Ultimate Guide to Eating at the US Open

Whether you're rooting for Djokovic, Nadal, or Federer, here's what to eat in 2011

Today marks the U.S. Open's kick-off, and while action on the courts is the draw, the event's proponents have been touting its food cred for years. According to the city's head critic, The New York Times' Sam Sifton, one of the best meals to be had while watching the Open is a BLT with wine or beer while seated on the floor of your apartment. In other words, watch it on TV — don't bother with food on site. But through September 11, some 700,000 fans will eat at the Levy Restaurant-run food court and restaurants there this year. So, how to optimize your eating? It's all about time.

How much time do you have? Enough to eat at some storied restaurants in the neighborhoods in and around Flushing and Queens? Where are you staying? Do you want to eat celebrity chef crafted dishes, like Morimoto's sushi with homemade soy sauce and Tony Mantuano's winebar fare at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center? Or just grab something quick and easy at one of the more than 15 food court stalls?

If you're traveling to the Open, you can check out The Daily Meal's Travel guide to How to Eat Well During the U.S. Open for recommended hotels and places to eat before you leave. You can also check out the event's official dining guide. But you'll want to read on for a comprehensive guide to the food (including gluten-free options) from the Food Village food court to white tablecloth restaurants, and nearby food pilgrimmages.

Curious what players eat in the Player's Lounge pre- and post-game? According to James Blake, "A lot of protein. Chicken, fish, and steak." Asked at the Taste of Tennis, other players agreed. Mardy Fish said he eats lots of fish, chicken, and rice before a match. And Marin Cilic confided, "Ask any tennis player, and they're going to say we eat a lot of carbohydrates. That’s the thing we always have to eat and fill up our body with. It gives us more energy and saves us afterwards, helps us to recover and then we eat a lot of protein to recover, like fish and steak." (Photo courtesy Getty Images for BNP)

Chef Jim Abbey, who has supervised culinary operations at the U.S. Open since 2006, estimates that 300 to 400 pounds of chicken and more than 200 pounds of bananas will be served each day of the tournament in the Player's Lounge. This year, they can also feast on Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's sushi, and a variety of gluten-free options, which are becoming increasingly popular with players, especially since the success on the court Novak Djokovic has displayed that some are attributing to his gluten-free diet. "I like everything, meat, mashed potato, pizza, Japanese food," Fernando Verdasco said. "So, in this tournament the player’s restaurant is nice and serves quite a few kinds of food and I really enjoy everything."

But not everything in the lounge is so healthy. Cilic admitted to loving desserts — chocolate cake — and Tommy Haas cited pizza and burgers. You shouldn't have trouble finding those things, along with other indulgences at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Take, for instance, the dish chef Mantuano noted as this year's secret weapon at the Open. Last year, he predicted Rick Moonen's shrimp and tilapia Moon N' Doggie as the Open's big hit. "This year's secret weapon is a cocktail," he confided. "You have to try it. I brought it back from Istanbul where I was visiting. It uses watermelon — it's a bumper crop this year for melons because we had so much rain — and you mix that with Raki and it makes for a really refreshing, fantastic drink."

Either way you want to go, healthy or indulgent, you should be able to follow suit using this eating guide to the U.S. Open.

 

ON THE GROUNDS: WHAT'S NEW AT PUBS AND RESTAURANTS

ACES will feature new signature sushi rolls by Iron Chef Morimoto. The restaurant will also be doing food a la plancha so you can have fresh scallops, salmon, sea bass, ahi tuna, and jumbo shrimp grilled to order. New sides feature local produce and include pole beans, corn cut off the cob, and asparagus. Champions steakhouse's new side is lobster mac and cheese with fresh claw meat and Parmesan crust, and they're serving a new chowder with clams, lobster, and shrimp.

Moët Champagne is sponsoring the Open this year, and with that there's a range of Moët offerings: Moët & Chandon Rose Imperial, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage, and the new Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial, which they're touting as "the first Champagne created to be enjoyed over ice." The first two can be found at bars and restaurants everywhere at the Open, but Ice Imperial is only at the new champagne bar adjacent to Mojito restaurant. More details about restaurants on the grounds follow.

ACES
This Club Level restaurant is billed as the premier destination. This is a white table, Club Level restaurant featuring chilled seafood towers, crab cakes, seared scallops, lobster rolls, and the like, but one of the highlights has to include Iron Chef Morimoto's sushi.

Champions Bar & Grill
This steakhouse is right across from ACES. There's a leather and wood clubhouse setting, and TV's broadcasting action on the court as you choose from Creekstone Farm's Angus beef or their touted cedar plank salmon.

