With the Houston Rockets sitting pretty, only four games behind the Golden State Warriors in the NBA standings, fans at Toyota Center will see a new addition to the lineup for the team's stretch drive.
A Grilled Cheese and Bacon Hot Dog.
"Picture a grilled cheese sandwich for the bun, with a split hot dog, nacho cheese and garnished with bacon," said Anthony Lopez, the "Guru of Gruyere" for Levy Restaurants, which handles concessions for Toyota Center.
The Grilled Cheese and Bacon Hot Dog costs $10 and is available at free-standing hot dog carts on the concourse.
In my role as public servant, each year I test-eat all the new menu items, plus a few returning favorites, at Toyota Center. I am a people pleaser. I also like a good hot dog.
Joining the Toyota Center starting lineup
Grilled Beef Fajita Nachos, $15, available at Section 112. These were brought back by popular demand. The people have spoken, and Lopez listened. (He's nothing if not a man of the people.)
Firecracker Chicken Sandwich, $13, available at Sections 102, 113, 433. This was my favorite rookie, legit spicy and a good size.
Pork Carnitas Tacos, $12.50, available at Sections 125 and 433. My team of taste-testers raved. I concurred.
Chicken Adobo Nachos, $13.00, available at Sections 108 and 119 in the West and East Clubs. Taste-tester approved. Strong effort in the finger snack category. Grab some extra napkins.
Of course, when push comes to shove, something gets shoved. Gone from last season are Korean Tacos, the Fried Chicken Sandwich, and Lime Cilantro Nachos. Hey, I liked the Fried Chicken Sandwich. I did not authorize this roster cut.
January is a big month for Lopez and his crew of merry cookers — that's when they begin planning the menu for next season. They're deep in underground secret locations at Toyota Center making future plans now.
"We have a large kitchen where all the food is prepared and prefer to keep it hidden from everyone. The kitchen is where we keep our prized possession — our smoker. We smoke all of our briskets and turkey breasts in house for each game. That's usually about 55 briskets and 50 turkey breasts. We have many food items that are close to tied for our top-seller, but nothing moves at Toyota Center like our smoked brisket.
"We have a lady in our kitchen, whose name is Mirna, who makes all of the salad dressings, from Caesar to blue cheese, fresh each day. She's been with us for 25 years. Have you tried our house-made croutons, made fresh each day?"
Hey, I'll ask the questions here. And I have tried the croutons. They're delicious. I actually feel sorry for croutons. They are, by far, the best part of a salad. They steal the show every time. But you never see croutons mentioned on the menu; they're forever stuck as supporting characters. Poor croutons.
I asked Lopez, how come your concession stands are all hands on deck, full steam ahead for Rockets games, but you offer only a few items during concerts?
"The amount of food consumed at an NBA game is substantially more than that of a concert. I mean, how many people go to a concert to eat, unless you're looking for a cheeseburger in paradise at a Jimmy Buffett concert?" Lopez said.
Lopez is a Parrothead.
My friend Mike forwarded his bill for two tickets to see Elton John at Toyota Center in December.
Tickets: two for $249.50 each, for back of the floor. I keep telling him that these seats are the worst in the house. You have to look over a thousand people and you're far from the stage. But does he listen to me? Best seats, unless you're in the front five rows on floor level, are on the side or first rows in the upper level.
Mike's tickets: $499.
Plus convenience fee: $99. Running total: $598.
Plus service fee: $10. Final total: $608.
Let's crunch some numbers. Convenience fee $99? For what? Service fee: $10? For what? Ticketing is done by a computer, and tickets are an email you print at home. You don't even get a hard ticket you can put in a scrapbook.
So Mike paid an extra $109 for essentially nothing. Let's say fans sell out Toyota Center with an average ticket costing $100. That's about $1.5 million in ticket sales. Add another $200,000 for convenience and service fees. Remember, Elton John isn't coming to Houston until December, and he's playing two shows. We're talking almost $3.5 million in total.
Put that in a money market fund for nearly a year, and these two concerts are raking hundreds of thousands of dollars before Elton plays one note at Toyota Center. Nice work.
Ken's travel steal
Travel bargain: if only every trip could cost this. I'm headed to Fort Lauderdale for a quick visit this week.
My "Basic Economy" round-trip fare on United ... $108.
My car rental from Priceless ... $4 a day, plus $6.11 tax, total $10.11.
Just hand her a folding chair
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