How do you prepare dinner and drinks for 70,000 people? That’s the question Brian Tuscano had to answer before the Denver Broncos season this year when he took over as the general manager for Aramark Sports + Entertainment at Empower Field at Mile High.
Huge numbers of mass-produced burgers, fries and pretzels? Sure. Tanks and tanks full of Budweiser beer? That, too. But Tuscano also wanted to focus on some local flair. So he decided to taste-test tacos — a lot of tacos. “We visited 15 taco spots around Denver in the first week,” he said Thursday, three days before the Broncos play their first home game of 2022.
One of those restaurants, Wild Taco, which opened in May at 215 E. 7th Ave. in Denver, won him over, so this season, Aramark will serve two of Wild Taco’s recipes — tinga and carnitas — from a food court-like area on the main concourse during games. It’s part of the stadium’s Colorado Proud program, which includes a roster of mostly Colorado food and beverage purveyors.
Stadiums, arenas and ballparks have increasingly looked toward local restaurants, chefs and companies in recent years as a way to help sports fans feel more connected. Coors Field, for instance, has welcomed in concepts from Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs, CHUBurger (from Oskar Blues Brewery), The Rio and others, while the Pepsi Center (now Ball Arena) elevated its game in 2017 by recruiting James Beard Award-winner Jennifer Jasinski, of Rioja, Stoic & Genuine and Ultreia.
Mile High and Aramark (the company that provides all of the food service at the stadium), meanwhile, tapped chef Frank Bonanno — of Osteria Marco, Lou’s Food Bar, Luca, Mizuna and Denver Milk Market — along with the Denver company behind the Cherry Cricket, both of which will be back this year with some new menu items.
On Thursday, Tuscano and his team unveiled some of the new (and existing) food and beverage items for 2022. Here’s a rundown.
Tended Bar kiosks
Aramark and Mile High will debut three self-serve kiosks at which you enter your ID, credit card and a photo in exchange for one of three kinds of spirits, including whiskey from Breckenridge Distillery (now owned by Canadian cannabis firm Tilray) and a choice of mixers. Since there are no bartenders to tip, customers can donate money to a charity or nonprofit. The three Tended Bar kiosks are located on the main concourse, in the upper concourse and in the United club.
Downtown Mile High
Set behind Section 127, this sit-down “food hall concept” is where you’ll find the new Wild Taco fare, along with Cherry Cricket burgers (the aged white cheddar cheese sauce on these is a real standout) and items from Bonanno’s Osteria Marco.
Spicy tater tots with chicken
Bonanno also has his Lou’s Food Bar spicy tater tots topped with crispy chicken — a highlight at the media tasting event — at a stand behind Section 119. Bonanno will likely change out the food at this stand every few games, Aramark said.
OZO plant-based meatball subs
These subs are filled with plant-based protein meatballs from OZO, a Lafayette-based subsidiary of JBS USA, an international food processing conglomerate with headquarters in Greeley. The meatballs are topped with chunky marinara, two kinds of cheeses and pesto. They can be found at multiple stands throughout the stadium.
Mile High Hot Chicken Sandwich
This is a new item created in-house by Aramark’s senior executive chef. It is a mostly non-spicy version of a Nashville hot chicken sandwich, but with a Colorado twist in the addition of Western Slope peaches and spicy habanero. Find it behind Sections 303 and 342.
Boulder Sausage and 505 Southwestern
These two brands have been at the stadium for a while. Boulder Sausage is a 60-year-old Lafayette-based company (now owned by a London investment group) that provides all of the hot links in the stadium. 505, meanwhile, is an Albuquerque-founded, Denver-based company that provides the green chiles for the stadium’s Monster Chicken Nachos (multiple locations in the stadium) and the Denver Cheesesteak (Sections 106, 131, 513, 529). 505 uses chiles from the famed Hatch area of New Mexico.
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