 

Mojito Restaurant
This ground floor spot in Arthur Ashe Stadium serving Latin food and (of course) mojitos is open to all. Touted dishes include: smoked pork bocaditos with sweet plantains, and diablo shrimp and scallop ceviche with orange, lime, chile, and tomato. (Photo Levy Restaurants)

South Plaza Café
In 2010, the café featured food from Susan Feniger, Carmen Gonzalez, Tony Mantuano, Rick Moonen, and Jonathan Waxman. An adjacent café serves food from chef Mantuano's Wine Bar Food cookbook. The popular flaming ouzo shrimp and portobello fries return.

Patio Café
This outdoor, tree-lined patio café has been expanded this year to include a bigger bar area. The menu features: chop salad, burgers, sandwiches, and specialty cocktails.

Grey Goose
The go-to spot for the US Open specialty cocktail: The Honey Deuce. But you can find Heineken, wine by the glass, martinis, and the Grey Goose L'Orange Frozen Cosmo. Snacks include wasabi cashews and fruit & nut bars.

 

Heineken Red Star Café
More sports bar than café, this ground floor spot on the South Plaza near Court 7 features beer, frozen cocktails, and a full bar with light snacks and TV's displaying the action. (Photo courtesy Flickr/upabreak.com)

 

 

ON THE GROUNDS: WHAT'S NEW AT THE FOOD VILLAGE

There are some new food goings-on at the U.S. Open. The new Asian Stand in the Food Village will feature Szechwan chicken stir-fry, sweet and sour pork, spicy beef stiry-fry, and vegetable fried rice. There's a new shrimp kati roll at New Delhi Spice. Half-pound burgers in the Food Village are being made with a blend by New York's butcher darling, La Frieda. The South Plaza Café will include three varieties of paninis and quesadillas made to order, along with salads and fresh fruit. The café will also have gluten-free snacks and gluten-free Red Bridge Beer. Full menus below.

New Delhi
Kati Rolls: Chicken Tikka, Shrimp, Vegetarian

Curried Combos: Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Handi, Veg, Mixed Seafood

Sides: Samosa, Naan, Rice Pudding

 

Fresca Mexicana
Burritos: Chicken, Carne Asada

Tostadas: Chicken, Carne Asada, Veg

Tacos: Fish, Carne Asada, Chicken

Nachos: Nachos and "Ultimate" (Chicken or Beef)

Fulton Seafood
Specialties:
Shrimp & Lobster Salad, Maine Lobster Roll, Grilled Salmon Sandwich, Fish-n-Chips, Shrimp-n-Chips

Snacks: Seasoned Waffle Fries, Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies, Gourmet Popcorn (Cheddar and Kettle)

Pizza Pasta
Pasta & Heros: Penne Rigate Pomodoro, Penne Rigate & Meatballs, Meatball Parmesan Hero

Individual Pizzas: Traditional Cheese, Pepperoni, BBQ Chicken

Pizzetta Salads: Grilled Chicken, Shrimp

Ben & Jerry's
Format: Cups & Cones, Shakes, or a Sorbet Splash

Flavors Include: Coffee, Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dought, Chocolate Fudge Grownie, Mint Chocolate Chunk, Cherry Garcia, Sweet Cream & Cookies, and Chocolate Therapy

Franks & Fries
Favorites: All-beef frank (kraut), Coney Island Foot Long (kraut and chili and/or cheese), Grilled Italian Sausage Hero (peppers and onions), Chicken Tenders & Fries, Waffle Fries, Chili Cheese Fries

 

Carnegie Deli
Sandwiches: Corned Beef, Turkey, Pastrami, Kosher Frankfurter

Snacks: Carnegie Knish, Waffle Fries, Cape Cod Kettle Chips, Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Southern BBQ
Favorites: Smoked BBQ Sandwich (Texas Brisket, pulled chicken or pork), Chicken Tenders & Fries, Dry-Rub Ribs, Waffle Fries, Mac & Cheese, Ultimate Fries (brisket, chicken, or pork) with sour cream, Cheddar, bacon, and onions

 

Sweet & Savory Crêpes
Savory Crêpes: La Boeuf (beef, spinach, and mozzarella), La Poulet (spinach, mozzarella, and mushrooms), La Cordon Bleu (chicken, ham, and Swiss), Crêpe Vegetarienne (spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and mozzarella)

Assorted Sweet Crêpes

Classic Burger
Off The Grill: Half-Pound Hamburger (or cheeseburger) with Custom LaFreida Burger Blend, Half-Pound Grilled Chicken, and Kosher Frank

Snacks: Waffle Fries, Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies, Popcorn

Kosher Stand
Mains:
Glatt Kosher Frank, All-Beef Italian Sausage, Pastrami Dog, Knish, Chicken Caesar Wrap, Turkey Wrap, Tuna Wrap, Pastrami Sandwich, and Pretzel

