Bridgestone Arena Ups Its Game with New Dining Options



The Nashville Predators and the staff at the Bridgestone Arena didn't spend their lockout-extended off season sitting on their hands just waiting for the puck to drop after the eventual agreement between the NHL and their players. They kept up a commendable effort of communicating with their fans, especially the season ticket holders, surveying them about what would improve their game day experiences.

A major request was for better food at the various concession areas around the arena, and management took these suggestions to heart. Chef Wade Gnann runs the kitchen operations at the arena, and he really wanted to take the cuisine to a new level, while emphasizing local specialties. He also wanted to take the more upscale food options that are normally only offered to the holders of premium seats in the club and suite levels and push them out to the entire arena. Gnann recognizes that he'll never completely displace hot dogs and nachos, but more and more fans are looking for more substantial options in addition to these typical snacks.

As soon as you walk in the front door of the Bridgestone, you'll encounter the latest snack addition to the arena menu at the food stand outside Section 101. Taking comfort food to the most basic level, they are now offering a 5-ounce slab of thick-cut bacon on a stick for $5. Nicely smoked and peppery, it's hard to argue with this popular dish. (As long as you're not a cardiologist.)

Gnann also wanted to do a goof on chicken and waffles, despite the fact that the Preds management though he was crazy. Crazy like a fox is more like it, as the stand that produces both sweet and savory waffle dishes cooked a la minute has been a real hit over the first month of operation. The house-smoked beef brisket chili and Frito-topped waffle is a particular treat.

The Red Line Grill outside Section 213 has upped the burger game with patties cooked to order on a diner-style flattop and a toppings bar with six hot and 12 cold options to stack on your buns. Last year, the arena introduced a hot chicken dish, but it was really more like just spicy tenders rather than a version of the Nashville traditional favorite. The new edition of their hot chicken sandwich is pretty legit with a whole leg quarter spiced with a wet plaster of cayenne served on white bread with pickles. While Prince's doesn't need to worry about the competition, this PG-13-rated spicy sandwich is pretty exceptional for arena food.

They have also added "pork wings," which are tiny shanks served either Asian style with a hoisin glaze or sweet and spicy. I didn't want to spend to much time contemplating what sort of pigs produced these tiny shanks, but they were damned tasty.

Previous partnerships with the Food Network and Whitt's Barbecue are still in place offering exactly what you'd expect from those establishments. The old stir-fry cart that used to fill the concourse outside of where my season tickets are with a greasy egg roll aroma (blech) has been moved to a permanent location on the other side of the lower level (yay). They've added egg rolls and fried rice to the menu, and it has become a hit with fans looking for a meal before the game.

The last interesting addition is a "grab and go" stand which offers some healthier options like salads, deli sandwiches and fruit along with bags of chips and candy and bottled water, sodas and beer for fans to take to their seats if they are in a hurry. Shorter lines and quick checkouts are a real bonus for late arrivals who don't want to miss "O Canada."

Given the 15-year old building, it's nice to see that Predators and arena management are making investments and thinking long-term about our home teams' home. Along with the plaza party and beer garden that they put on before each home game outside of the front entrance and these new inside options, there's much less of a reason to pregame anywhere else.

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