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.

 

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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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