To kick off 2013, the BMO Harris Bradley Center has polished itself up and added some new food to the menu available at all events in the arena.
The venue has added more theater box seating and renovated and updated all 44 of its luxury suites for the first time in a quarter-century. The Backcourt hospitality area has been added to the service level, too.
But today, I went over to check out The South End. Up on the 200 level, along State Street, the BC has expanded on its popular Grill 71 adding The Carvery â€“ a sliced meat sandwich place operated in partnership with Jake's Deli â€“ the Tap House bar with more than a dozen beers on tap and a couple new seating areas.
"We wanted a place where people would come together really to celebrate and enjoy each other's company in a fun and festive kind of casual kind of accommodating atmosphere," says BMO-BC president Steve Costello.
"We're focused on continuing to find ways to enhance the experience of our fans at all events and as we thought about the upcoming season of several months ago, we thought that this was an area of the building that's open for all events. Doesn't matter how small, or how big or what form of event. At virtually all our events this area of the building is open."
To help add the seating areas, Costello says his team had to get creative.
"We challenged ourselves to find some new space that didn't exist. And we've been doing that for years, for a couple decades now," he says. "
We thought we'd run out of ideas, but we've really put our thinking caps on. We took two spaces (that) were working parts of the building, pantries, food production, other types of things that were vital to producing our events and supporting our operations. We found a way to relocate those services elsewhere in the building to create a new zone."
The new food on offer includes a giant, 1.5-pound double-stuffed baked potato, a range of new hot dog creations built upon Klement's sausages, nachos using chips from El Rey and some new riffs on Italian panini.
"A lot of people ask how we come up with these things and it's about what our fans and what our guests are looking for," says Executive Chef Dave Zakroczymski, who spent nearly a decade running the food operations at the InterContinental before joining Levy Restaurants at the Bradley Center.
He says in testing done with guests, the brisket dog, with slow-cooked brisket topped with barbecue potato chips was a particular favorite.
Other dogs are a Chicago-style frank, the "Tailgate on a Plate" with baked beans and potato salad â€“ "it's kind of everything in one bite," says Zakroczymski â€“ and a "Big Kid Dog" with mac 'n' cheese and Fritos corn chips.
"Its a gourmet hot dog," says Zakroczymski. "It's not just a hot dog with ketchup and mustard."
Another new dish that caught the attention during research was the potato.
"One of the comments (we kept hearing) was, 'what's with the potato?,'" says Zakroczymski. "We figured needed a wow factor. We needed something that would stick out in everybody's head. It is meant to be shared, it is meant to be something to be different, something that you wouldn't expect when you come to an area."
The new panini include a patty melt with a thick burger and cheese, a reuben and a grilled cheese made with four Wisconsin cheeses and tomato.
Over at The Tap House â€“ which will be joined by a new Leinie Lodge, just around the bend, in 2013 â€“ you can sample Miller's new Third Shift Amber Lager, which is exclusive to the BC until mid-February, when it's released nationally.
So, next time you stop in to see Elmo, the Bucks, the Admirals, monster trucks or Carrie Underwood, come hungry, because the BMO Bradley Center ain't dishing up your daddy's arena food anymore, folks.
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