In August, Philips Arena hired executive chef Joe Schafer, formerly of Bacchanalia and King + Duke, to revamp its food and beverage offerings. Industry insiders were surprised. Why would an esteemed chef leave the fine dining sector to serve burgers and dogs to a sports-focused crowd? As Philips continues to renovate and expand its offerings, Schafer’s immense opportunity is becoming clear. Below he reveals what to expect at Philips Arena next fall.
Opened this season, Courtside Club is a food and beverage lounge exclusively accessible to the first four rows of season ticket holders. “It’s our highest-end cuisine and bar offerings,” Schafer says. It’s open solely during games and special events and is treated like its own restaurant in terms of having a unique, constantly changing menu.
It includes a brick pizza oven, a rotisserie, and a grill, as well as two stations for snacks or dessert and charcuterie, pickles, or sushi. Its 650+ members have unlimited access to all food and drinks, which can even include wild game such as venison.
West Club (working name)
Located on the west side of the arena, this club caters to rows 5-8. Here, the food is included but the drinks are pay-as-you-go. There’s a large bar, a lounge area, and a big food station featuring pizza and small plates. (Small plates are also passed around the room.) “It’s a little more approachable [than Courtside Club],” Schafer says.
There’s a grab-and-go area for those who just want a salad or wrap, as well as a tasting table featuring a rotating menu of items such as seared fish on salad. This table is set up like a three-sided bar with seats around it and will be used to host guest chefs and pop-ups.
East Club (working name)
Across the building from the West Club, the East Club will host 700 people who will pay per item for both food and drinks. (Depending on your ticket price, you may be eligible for preloaded food and beverage credits.) This area will feature a couple of bars, a pizza stand, and a grill stand. Expect three to five flavors of pizza (homemade Neapolitan dough will be used throughout the arena), as well as Stromboli, calzones, and garlic knots. There will also be chicken tenders, fried and grilled chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs.
“We have the same mentality and focus for every little thing we serve, from foie gras to onion rings,” Schafer says. “We’re on an onion rings kick right now. We’re slow cooking them in beer to get them tender, then chilling them and beer-battering them. I feel like those little details are often overlooked in sports entertainment.” There will even be a condiment station where Schafer plans to serve local delicacies like Doux South pickles and B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue sauce.
The Veranda Suites are located on level A and feature a center island with a warming station in each suite. Serving an average of 16 people, the suites offer everything from chicken tenders and wings to charcuterie and green hummus. There are also three packages guests can choose from with game-day fare, barbecue, and steakhouse themes. “We trimmed the menu from nearly 40 pages to one or two sheets,” Schafer says.
On level B, there are about 20 Loft Suites that will feature shared, thematic food displays. Drinks will be sold separately.
Serving about 600 people, Atlanta Social is on the 200 level and offers a similar menu to that in the East Club. It features soft seating, a grill stand, a pizza stand, and a bar.