Tampa, Florida -- I have been going to sporting events all over Tampa Bay for years and have eaten my way through extra innings, overtimes, nail-biters and blowouts. Rarely do I pass up a chance to gorge at the game.
So, Wednesday was a pretty cool day for me and my stomach.
This season, football fans will get an entirely new taste bud experience at Raymond James Stadium. On Wednesday, the Buccaneers unveiled football food to cram in your face between cheers. What's unique about the food is that it all has something to do with Tampa Bay.
One of the signature items is the Cuban sandwich. Aramark Executive Chef Kevin Riley raved about it and I believe every word that man says. I checked out his bio after doing a quick sandwich-centric interview and found out he has worked at the Bellagio in Vegas ... Vegas! Any guy who can satisfy hungry mobs of gamblers at one of the most famous hotels in the world is good by me.
Another of his favorites was the new Burger 76, served at the Bay Burger minirestaurant in the corners of the stadium's concourse level. This burger was legit. I inhaled it. Chuck, short rib and sirloin are combined into one delicious, fresh, juicy patty and smothered in what Riley called "76 sauce." The burger is named after the team's first season in Tampa – 1976.
I can vouch for a lot of the food items. I tried the Cuban and loved it. The Burger 76 was outstanding. Those are just two of the new items that can be found at different, specialized stations with catchy, regional names. Spicy food is found at Red Sail, local favorites, like Cubans, are at Taste of Tampa and savory sandwiches are at Desoto (as in Fort Desoto) Deli. There is even a new beverage station called The Swashbuckler.
The renovation to the concourse level cost $7 million and it looks fantastic. There are tons of choices – much more than a typical sports venue where all you get are hot dogs and pretzels. The Bucs have those, too, but don't settle for ordinary with so many interesting menu items to choose from.
The food is a bit pricey but no more so than food at any other stadium around the country. The most expensive items are the double Burger 76 ($12), the ham-and-cheese bocadillo sandwich ($11) and the hot pastrami sandwich ($11).
You can get the Desoto deli dog, Red Sail dog, single Burger 76, smoked bacon BLT, andouille sausage, and Cannon Fire nachos for under $10.
The first chance for fans to test these out is Saturday night when the Bucs face the Dolphins. Believe me, you will want to get in line early for the Cuban or the Burger 76. They are worth the wait.