Jerry Hughes is just happy people think he tastes good.
I suspect you’d feel the same if you had a sandwich named after you at your place of employment. Hughes’ chicken and waffle sandwich was the highlight of Delaware North’s new menu offerings at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the upcoming Buffalo Bills season, which kicks off this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Bills’ defensive end was on hand inside the Bills Store on Wednesday afternoon to show off the Jerry Hughes’ Buffalo Chicken-N-Waffle-the-Quarterback, a Buffalo-style chicken and waffle sandwich he was eager to endorse.
A pair of flaky, warm waffles featured a hint of maple flavor that balances out the acid from the blue cheese coleslaw. The JHBCNWtQ’s (it’ll catch on, just wait) pair of chicken tenders are dipped in Frank’s XTRA Hot, which also gives it a considerable kick. The $10 sandwich comes with house-made chips and will be available in concession stands near Sections 111 and 133.
Hughes gave the sandwich a rave review, eating one and taking another in a to-go box after he sampled some of Delaware North’s other offerings. Hughes—who signed a new 5-year contract with the team in March—was happy to lend his name to the sandwich and relished the chance to sample Ralph Wilson Stadium executive chef Andy Altomare’s creation.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling,” Hughes said before he spoke for the sandwich itself. “I’m just happy that I taste good.” The name may be a bit clunky, but the sandwich itself is surprisingly balanced. At $10, it also might be your best value inside the self-contained stadium food economy. But it’s not the only new option you’ll see on Sundays this fall.
NEW LOCAL FAVORITES
The Bills announced a partnership with Dinosaur Bar-B-Que back in July, but we now know exactly what they’re bringing to the stadium this fall. The restaurant's standalone location near Gate 5 will offer ribs, pulled pork, and its signature baked beans to Bills fans looking for a little smoke inside the Ralph.
Dinosaur’s pulled pork sandwiches were available to sample on Wednesday. If you’ve tasted Dinosaur at its Franklin Street location downtown or elsewhere in the state, you know what to expect here. The pulled pork is sweet and tender, and the coleslaw is obviously much more traditional than the slaw on Hughes’ sandwich. It also come with a hunk of sticky-sweet cornbread to provide those essential carbs.
The pulled pork sandwiches can be found in stands near sections 109, 131, 309, 314, and 337 as well as in portable stands near Gates 2 and 7. They’ll also be available in the suites and club seats.
Bills fans will be able to “squish the fish” themselves in the fancy seats this fall. Elmwood Village staple SATO has partnered with the Bills to provide freshly-made sushi and nigiri in the Time Warner and M&T clubs as well as the suites. The fish we sampled was fresh, and the rice was just fine. Very cool option if you’re looking for something different at the game.
Build-Your-Own Sahlen’s Footlong Hot Dogs
A portable cart near Gate 4 is your destination if regular Sahlen’s hot dogs just aren’t enough. Potential toppings include chili, cheese, diced tomatoes, onions, relish and Weber’s mustard. I went with chili and cheese and it was exactly what I expected. Sahlen’s is fine, but don’t expect a gourmet meal here. The cheese is almost certainly the same you’ll find on your nachos and the chili is more ground beef than anything. Only seek this it out if size truly matters.
West Side Stuffed Meatball — This was described as “locally inspired” and was basically a lightly-sauced meatball stuffed with a bit of spaghetti and mozzarella cheese. It looked better than it tasted, which is to say that it presented great and tasted fine. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting here, really. This is not a meal that’s easy to take into the seating bowl, though, which is why it’s only available in the suites.
*Another local food note is a tweet from restaurateur Paul Tsouflidis, who announced a partnership with the Bills and Sabres on Wednesday. Perhaps a new menu item from Acropolis or Newbury Street makes its way to the Ralph later this season. We already know you can get your spicy quinoa fix at First Niagara Center this fall.*
OTHER NEW ITEMS
Braised Beef Tacos — These might actually be worth the price of admission into the Paul Maguire, Van Miller, and Jim Kelly Club sections. These street-style tacos feature braised beef, Dijon horseradish and crispy onions finished by tomatoes and shredded cheese. The beef itself isn’t heavily seasoned, but the horseradish gives it good flavor and the onions provide the kind of texture you might not expect from football stadium tacos.
These are a tremendous upgrade over the sadsack school lunch-style burritos available in the general concessions areas as recently as last season. Each order comes with three tacos, which are sure to kill any hunger pangs you’d have if you skipped the tailgate parties before heading inside.
Footlong Polish Sausage — Available outside Gate 5 and in the club and suite sections, this grilled polish sausage is topped with sauerkraut and Weber’s mustard and served with homemade chips.
Two things I learned from this sausage: Jerry Hughes does not like sauerkraut, and Weber’s mustard somehow pales in comparison to the heat provided by Frank’s XTRA Hot. Overall the flavors here were a bit muted, but I suppose that’s to be expected when cooking to serve the palates of more than 70,000 people. Not destined to be a Dyngus Day favorite, but it is a serviceable game-day option.
Greek Yogurt Parfait — Delaware North teamed up with Independent Health to add some healthy options to the Ralph Wilson Stadium menu this season. The yogurt is definitely a highlight, featuring a “mix of granola and berries.” Our sample paired your basic granola with kiwi, pineapple, strawberry and blueberry. Definitely worth a purchase near section 139 if you want to forgive yourself for the tailgate buffet you scarfed down before heading inside.
House-Made Black Bean Burger — I was one of the few people there to try this, which probably wasn’t helped by the giant meatballs sitting directly to the right. It tasted like your standard bean burger, which mostly means it tasted like black beans. This is a suites and club seats only menu item made much better—as most things generally are—by guacamole.
Other healthy options include turkey wraps and fruit cups, which were not available to sample. I’m sure they are better for you than the chicken and waffles, though.
Delaware North has a special Millennium Margarita it’s serving to honor its centennial, which will be available in the suites at the Ralph. (The secret ingredient is prosecco) They also had plenty of Bills Water to try, which tasted like, well, water.
One Buffalo Beer — Kegs of the ale have made their way around Western New York after it was announced by Southern Tier Brewery and Pegula Sports & Entertainment last month, but the adult beverage will be on tap at the Ralph as well. It’s a fairly conservative beer by craft brewing standards, but it is tasty. It doesn’t smell too hoppy, but the Centennial and Willamette hops blend shines through with a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste.
Definitely not too overpowering if you’re hesitant to drop stadium-prices on untested craft beers. It’s also fairly light at 4.8 percent alcohol by volume, but it’s a nice alternative if you’re looking for something with a bit more flavor to sip in the stands.
You can pre-order special growlers of One Buffalo in the suites if you’re fancy, but the rest of us can find it at portable stands near Gate 2, Gate 7, and near Sections 308 and 328 in the upper deck.