Wimbledon has its Pimm's Cups and its strawberries-by the end of the tournament, fans consume almost 31 tons of the fruit each year. At the French Open, people sometimes care too much about the food-during even the top midday matches, there are empty seats at Roland Garros while spectators focus on their lunch.
The U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows in Queens has neither a food as signature as a Wimbledon strawberry nor a fan base that will forgo a good match to eat-the closest thing to a food tradition is the Honey Deuce, an easy-to-drink Pimm's-like vodka cocktail served in custom-made glasses. (About 275,000 melon ball garnishes are being readied in advance of the first matches, on Aug. 29.)
But this year the Open does have a roster of notable chefs and purveyors, from Momofuku's David Chang to sushi maestro Masaharu Morimoto. And beyond the crowd-pleasing lobster rolls and tacos, a bunch of dishes could well cause the kind of line you'd find for a Cronut.
Here's a handful of food items, some you can't find anywhere else, that will make this year's Open one for the culinary hall of fame:
The Bacon-Ranch Fried Chicken Sandwich:
Chang is fast becoming the Colonel Sanders of New York City, with his Fuku fried chicken sandwich empire. For his first year at the Open, the chef is serving his spicy Fuku sandwich, with an embellishment: He's added strips of crispy, applewood-smoked bacon and a drizzle of ranch dressing on the potato roll. "I've been waiting to put bacon on a Fuku sandwich," Chang told me this week, sipping on a Honey Deuce. While we talked, he came up with a name for the sandwich: the McEnroe. (An old poster of John McEnroe represents the only décor at Chang's 10-year-old Manhattan restaurant, Ssam Bar.)
Penne Amatriciana for a Cause:
Tony Mantuano, chef-owner of Chicago's formidable Italian restaurant Spiaggia, is a veteran of U.S. Open food service. This year he determined he wouldn't serve pasta at Flushing Meadows unless, rather than using preboiled pasta, he could make each dish to order. He eventually got approval, found someone to make pounds and pounds of fresh penne, and procured a giant, eight-basket pasta cooker. He's making classic Amatriciana, the porky tomato sauce studded with guanciale and pecorino. ("It's the real deal, no onions," he specifies. "You add a little pasta water, toss, toss, toss, and you serve.") The Italian town of Amatrice-the pasta's namesake-was recently devastated by an earthquake, so Mantuano is donating a portion of each pasta sale to help rescue efforts.
Soft-Shell Crab Bocadillo With Crunchy Ramen Aioli:
Another Open newcomer is Boston-based chef Ken Oringer. He's re-creating his beloved restaurant Toro right outside Arthur Ashe Stadium, serving signature dishes such as griddled, garlicky shrimp, patatas bravas, and "crazy amounts of Ibérico ham and chorizo," he says. There's one dish Oringer has never served before: a crispy fried soft-shell crab bocadillo (aka sandwich) with crunchy ramen sauce. Earlier this year, Oringer opened Toro in Bangkok; this dish is an homage to the influences he's been picking up.
Grilled Chicken-and-Pepper Heroes:
Chicken sandwiches are clearly driving the day at the Open. Meat impresario Pat LaFrieda used to have a tiny kiosk at the tournament. This year he's graduated to a large, fancy stand on the South Plaza, with tables in front of the Arthur Ashe Sculpture Garden. He describes it as "big as a tennis court. Bigger." LaFrieda is specializing in sandwiches, including one piled high with seared filet mignon, and another stuffed with meatballs in sauce and a swath of ricotta. But his favorite is a new one. "Last year, I wasn't content with our food," he says. "It was good. Now it's amazing." He's talking about his grilled chicken with melted cheese and sweet, spicy Peppadew peppers in custom-made Balthazar rolls.
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