With less than a month before the new Downtown arena opens, the Golden 1 center team recently brought many of the chefs and executives of the restaurants to meet with local bloggers. Here are some things I learned:
- Participating Restaurants: Café Bernardo, Centro, Mikuni, Star Ginger, LowBrau, Petra Greek and Block Butcher Bar will be some of the local restaurants serving food to the ticketed visitors to the Golden 1 Center.
- The Relationship between Restaurants and Golden 1: While the food of the local restaurants will be served, it’s not really another location for these restaurants. The Golden 1 Center contracts with Legends Hospitality (whom former Block Butcher Bar chef Michael Touhy now works for) to provide food at the facility. Legends has contracted with each of the local restaurants to lend their names, recipes and food preparation knowledge to downtown venue, but the employees customers will interact with are paid by Legends. In order to keep the experience as consistent as possible for diners who have been to the regular brick and mortar restaurant location, each stand will have a “brand ambassador” who is intimately knowledgeable about the restaurant, most likely a longtime employee.
- Local, But Not Really Seasonal: While the arena pledges to have 90 percent of the food and beverage concessions come from within 150 miles, that doesn’t mean that you should expect menu items to change weekly or even monthly. Chef Kurt Spataro of the Paragary restaurants explained that diners should expect to see the same menu during the entire basketball season, though it could change for summer events.
- It Won’t Be Cheap: You probably aren’t surprised by this, but the food inside the arena will be more expensive than the same exact items outside the arena. In a regular restaurant, the items are priced for the restaurant to hopefully make a little money. At the arena, pricing includes a cut for the Golden 1 Center, Legends Hospitality and the restaurants, in addition to food and labor costs. If you wondered what restaurant owners get for lending their names and recipes, they tell me that they get a percentage of the gross revenue.
- Hot Dogs, Pizza and Nachos Still Available: While there will be an emphasis on food from local restaurants, sports arena staples will still be available to satiate basketball fans. However, they’ve elevated these dishes. Instead of the sub-par chain pizza offered at Sleep Train, pizza at the Golden 1 Center will be made by Selland’s. Instead of the same processed cheese on your nachos, the Golden 1 center will feature a mixture of four cheeses from Petaluma Creamery plus a little beer from Sierra Nevada.
- Some Ingredients Hard to Source Locally: Despite their best efforts, some food will still have to be sourced from out of the area. For example, the meat used for gyros from Petra Greek is from a Chicago vendor and is not available locally. They may have to get it custom made for them, or continue to get the meat from the Windy city.
- Other Restaurants and Cuisines: While you’ve heard the most about Café Bernardo, Centro, Mikuni, Star Ginger, LowBrau, Petra Greek and Block Butcher Bar, there will still be stations serving other cuisines such as Indian food.
- No Sushi at Your Seat: Mikuni always seemed like an odd choice. Who would want to scarf down a dragon roll, balancing the soy sauce, wasabi and plastic plate on your knees as people shimmy in and out of your row? Apparently, the fine people at the Golden 1 Center thought about that too. Mikuni will only be available in luxury suites and ordered as part of catering platters.
While I was there, I was able to quiz the restaurant representatives about their restaurants. Here’s some of what I learned.
Block Butcher Bar: At this point, the owners of the restaurant aren’t eyeing another location. Instead, they’re focused on bringing their goods to retail stores. Look for Block Butcher Bar mustards, etc. at a grocery store near you.
Mikuni: After they open their Folsom location in mid-October, every major population center in the greater Sacramento region will be near one of their eight locations. Future expansion will likely be in the Bay Area.
Star Ginger: The restaurant run by Mai Pham will add a location on The Grid, serving the new Sutter Memorial in midtown. They will be located in the hospital’s basement.
Café Bernardo: Each Café Bernardo location has $2 tacos for Taco Tuesday at the bar. After 5 p.m. at most locations.
DoCo vs. In Arena Options: I asked Kings President Chris Granger why Golden 1 features so many Sacramento restaurants while DoCo relies on mostly out of the area restaurants. He actually had a well thought out response. While it would be easy to fill Downtown Commons with national chains like Cheesecake Factory, they knew that they needed unique experiences to compel people to travel from East Sac, Natomas or West Sac. They knew that if people could go to the Cheesecake Factory in Arden, they would, so the found Punch Bowl Social, Popbar and other unique concepts only available at DoCo. As a side note, I visited a Punch Bowl Social while in Denver last week on a work trip. It had a bowling alley, an area for corn hole and other games and a bar. My initial reaction was that if you like Coin Op on K Street, you'll probably enjoy Punch Bowl Social.