Scenes from Queens: Food

by: Andrew Friedman | August 31, 2012

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The U.S. Open is more than just the matches, it's an experience. Each day, we'll highlight one part of what makes the Open the Open.

Over the past few decades, the United States has morphed from a country whose best-known food offerings were once of the roast chicken and meatloaf variety to one of the most evolved culinary players on the planet. From coast to coast, America’s chefs turn out cuisine that’s not only sophisticated and progressive, but also increasingly sustainable.

Levy Restaurants, ironically a Chicago-based company, has held the tournament’s coveted food-service contract for years, and has developed a repertoire of options that add up to nothing less than a microcosm of dining in the U.S. in general, and New York City in particular, with options ranging from sports-venue classics to more ambitious, big-city restaurant food.  In addition to a handful of concessions located within the two main stadiums, Levy operates five full-service restaurants on the grounds, as well as a diverse food court, and wine bar.

So-called celebrity chefs have been the driving force behind America’s culinary strides, and they make a big impact at the Open as well: Levy’s own Tony Mantuano, founder of Chicago’s famed Spiaggia restaurant (now a Levy property), oversees Wine Bar Food, a concept with locations on the plaza as well as in the club level of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Both locations boast a bar, abundant café seating, and a menu that mingles wines by the glass, beers, and a selection of Italianate small plates; new this year is an orb of supremely runny, Brooklyn-made burrata (not-quite-formed mozzarella) bound by a leek wrapper and served with crostini (small toasts) on which it can be spread. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto contributes U.S. Open-only sushi rolls to ACES restaurant, and David Burke, a new culinary contributor, has brought a chophouse sensibility to Champions Bar & Grill with dishes such as a Dry-Aged Bone-In Rib Eye Steak with vegetable-stuffed potato, and a playful take on a steakhouse staple, his Cheesecake Lollipop Tree with bubble gum whipped cream for dipping.

The heart of dining at the U.S. Open is the centrally located Food Village, where a variety of concessions (all individually named but operated by Levy) proffer a melting pot of international classics, including crepes, made-to-order burritos and tacos, and Indian food. Over the past few years, the lobster roll available at a seafood stand named for lower Manhattan’s Fulton fish market has become a tournament signature dish: Served on a buttered, split-top bun and dressed with Louis sauce (a condiment fashioned from chili sauce, ketchup, tarragon and scallions), it’s a dressed up version of a New England classic and the last chance most Open attendees will have to savor this seasonal classic until next summer.

Underscoring the Open’s ever-increasing commitment to using local food products when possible and practical, a new Food Village concession called Farm 2 Fork (a play on the popular phrase “farm to table,” perhaps adapted to reflect the fact that many Open attendees eat on the run or in their stadium seats) features dishes made with local ingredients such as Murray’s Locally Raised Chicken Sandwich, NY Sausage Co. Sweet Italian Sausage, and a Summer Roasted Vegetable Sandwich.

There’s also traditional ball-park grub available throughout the grounds, many with a New York twist, such as Coney Island foot-long dogs and a half-pound burger made with a proprietary short-rib burger blend from celebrity butcher (yes, we have those now) Pat LaFrieda.

The U.S. Open is first and foremost a tennis event. But in a city, and a world, increasingly obsessed with food, it’s also become a hub of dining beyond what most people expect from a sports venue. Bon appétit.

More Scenes from Queens:

Monday, August 27: Getting to the Open
Tuesday, August 28: Night Matches
Wednesday, August 29: Photography
Thursday, August 30: Autographs
Friday, August 31: Food at the Open
Saturday, September 1: Practice Courts
Sunday, September 2: Getting In
Monday, September 3: Staying Connected
Tuesday, September 4: Ball Kids
Wednesday, September 5: The Corporate Connection
Thursday, September 6: The Outer Courts
Friday, September 7: Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Saturday, September 8: Arthur Ashe
Sunday, September 9: Empty Corridors

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