It’s basketball season again, and (vaccinated) fans are once more filling the stands of the Barclays Center to watch their beloved Brooklyn Nets — and then frequent the many concessions the arena has to offer.
This season, Barclays Center is trying to keep things fresh with a new approach to food an beverages by bringing in local vendors to run stalls for a limited engagement, as a means of demonstrating Brooklyn’s culinary and cultural diversity.
Barclays Center honchos compared their new food stall section, Brooklyn Market, to Williamsburg’s Smorgasburg and DeKalb Market — essentially an experiment where they’ll be rotating out different local vendors every six-to-eight weeks throughout the season, showcasing the best of Kings County’s food options.
“Every month-and-a-half to two months, we’re gonna rotate somebody else in,” said Chris Giacalone, vice president of hospitality at Barclays’ concession provider Levy Restaurants. “To prevent food fatigue from the guests, but also just add variety. It’s like food trucks in the arena.”
Current installations at Brooklyn Market include lobster roll favorites BK Lobster, handmade dumpling caterers Destination Dumplings, and Ghanaian plantain impresarios Kelewele. Also stationed at Brooklyn Market is School Grounds, a stall operated entirely by students from the Food & Finance High School; the students are responsible for developing branding and menus, sourcing ingredients, and preparing and serving food during games.
Local restaurants have featured at Barclays since it opened in 2012, and various Brooklyn favorites have passed through the arena.
Along with Brooklyn icons like Nathan’s, the arena is showcasing popular haunts like Gowanus BBQ joint Pig Beach, Nene’s Taqueria of Bushwick, and Franklin Avenue’s Crabby Shack. Concession gurus say that they are looking to represent the entire borough and all the diversity that entails, and have launched a “Supplier Diversity Program” aiming to bring minority-and-women-owned businesses into the vendor fold.
“We’ve been trying to be a little more inclusive in how we’re going about choosing vendors, and making sure we’re giving everyone an opportunity,” said Livio Velardo, Barclays’ executive chef. “Brooklyn is very diverse, and we want to showcase everybody, not just a certain few.”
Similarly to the basketball team, Barclays has “scouts” running across Brooklyn trying all sorts of grub to determine who might get a coveted concession stand for hungry fans to patronize during games.
“We’ve just had people scour the neighborhoods and try to find things they really like,” said Velardo, currently in his second season as executive chef at Barclays after a tenure at Balthazar, a French brasserie in SoHo.
The Nets, seen as a title contender the past two years, are sitting on a 2-3 record as of Oct. 29, and lost a game against the Miami Heat on Wednesday which Brooklyn Paper attended.
Though it has two superstars, Kevin Durant and James Harden, on the court, and a roster of both young and experienced role players, the team is unquestionably missing the presence of Kyrie Irving, who is ineligible to play home games because his unvaccinated status violates New York City’s rules around entering indoor public places.