Ranking Amsoil Arena's new food for Bulldogs hockey in 2022-23
The lengendary grilled cheese will be joined by a rich, creamy cousin on the flattop grill this season, while the pizza offerings will be getting tasty refreshes for every series.
DULUTH — When it comes to concessions stand fare, Minnesota Duluth’s Amsoil Arena has never been the type of venue to play it safe with the basics.
Yes, you can get hot dogs, cheeseburgers, popcorn and chicken strips at Bulldogs hockey games, but Amsoil Arena is also the the only college hockey venue in the Midwest that is bold enough to dish out entrees like poutine, pot roast sundaes, giant meatballs, wild rice burgers and pizza that goes beyond just cheese, sausage and pepperoni.
The COVID-19 pandemic stifled the creativity of the DECC’s kitchen staff the previous two seasons, but with restrictions lifted and packed stands expected again in 2022-23, the DECC previewed some of the new food that will be debuting at Amsoil Arena starting this weekend when the UMD men’s hockey team hosts Arizona State in a season opening-series scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.
News Tribune college hockey reporter Matt Wellens was on hand to preview the new food Tuesday at Amsoil Arena after catching a Bulldogs practice. Here’s how he ranks the new foods coming this season, plus notes on other changes coming to the Amsoil Arena concessions.
Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese
One of the greatest new foods to hit Amsoil Arena in recent seasons was the grilled cheese and tomato basil dipper. If there was a concession stand food hall of fame, this would be in there.
Well, now that fan favorite has a rich, delicious, creamy grilled sandwich of a cousin in the spinach artichoke grilled cheese featuring sourdough from Johnson’s bakery, artichoke dip and white American cheese. There’s no soup to dip into, and that’s OK for this iteration.
I didn’t think I would enjoy this sandwich. I’m not a big spinach artichoke dip fan like my wife is. This was the one new item I ate the entire sample of right away rather than stick to one bite before moving on.
Looking for a little more protein? You’ll be able to add chicken to either grilled cheese this season.
The pizza offerings by Section 203 at the Bayfront Pizza stand are getting a makeover this season. Buffalo chicken pizza — debuted after the 2019 NCAA title won in Buffalo by the men — is gone, as is the four-meat pizza. Instead, there will be pepperoni, sausage and pepperoni, cheese and then a rotating “Chef Jerry Special” for each series.
Up first for the series against the Sun Devils is an Okotoberfest pizza featuring bistro sauce, multiples types of sausage, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and mozzarella. I’m not a fan of sauerkraut (forgive me German ancestors) but I enjoyed the soft — not rubbery — cheese along with the smooth and creamy sauce.
Debuted at a recent DECC event this summer, DECC ‘Dogs are coming to Amsoil Arena for the Bulldog hockey season. Made with Fraboni's links and buns from Johnson’s Bakery, the four iterations of a DECC ‘Dog include:
- Picnic: Topped with Top the Tater, shoestring chips and bacon crumble
- Taco: Taco meat, lettuce, cheddar cheese, sour cream and salsa
- Dill: Dill spread, pickle, French onion chips, more dill.
- PB+J: Peanut butter, jelly and bacon crumbles.
The DECC ‘Dogs make the top half of my rankings thanks to the strength of the PB+J hot dog. I know, it sounds wrong, but it works. I was by far my favorite, followed by the Taco, Dill and Picnic. I was really pulling for the Picnic hot dog as I enjoy Top the Tater on everything, but the Picnic was nothing special.
The Dill surprisingly wasn’t too “dilly” for me, and the salsa brought a new twist to the Taco hot dog, which is basically a chili dog.
Try the PB+J dog. You’ll either get it, or be grossed out. But try it. Seriously.
Are you not the adventurous type? Does a hot dog with peanut butter, jelly and bacon make you queasy? Then these next two are solid, reliable picks that will satisfy you and anyone else who orders them.
This is exactly as the name sounds. It’s a breaded chicken breast filet with lettuce, tomato, pickle and “Duluth Spicy” sauce on a brioche bun. The sauce is not actually spicy, unless you’re one of those people who consider pepper to be spicy. Then there will be a little kick. Otherwise, what you’re getting is a solid, moist, tender chicken sandwich that will leave you full and satisfied.
This was hyped up by the DECC staff prior to Tuesday’s tasting. The sandwich is made with a sirloin roast that is slow cooked overnight. The beef is shaved thin and stacked on a ciabatta bun with caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and creamy Boursin cheese smeared on.
It’s a solid sandwich that was made for my radio colleague Bruce Ciskie, who on the road likes to order his plain cheeseburger “with no pink.” Me, I’m a longtime fan of the now discontinued hand-carved New York strip sandwich that came medium rare — the sirloin stacker is cooked medium well — with those juicy, tender hues of pink and red.
Described as “comfort in a bowl” by DECC staff, Amsoil Arena has found a familiar replacement for the now discontinued pot roast sundae that debuted to much novelty fanfare in 2017.
This is essentially Amsoil Arena’s version of the KFC Famous Bowl. It’s mashed potatoes, corn, shredded cheese, gravy and cut up pieces of the DECC’s popular chicken tenders. It’s a hearty helping of food, a nice cup of calories for those doubleheader days that begin with the women playing at 3 p.m. and the men at 7 p.m.
What else is new in 2022?
Skyline Ice Cream is gone, beer moves
Skyline Ice Cream, where Cedar Crest ice cream and cookie sundaes (and before that, Cold Stone) were once served, is gone. That stand, next to the Bulldog Shop and Sections 122-24, is now a beer stand.
Amsoil Arena reorganized all of its concessions stands this season in hopes of limiting long lines.
Four-ounce ice-cream cups, malt cups and cookies will now be served with other sweets in the small stand behind Section 107 (between the press box and club lounge). This used to be a beer stand, but no more.
The main beer and alcohol stands will be the old Skyline Ice Cream stand and outside the ticket box office in the “Ice Cube.”
- The corn dogs are back, but not the legendary raspberry pepper jam. The sauce is a casualty of supplier issues. Amsoil Arena’s corn dog is solid, but the jam made it an all-star item.
- Super Nachos will now be made with porketta meat instead of taco meat. Porketta can also be added to the mac and cheese.
- For UMD women's hockey games, Amsoil Arena plans to rotate which concession stands are open for each game. A DECC official said not every stand is open during women's games because of staffing issues, especially for the 3 p.m. starts.