Van Andel Arena welcomes back Griffins fans with new food

Grand Rapids

6 trends and changes to look for this season

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Griffins are back at Van Andel Arena with a new lineup, and so is executive chef Maurice Cordova.

“Going into this season, we haven’t had any events in a year and a half here, so being able to introduce a whole new world to the culinary part of what we do here is something awesome that we’re excited for, definitely,” said Cordova, who works for the arena’s food and beverage provider Savor.

Last month, Cordova and a team of chefs and food vendors filled the Intermission Bar and Grill to give suite holders and other community members their first taste of the new foods available at the arena starting Friday.

“We tried a lot of new items. We still have our traditional burgers and salads, but we wanted to have some fun with some stuff this year,” Cordova said.

SHARABLES THAT MAKE A STATEMENT

(A photo taken in September 2021 shows the giant pretzel charcuterie available on one of Van Andel Arena’s menus during the 2021-2022 Griffins hockey season.)

Those charmed by charcuterie have two new options: a board of fries and dips, and a large Bavarian pretzel from the Milwaukee Pretzel Company that’s filled with cheeses, meats and olives.

Fans with a sweet tooth can try out a new popcorn combination of caramel corn, sweet potato tots, chocolate drizzle and vanilla.

“It’s a weird-looking concept, but it’s phenomenal once you try it,” Cordova said.

(A photo taken in September 2021 shows a mix of caramel popcorn and sweet potato tots, available at the Van Andel Arena during the 2021-2022 Griffins hockey season.)

ALTERNATIVES AMID SHORTAGES

(A photo taken in September 2021 shows spicy cod sliders, which are available at at the Van Andel Arena during the 2021-2022 Griffins hockey season.)

Van Andel Arena is also feeling the supply chain crunch.

“Everybody in the industry throughout the whole food service has just been running into problems with getting product here, with trucks and nobody ready to drive and nobody working at some of the plants… so we’re trying to focus on stuff that is readily available and newer items,” said one of the chefs.

With the recent shortages, seafood is also having a renaissance moment. Arena menus include seafood loaded potato skins, a shrimp po’boy, fish sandwiches, seafood boils and even “Alaska Wild Wings.”

“We were talking about the chicken wing concept with the fish. These Alaskan wings are phenomenal. There’s something new,” Cordova said.

(A photo taken in September 2021 shows “fish wings,” available at at the Van Andel Arena during the 2021-2022 Griffins hockey season.)

MORE GLUTEN-FREE, VEGAN, VEGETARIAN OPTIONS

(A photo taken in September 2021 shows labneh, which is available at at the Van Andel Arena during the 2021-2022 Griffins hockey season.)

Visitors with other diet restrictions will also find more options, from vegetarian warm grain salad and labneh to vegan tenders to gluten-free brownies and gluten-free vegan parfaits.

“If you look on any menu that we have in the arena, there’ll be an option for just about anybody there,” Cordova said. “We focused on everybody’s diet… anybody that comes here can get a full experience.”

NEW CONCESSIONS CART

(A photo taken in September 2021 shows a sausage and Philly cheesesteak sandwich available at a new concessions stand in Van Andel Arena during the 2021-2022 Griffins hockey season.)

Fans at Van Andel Arena can still find plenty of new meat options. A new concessions cart will also debut this season, serving up sausages and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.

“It’s a great asset for upstairs,” Cordova said.

Between arena the arena’s catering, restaurant and concession menus, there’s also pork belly, short rib tacos, short rib stroganoff, meatball subs, Italian and Cuban paninis and jerk chicken.

“The Nashville hot scene has been pretty big as well. So (we’re) introducing a Nashville hot chicken sandwich,” Cordova added.

HOW THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC IS CHANGING CONCESSIONS

(A September 2021 photo shows some prepackaged items available at Van Andel Arena during the 2021-2022 Griffins hockey season.)

The arena will also offer plastic-wrapped cheesecakes, brownies and other foods, based on feedback from catering customers.

“Just so there’s safety consciousness with everything going on, they wanted prepackaged desserts. So we introduced a lot of prepackaged desserts and items where people are safe and comfortable in catering as well,” Cordova explained.

Visitors can also skip the line and order select concession items online through Van Andel Arena’s free smartphone app.

All concession vendors now operate using a cashless system.

BRINGING BACK THE BASICS

(A photo taken in September 2021 shows elephant ears available at the Van Andel Arena during the 2021-2022 Griffins hockey season. )

The time fans spent away from events isn’t lost on the culinary team. Nostalgic foods like puppy chow, footlong corn dogs and elephant ears will join bacon shaped like hockey sticks on this year’s menu.

“We’ve tried to, this year, just get a lot of the basics back out and just get people’s ideas of fun things to come back in the arena,” Cordova said.

After spending the last 18 months working at other company properties across the country, Cordova says he’s “absolutely in awe of being back here.”

“Just seeing how slowly everybody is opening up and helping out there, it feels so comforting being back in my home arena, being able to be a part of all of this again. We’re excited for this season, definitely,” he said.

The Grand Rapids Griffins face the Rockford IceHogs at home Friday. For those who don’t have a ticket, you can watch all the action on WXSP starting at 7 p.m.

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