The new Houston Texans season means more than just putting the stink of 2-14 in the past with a new coach and quarterback. The team is also seeking to improve the fan experience with a host of new dining options at newly renamed NRG Stadium.
While many Texans fans arrive early to tailgate, that still leaves a lot of hungry people looking for something to eat in between cheering for J.J. Watt sacks and Arian Foster touchdown runs.
While Texans fans can't yet order steamed bao from their seats like 49ers devotees at the recently opened Levi's Stadium can, the options are far more diverse than the old hot dogs and stadium nachos. Not that there's anything wrong with hot dogs and nachos.
The options are far more diverse than the old hot dogs and stadium nachos. Not that there's anything wrong with hot dogs and nachos.
James Beard Award winner Chris Shepherd is expanding his presence at the stadium. In addition to Underbelly jalapeno cheddar dogs with tater tot casserole in the club level, patrons can get Hay Merchant wings (classic hot and PB&J flavors, no fish sauce or Gochujang for now) with tater tots at a new stand in section 101.
A little more celebrity chef heat comes courtesy of Fort Worth cowboy chef Grady Spears, who has opened three Grady's Carvery stands that feature carved sandwiches including a "no bull" chicken sandwich (smoked chicken, candied bacon, jack cheese, cranberry mayo on a jalapeno roll).
Two other local favorites have also joined last year's addition of Bernie's Burger Bus to offer even more tempting options. Goode Company is smoking brisket, turkey and sausage on-site and will also offer its signature seafood campechana at two stands on the club level (Sections 308, 336), and Berryhill Baja Cantina is serving its signature fish tacos and pork tamales at a new stand in Section 135.
The team has also upgraded the retail experience with the Battle Red Ladies Boutique, featuring items from Victoria's Secret, and the Go Texans Store Endzone highlighting exclusive items featuring team mascot Toro and the always popular Texans cheerleaders.
At a media tasting that featured the new offerings, my colleagues and I agreed on the highest possible compliment one can give stadium food — it tasted like the versions found at the restaurants. That sort of praise might not slow down people's enthusiasm for tailgating, but at least it means those who choose to eat in the stadium will enjoy the experience.