Reliant Stadium has already hosted a few preseason games this summer, but Sunday will be the first time the Texans play at home this season. Attendees of this game can expect rowdy fans, hot temperatures and great local food.
Yes, great food. Local chefs. At a football stadium.
Gone are the days when your only option at stadium concessions was lukewarm hot dogs and nachos with fluorescent cheese pumped out onto stale corn chips. And though Bud Light is still a favorite of sports fans everywhere, it's no longer your only means of getting booze into your bloodstream.
The Daily Meal recently named Reliant Stadium the third-best stadium in the country for craft beer, and this season it will welcome Chris Shepherd and a mini Underbelly, as well as Bernie's Burger Bus, to the concession lineup.
We spoke to Aramark's general manager for Reliant, Joel Nash, who caught us up on the culinary developments at the stadium.
Nash says that bringing craft beer to Reliant has been increasingly important to him, as craft brews attract larger and more devoted followings. Reliant features a craft beer bar on the club level that will carry eight different beers, rotated on a seasonal basis, including Karbach and Saint Arnold.
"We thought we should capitalize on the growth of the craft beer market," Nash says. "A lot of folks are really happy about it because they can find their beer here now."
Nash explains that on both the club level and the main concourse, the concession areas are designed to mirror one another across the stadium. When designing the concession stands and figuring out where they should be located, Nash said, a priority was making sure that fans would not have to wander around the entire stadium in search of their beer and food choices. Nash wants to make sure that people never have to stray too far from their seats and miss any action on the field.
On the main concourse level, the 50-yard line is marked by brew houses, which carry more than a dozen varieties of bottled and tap beer, including imports like Stella Artois, Negra Modelo and Newcastle Brown Ale. There's also a new fruity beer called Red's Apple Ale, which is similar to a hard cider, and Pine Belt Pale Ale, ideal for gluten-free folks who want to enjoy a brew or two.
One of Nash's favorite recent additions to the stadium's lineup is "brewery fresh" Bud Light and Budweiser, which has a dedicated serving area that can hold ten kegs at a time.
"On Saturday, the brewers pull beer out of the brew tanks, put it in the keg and bring the kegs here, and then we serve it the following day," Nash explains. "That's been a cool concept, to have day-fresh beer."
If beer isn't your thing, Reliant is offering some food that will change the way you think about concession-stand grub. Underbelly's Chris Shepherd, a longtime Texans season ticket holder and badass tailgater, has opened two mini Underbelly stands on either side of the club level. The stands cook up some of Underbelly's most popular dishes, including a roasted pork belly sandwich served in a bao bun with a little bit of hoisin sauce and quick-pickled cucumbers and bratwurst on a pretzel bun. Underbelly favorite Korean braised goat and dumplings is already on the radar of a Korean reporter, who is apparently visiting the stadium soon to do a story about the fact that people can now get Korean food at a national stadium.
The best thing about Underbelly's foray into concessions is that the prices have remained very similar to what one might pay at the restaurant. A bottle of water will still set you back $4.25, but you can get a serving of braised goat and dumplings for only $13.75. Sure beats concession stand pizza.