Drinks: Evian, Gatorade, Snapple Iced Tea

 

Stonyfield Café
Sandwiches: Chicken, Tomato and Mozz, Roast Beef, Chicken with Buffalo Sauce

Salads: Balasamic Blue with Chicken, Garden

Et Cetera: Yogurt, Granola, Soft-Serve, Tortilla Chips, Popcorn

Cuppa | Spotta
Baked Goods: Croissants, Brownies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Muffins, Nut Bar

Gourmet Coffee: Illy Coffee, Tea, and Espresso drinks

Favorites: Mango Blast, Wild Berry Smash, Assorted Whole Fruit, Fruit Cup

East Plaza Grill
Favorites: Hamburger or heeseburger, Chicken Breast Sandwich, All-Beef Frank, Italian Sausage Hero, Chicken Tenders & Fries, Chicken Caesar Wrap, Tuna Salad, Turkey Breast, Roast Beef Baguette

Salads & Sides: Fruit Cup, Chicken Caesar Salad, Turkey Cobb Salad, Waffle Fries

 

THE NEARBY FOOD PILGRIMMAGE APPROACH

There's a general consensus among critics, local publications, and food experts that the best move when it comes to eating during the Open, is to take advantage of the Queens food scene in and around Flushing. Brooklyn gets lots of love, but diehard boosters for New York's ethnic food scene swear by Queens. It will take a little planning, subway riding, and your phone's GPS, but this roundup of the nearby in-the-know spots includes many favorites of the city's food cognoscenti.

Flushing:

Imperial Palace: Go for the crab with sticky rice and lamb chops.

Spicy & Tasty: Signature dishes include deep-fried boneless spareribs with salt and pepper and the cold jelly noodles Chengdu-style.

Golden Shopping Mall: Described by the Wall Street Journal as "about as close to being in China as you can get in New York." The food court here is something of an obsession for many.

New World Mall: The Grand Restaurant and the food court below it with stalls selling regional Chinese specialties are favorites of Queens food boosters.

Sun Mary Bakery: This bakery has a wide array of Chinese cakes, pastries, and buns.

 

Sunnyside:

Salt & Fat: Chef Daniel Yi has been getting lots of attention lately for his new joint in Sunnyside. His signature dish is the "crack" and cheese, fried potato gnocchi with béchamel, cheese, and bacon, but oxtail terrine, fried chicken, and chili shrimp are also recommended.

P.J. Horgan's: An Irish pub that (like many places) claims the title of "New York's #1 Hamburger." The Sunnyside Burger features Cheddar, Irish bacon, and fried onions, and is known for being incredibly juicy.

Mangal Kabob: Turkish specialties include falafel, salads, and lahmacun, flatbread topped with lamb.

 

Woodside:

SriPraPhai: When it comes to Thai in New York, chefs and experts fall over themselves agreeing — this is the place.

Sik Gaek: A fairly new Korean restaurant where you can try sannakji, or young octopus, which arrives at the table to be eaten still wriggling.

El Sitio: Beloved for its Cuban sandwiches, which are said to have the perfect ratio of ham, roast pork, Swiss, pickles, mustard, and mojito.

Donovan's: Another Irish pub known for a juicy, flavorful burger — this one a char-broiled half-pounder served with steak fries.

 

Jackson Heights:

Jackson Diner: The distance of this landmark Indian restaurant from Curry Row has positively effected perceptions of its food and authenticity. Truth is that there's little difference between Jackson Diner and your better-than-average go-to Indian joint. But it's an icon to check of your list, and the samosas are excellent. 

Maharaja Quality Sweets & Snacks: Samosas, vegetarian dishes, and several varieties of chaat (a mixture of potato, fried bread, chickpeas, Indian chili, and spices).

 

Corona:

Leo's Latticini: This sandwich shop has been family owned and run for more than 80 years. Genoa salami sub, peppers and gravy, chicken parm and eggplant parm, meatballs, turkey, roast beef with cheese — they've got it all.

Tortilleria Nixtamal: They make their own masa on-site from nitxtamal (dried corn soaked in a lime solution, then ground fresh). And they say there's no good Mexican food in New York.

 

Elmhurst:

Aserita Ecuatoriana (aka the Pig Cart): Without a Spanish speaker you’re a little S.O.L., but it's still worth visiting this street cart. Just order a platter with everything. Cracklings ate like delicious crunchy pork chips and the pulled pork rivals the city’s best ‘cue joints. Try the cancha — a puffed corn kernel version of roasted chestnuts.

 

— Jeanette Awai contributed reporting to this article.

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