When the Barclays Center opened in the autumn of 2012, it promised to be a boon to local business. To deliver on that vow, it launched Brooklyn Taste — a collection of no fewer than 55 Brooklyn-based food vendors scattered across multiple levels of the 18,000-seat arena. Most of these purveyors cook up event-friendly fare specific to the venue. Together they represent a wide spectrum of dining options indicative of their home borough’s ethnic diversity. Dining at Barclays is unlike the predictable junk-food-fueled experience of a typical stadium. But as at any other sportsplex, it doesn’t come cheap. To accommodate the constraints of your wallet — and stomach — we’ve assembled a list of the ten best dishes to seek out during your next Nets game, rock concert, or (next season) NHL match.
10. Signature Concrete ($7.50), Junior’s, Section 26
This frozen Frankenshake blends organic Blue Marble ice cream with chunks of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and Junior’s legendary cheesecake. It’s a textural marvel served in a plastic drinking cup, best tackled with a spoon.
9. Grilled corn Mexican-style ($5.75), Habana, Sections 25, 209/210
Habana’s handheld offering is like corn on the cob on steroids: The ear is dusted in a layer of tangy cotija cheese before it takes a bath in chile powder and fresh lime. Each semi-sweet bite is lifted by smoky char from the grilled kernels.
8. Boneless wings ($11), Buffalo Boss, Section 22
These bite-size morsels of white-meat chicken are caked in a thick breading, which provides ample crunch and a perfect landing pad for generous amounts of spicy buffalo sauce. They’re served alongside a pile of Nathan’s crowd-pleasing crinkle fries. It’s a well-executed, classic combination of flavors that’s bungled far too often at inferior venues. [
7. Cali’s Greek nachos ($12), Thomas’ Greek Kitchen, Section 225/226
Familiar arena fare gets a Mediterranean makeover in this gut-busting array of feta, scallions, kalamata olives, and beef chili heaped atop house-baked pita chips. The savory beef works well against the saltiness of the olives. With plenty of chopped tomatoes and onions topping off the plate, it can get messy. Bring a napkin, and some friends.
6. Baja Fish Taco ($14), Calexico, Section 03
Ordering fish at a sporting event seems like a bold move, but the beer-battered tilapia at the core of this Mexican staple is legit. Flaky and not overly greasy, it brings a delicate seafood flavor that’s still detectable through the sweet mango salsa add-on. Lining the pair of flour tortillas is your standard-issue chipotle “crack sauce” — basically a spicy sour cream.
5. Smoked White Cheddar Brat ($8.50), Brooklyn Bangers & Dogs, Sections 08, 225/226
This ain’t your typical dirty-water dog. Plump and juicy house-crafted, German-style bratwurst opens up to reveal an inner lining of molten white cheddar. The smoked sausage is served tucked inside a locally baked potato roll, the perfect vehicle for squishing up any additional flavor that might otherwise be lost along the way.
4. Lobster Monster ($18.50), Boomer and Carton Kitchen, Section 17
Red Hook Lobster Pound provides the goods in this mouth-watering union of crustacean, mayo, and butter-toasted bun. Sizable lumps of tail, claw, and shoulder are all prominent, studded with the occasional chunk of celery and sprinkled with chopped scallion. It’s a mouthful of meat to help justify its stately sum. [
3. Batchagaloop Burger ($14), Boomer and Carton Kitchen, Section 17
This absurd smorgasbord between buns was invented by local sports radio personality Craig Carton. The sandwich stacks an American-cheese-blanketed beef patty from Paisanos with deep-fried chicken fingers, pickles, and french fries on a buttered brioche. Beyond the novelty, the constituent parts work surprisingly well together. And you have to applaud efficiency: Why waste time eating everything individually?
2. Hot Pastrami on Rye ($16.75), David’s K Deli, Section 06
It can’t be a proper Brooklyn experience without a decent Jewish deli. And the hot pastrami from David’s K is beyond decent — it’s delicious. More than half a pound of thinly sliced smoked meat is piled high betwixt two pieces of traditional rye bread. It’s served without frills — just a small cup of slaw and an oversized sour pickle on the side.
1. Short rib banh mi ($13.75), Fatty ‘Cue BBQ, Sections 07, 222/223
One of the city’s best barbecue joints, Fatty ‘Cue is renowned for fusing the flavors of the South with Southeast Asia. Here, it elevates the standard Vietnamese sandwich into the stratosphere, building it around tender beef short rib. The meat is magnified with a unique smoky-sweet barbecue dressing and finished with a crunchy layer of cabbage-carrot slaw. A doughy French baguette holds it all together.