THESE ROOKIES ROCK

Ken Hoffman: Toyota Center announces new food rookies in time for Rockets playoff run

The Grilled Beef Fajita at Toyota Center come in cool Rockets bowl. Courtesy photo

A version of this article originally appeared on CultureMap/Houston. Check out Hoffman's Houston there.

With the Houston Rockets sitting pretty, only two 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.

 

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images


In the last four games, Russell Westbrook has been averaging 31.5 points per game. Even in the Rockets tough four game losing streak, despite not playing against the Memphis Grizzles, he has been the bright spot for the Rockets.

Honestly, the Rockets need Westbrook because of the energy he brings to the team. He always keeps the offense flowing and teammates active. Westbrook can give his team a sense of urgency when he is hot. He is a huge confidence builder to the team because of the positivity Westbrook brings. Westbrook is never hard himself because he does not want his emotions to get in front of his play. Being able to watch Westbrook motivate his teammates is amazing. Allowing himself not to get frustrated, unmotivated, or rude towards his teammates, caused the Rockets to get a must needed win against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night.

"Obliviously that helps winning, but um through it all you got to stay positive. I know sometimes it's difficult. When your losing, in a drought, you're not shooting well, you're not playing well, but greater days are coming. I believe that; I truly believe that. I stay positive always; it's pushing us in the right direction." Westbrook told the press.

Westbrook loves keeping his teammates involved to keep the defense guessing.

"He is so versatile; he gets everybody involved. When he is attacking the rim, everybody is on alert. Guys get open shots." Harden told the press.

Westbrook field goal percentage is starting to improve now. Over the last four games he has been shooting 56.3% from the field. He is starting to let the game come to him now. Westbrook has become more aggressive in an efficient manner by attacking the rim more. Instead of Westbrook jacking up random three-point shots, he has taken minimum attempts. He is figuring out his strengths which is playing below the arc. Westbrook is much more dangerous when he is attacking or on a fast break.

Westbrook is starting to look more unstoppable than Harden right now. He has been holding the offense above float because of Hardens bad play. Hopefully, Westbrook keeps this up and continues to elevate the play of his teammates. This could continue the success after Wednesday night's win.

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