Q: What's better than an awesome cheesesteak at OC's home of hockey?
A: An awesome cheesesteak with a Ducks home victory on top. Cue the Bro Hymn!
Honda Center executive chef Gretchen Schultz has redesigned the menu at almost every one of the eateries in the arena, from the Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Club to the hot dog stands. She's buying better ingredients, she's treating them simply, and she's not limiting the good stuff to the fancy restaurant on the middle level.
The biggest addition to the food at the Honda Center is the Bluewater Grill, which has opened its first arena location on the 200 level. Given that it can get pretty chilly inside during the games, the very good clam chowder (exactly the same recipe as in Newport Beach and Tustin, no changes) is a good way to warm up. While the fish and chips are very good, the way to go might be the "shrimp roll", like a New England-style lobster roll, but with bay shrimp.
The OC Grill has opened, also on the 200 level, serving cheesesteaks and hoagies. Arena or no arena, they serve a hell of a good cheesesteak, easily within the top 3 cheesesteaks in OC. House-baked bread helps (though an Amoroso roll wouldn't go amiss). Chicken steaks are available, but why? What are you, some kind of vegetarian?
(If you are vegetarian, Oggi's has started selling a vegetarian pizza called the Hercules, you can get hummus, pita and vegetables at OC Grill and you can get fresh fruit from the Melissa's Produce-designed stand near the main entrance. Also, beer. Beer is vegetarian.)
The Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Club on the 300 level has a few new options, including hand-cut duck fat fries; they're dusted with truffle salt and served with lemon aïoli. The meat has had a major upgrade here; Shelton Farms chicken and higher-quality steak and lamb. Indecisive (or very hungry) Ducks fans can choose the all-you-can-eat buffet for $40, with a new carving station and rotating dishes.
Urban Wok, a steam-tray Chinese place, has opened on the 400 level; while the sauces are more or less indistinguishable from your local Chinese take-out featuring an endangered cartoon bear, the same good-quality beef gets used in the beef and broccoli; skip the orange chicken in favor of this. Downstairs on the 200 level, Simply Chicken has opened serving various combinations of fried chicken tenders, sandwiches and fries.
Even the humble hot dog has been redesigned, stuffed into a pretzel roll with choices of condiments including a minced giardiniera. The creation is called a Top Shelf Dog, named by Diane Watts of La Palma, and is available at the five Hot Dog Stop stands on the 200 and 400 levels.
Not to be outdone, pastry chef Leslie McElroy has redesigned the JD Club's dessert tray as well, taking a leaf from Club 33's book: a buffet of small horns of Nutella or berry mousse, Jack Daniel's and molasses pecan tartlets, tiny cheesecakes and homemade moon(-type) pies.
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While the prices haven't gone down any (it's still a sporting arena and still very expensive), the quality of the food has definitely gone up. It's also, according to an ESPN report, significantly cleaner on the hygiene front than the stadium across the road.
This is only part one of the revamp; the remaining locations will be redone after this year's hockey season--and, we hope, after the Stanley Cup comes home to roost in Anaheim.
The Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim; hondacenter.com.