st. louis city sc centene stadium photo by iain shaw

St. Louis City SC announces first local restaurants that will serve soccer fans on game days

St. Louis City SC, the city’s new MLS team, just gave us a look inside what the game day experience will look like for fans in terms of food and drink. As part of its City Flavor program, the soccer club revealed that over 25 local restaurants, including Balkan Treat BoxBEAST Craft BBQ Co.Steve’s Hot Dogs and Niche Food Group, will operate concessions inside the stadium.  

The reveal was made at an event at St. Louis City SC’s home, Centene Stadium, at 2100 Market St. in Downtown West on Monday, Oct. 17. The event was hosted by St. Louis City SC President and Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Kindle alongside the club’s “Flavor Officer,” Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group. Craft has played a leading role in shaping how the MLS’ newest club will feed 22,500 soccer fans during games.  

“Our goal with the City Flavor program was to ensure that we highlighted the different cultures of our St. Louis food community. Through the food, fans get a feel for the diverse neighborhoods that make our city so special,” said Craft. “Every food partner has such an inspiring story, and we wanted to not just showcase these restaurants and food brands in the stadium, but drive the community to support local before, during and after matchday.”  

The first four local in-stadium food partners to be announced include: 

Balkan Treat Box, BEAST Craft BBQ Co. and Steve's Hot Dogs will operate kiosks around the stadium concourse, while Niche Food Group will be based out of the Together Credit Union Club on the stadium's west side. 

One Balkan Treat Box signature that will be featured on its Centene Stadium menu is the tantuni kebab, which includes small cuts of meat in a seasoned gravy, served either as a wrap or in a hoagie-style bread with tomato, sumac, onion, herbs and lemon. Loryn and Edo Nalic of Balkan Treat Box described it as “overwhelming” to have their restaurant featured among the food partners at Centene Stadium, but said they are excited about being part of the mission to represent a broader, more international and diverse range of flavor profiles than that found in the typical American sports arena. 

“To have people want to branch out and represent, I think it makes sense because it's soccer, which is probably the most internationally loved and known sport,” Loryn Nalic said. “I think St. Louis is going to appreciate it, and I think people from out of town are going to think it's cool. I just think it's going to set us apart from everybody else.”

“It's a mix of emotions,” said Edo Nalic. “I always wanted to do this – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. You kind of dive in and then you learn to swim. That's the approach. It's nothing but excitement.” He added that he’s looking forward to the challenge of serving thousands of soccer fans on match days. “Do we know what we're going to do on opening day, how it's going to look like? Absolutely not. But that's what makes it great.”

David Sandusky of BEAST Craft BBQ Co. said “It's a huge challenge, but the rewards are so massive, because we're a part of something really, really special. To be able to do it at a high level with a group that wants to promote local and really give us an opportunity as a city to benefit from the stadium being here in so many different ways, I think it's a really cool thing to be a part of.”

BEAST’s flagship item at Centene Stadium will be the restaurant’s pork steak sandwich – half of a hickory-smoked pork steak which is basted and torched for added caramelization. Sandusky said he has a few more treats planned for soccer fans, but no further details for now. “We're going to be doing some things that are really going to push the envelope a little bit and differentiate us even further and we’re really excited about that,” Sandusky said. “The menu will be very small because there’s so much to do in such a short period of time. The pork steak sandwich will be the flagship of the menu. We will bring a couple of extra things to it, but we're not ready to reveal that yet.”

Steve’s Hot Dogs’ match day offerings will include the restaurant’s Bacon Bacon Jamaican hot dog, the Chicago-style hot dog, and the St. Louis City Dog. The latter features a smoked and grilled beef hot dog topped with Provolone, grilled onions and green peppers, housemade smoky pepper mustard, banana peppers and bacon, a combination that saw this particular hot dog proclaimed the official hot dog of St. Louis City by the Board of Aldermen in July 2022.

“I'm a big soccer fan, my daughter plays soccer, so when we found out that we were actually chosen, we were crazy excited,” said Steve Ewing of Steve’s Hot Dogs. “We're excited about getting people from out of town coming in here and actually getting to taste our food. And we’re excited for the city itself – this whole area has just come alive because of the stadium. So this is amazing, and we're hoping to be in this for a very long time.”

Niche Food Group's offerings at the Together Credit Union Club inside Centene Stadium will include the Brass Burger, which was created at Brasserie by Niche but has featured at a number of Niche restaurants over the years. Detroit-style pizza from Pastaria Deli & Wine will also be available on the stadium menu.  

Gerard Craft said that the St. Louis City SC team had worked hard to lower the barriers to entry that have traditionally kept local independent restaurants out of sporting arenas across the United States. “The group of restaurants we’re assembling is so exciting to me,” said Craft. “When I think about stadium food and a lot of the major fast food chains that you often see, I think we’ve really changed the game as far as how we approach our local partners and how we make it maybe easier for them to be a part of it.”

Craft added that stadium hospitality partner Levy was chosen because they embraced the St. Louis City SC team’s vision for a match day dining experience that incorporated and reflected the diversity of local cuisine and local neighborhoods. “I wanted you to feel that when you're walking around as if you were walking around different neighborhoods of St. Louis and stumbling upon all these unique restaurants that you may never have heard of,” he said.

This only represents the first round of partner restaurants to be announced – further announcements will be made as the spring 2023 kickoff approaches for St. Louis City SC’s inaugural season in the MLS.  

In total, Centene Stadium will feature 52 outlets for food and drink on match days, the most in the MLS. In addition to featuring more than 25 local food partners, the stadium’s food and drink offerings will showcase state of the art “connected stadium” technology. Fans will be able to order and pay for food and drink items via the club app, then pick up their order at contactless "walk-in, walk-out" markets.  

Craft and St. Louis City SC said the City Flavor program would celebrate the diverse traditions and flavors that make St. Louis’ food culture unique. The soccer club held a public consultation in summer 2021, inviting fans to suggest their favorite local restaurants and menu items. More than 10,000 submissions were collected, and the club worked with Craft and stadium hospitality partner Levy to identify restaurants who could become in-stadium vendors.  

“Our St. Louis food scene stacks up to any major food city in the country and deserves to be celebrated, in our stadium and beyond,” said Carolyn Kindle in a statement. “We have the opportunity to utilize our platform to shine a light on St. Louis’ truly amazing restaurants. Thanks to our partnership with chef Craft and an incredible lineup of restaurant partners, we are making every soccer match feel like a STLMade food festival with St. Louis’ diverse and eclectic culinary scene being well represented.” 

The City Flavor program is just one component of the overall stadium experience. “The City Stadium experience – from the views of downtown St. Louis to the food to the music – is designed to be reflective of our region,” said Kindle. “Fans and guests will get a feel for the culture, innovation, energy and passion of St. Louis at every event.”

The soccer club has also produced a four-part video series sharing the stories behind each of the initial partner restaurants. Hosted by Gerard Craft, the first two episodes of the series are now available on the St. Louis City SC YouTube channel. Each episode launch will be marked with a pop-up fan event at the partner restaurant featured in that installment. With BEAST Craft BBQ Co. featuring in episode 2, the first of those pop-up fan events will be held at BEAST Butcher & Block in The Grove, starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 20. St. Louis City SC's street team will be giving out club swag, and the cost of the first 100 pork steak sandwiches sold at the event will be covered by the soccer club. Subsequent events will follow at Steve’s Hot Dogs on Monday, October 24 at 5 p.m., and at Balkan Treat Box on Tuesday, November 1 at noon. 

Editor's note: This story was updated on October 17, 2022, with additional detail on menu items and comments from restaurant owners. 

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