The NFL season starts this week, and the Bears and Soldier Field have unveiled this year’s batch of new food items. The Bears open on the road on Sunday in Green Bay and play their first regular season game at Soldier Field on September 17. This year’s top new highlight may be mobile beer cycles from sports concessionaire Aramark who have brought the draft brew bikes to several NFL stadiums.
Aramark hopes the beer cycles, located throughout the stadium, become popular selfie destinations while reducing the amount of time fans waste waiting in line instead of watching game action. The pedal-powered carts even have a kitschy name: “Tour de Taps.” The bike on display at a Tuesday media event at the stadium was outfitted with Miller Lite and Leinenkugel taps. The bikes are not self serve.
Soldier Field’s food operations lag behind other Chicago stadiums, but they also deal with challenges chefs at Guaranteed Rate Field, United Center, and Wrigley Field don’t. An outdoor venue that operates in the winter poses obstacles. Smoked meats withstand weather well, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Soldier Field expanded its relationship with The Budlong, the Nashville hot chicken local chain that began serving food last year at Soldier Field. Jared Leonard is bringing Au Feu, his Montreal-style smoked restaurant to the stadium in the United Club, as well as on the 300 level. Au Feu debuted in Denver, and co-founder Dylan Lipe said they’ll serve poutine, brisket, smoked turkey, and more. Depending on how fans react at Soldier Field, they may just do it and open stand-alone Au Feu locations in Chicago.
Perhaps football fans lack trendy palates, but chicken tenders sell exceptionally well in the stadium, according to Soldier Field executive chef Tom Elder. It’s solid sports fans food, but operations wanted to go beyond frozen chicken quickly shoved into the deep fryer. Everyone’s had the disappointed of chomping into dried, cardboard-like tenders. Knowing the popularity of fired chicken, Aramark will serve an assortment of fried chicken items including fries topped with popcorn chicken, beer cheese, blue cheese, Buffalo sauce, carrot and celery slaw, and a drizzle of ranch dressing. They’re calling the vendor “Chicken Luv” and it’s on the club level.
There’s also a focus on bringing local brands. Kronos Gyros, the supplier of gyros and pitas for restaurants all around Chicago, will have stands in sections 126 and 440. Cafe L’Appetito will bring a variety of sandwiches to section 114. They’re also bringing salads to the gridiron with Farmer’s Fridge, the popular salad in a jar, concept. They’ve got a variety of vending machines with fresh salads in Downtown Chicago. They’ll have vending machines on the mezzanine level.
The Bears generated some electricity last week with unexpected trade that landed a big-time defensive star. The food lineup this year lacks a killer acquisition, but maybe it’s time to see how the season plays out. Keep an eye out for Eater Chicago’s definitive Soldier Field dining guide due for an update before the Bears September 17 home opener.