives of as “simple, reimagined stadium food.” On the roster: a fried mortadella sandwich, cheddarwurst sausage corn dog, fish and chips and other retro edibles given a 2017 spin.
Concentrics is also a partner for contemporary Southern-style chophouse Molly B’s, the stadium’s headliner restaurant named in honor of Arthur Blank’s mother. Besides chophouse cuts, look for baby back ribs, fried chicken and barbecue brisket sliders, among the many meat offerings. Molly B’s will have multiple menus — one for Falcons games, another for Atlanta United matches and a nongame day menu. All were developed by Concentrics culinary director Michael Bertozzi.
Located on the 100-level concourse and with a view overlooking the field, Molly B’s will be open to ticket-holders and non-ticketed alike.
On Falcons game days, the restaurant will be open only to members three hours prior to kickoff and through the end of the first quarter. It will offer an all-inclusive dining experience, including alcoholic beverages. Molly B’s will close during the second quarter and reopen to all ticket-holders at halftime. (For more about Molly B’s membership, go to mercedesbenzstadium.com/molly-bs/.)
For Atlanta United matches, Molly B’s is a members-only club beginning three hours prior to game time. Then, it opens to all ticket-holders and remains open two hours after the soccer game ends.
The restaurant opens to the general public on nongame days throughout the year during lunchtime (11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) every day on nongame days, with dinner service to be added at a later date. Entry will be through the stadium’s main entrance.
Eat for a cause
The concession stand in Section 324 is unique. Dubbed the West Nest, it is operated by local nonprofit Westside Works, which creates employment and job training for residents of Atlanta’s Westside community. A portion of the proceeds from the West Nest concession will benefit the Westside Works Culinary Arts program, a six-week intensive approach to culinary arts education led by chef Juliet Peters.
The chicken-themed West Nest stand will be manned by Peters and graduates of the culinary academy. With attention toward sourcing locally, they will turn out such items as a hand-breaded chicken sandwich made with Springer Mountain Farm chicken topped with Doux South chow chow on a challah bun from Engelman’s Bakery. Other menu items include a chicken and waffle bowl with honey hot sauce, and a Hotlanta Chicken Sausage with sauteed peppers and onions on a bun.
“It doesn’t taste like stadium food,” Peters said of the menu she and her students have developed for West Nest.
Quench your thirst
Besides $2 unlimited soda and water ($4 for the souvenir cup) at self-service refill stations, the 21-and-up crowd can expect far greater options than at the Georgia Dome. There are 1,264 beer taps (compared to 30 in the Dome) and 16 “neighborhood bars” where imbibers can belly up to a four-sided bar and take in the action on large-screen TVs.
Served out of frozen drink dispensers at all neighborhood bars are two frozen cocktails: the Neighborhood Punch, which is a twist on a mai tai, and the Signature MBS Margarita topped with a float of sangria.
Look also for drinks at specialty concessions. Chick-fil-A will offer milkshakes. Gamechanger will have local, craft brews plus a rotation of alcoholic slushies. These include peach tea, basil-lemonade and a riff off a Hurricane, all spiked with Tito’s vodka. Spanish cuisine-focused Iberian Pig will offer a specialty cocktail and serve beer by Creature Comforts and Monday Night Brewing.