When the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Feb. 5, the Super Bowl will again take its place as America’s biggest sporting event. The big game will be held at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. This will be the third time a Super Bowl game has been hosted in Houston, which has recently completed a $1.5 billion transformation of its downtown convention district.

Just how big is this event?

NRG Stadium seats more than 72,000, but ticket prices for Super Bowl LI may reach record highs. Due to high demand and low inventory, tickets being resold on sites such as Stubhub are going for tens of thousands of dollars.

Last year, 111.9 million Americans watched Super Bowl 50. This is down from 2015, when a record-breaking 114.4 million tuned in for Super Bowl 49.

San Francisco made an estimated $2 million from hosting Super Bowl 50.

A 30-second commercial during this year’s game costs a cool $5.02 million.

According to NerdWallet’s calculations, 1.3 billion chicken wings and more than 14,500 tons of chips were consumed on Super Bowl Sunday in 2016.

Regional specialties galore

As with any event, one of the most important factors is food and beverage. A great event menu should showcase the destination’s regional flavor; consider the audience’s preferences; be easy to produce under volume and time constraints; and offer varied options to please most, if not all attendees. F&b is even more important for an event of this size.

The Super Bowl is such an impressive cultural event that it essentially takes over the country for one weekend, spawning countless tailgate gatherings and watch-parties. Long after the game is over, its commercials and halftime show are the talk of every town. Some would argue that the Super Bowl is about the commercials more than the game, but Aramark might argue that it is actually about the food.

To serve more than 72,000 hungry football fans, Aramark, NRG Stadium’s food and beverage partner, has debuted a special Super Bowl menu that reflects the local cuisines of the two teams involved.

“We’ve been working closely with the NFL and our partners to deliver a one-of-a-kind dining experience that complements the action on the field with a variety of unique and innovative hospitality offerings,” said Carl Mittleman, president of Aramark’s Sports and Entertainment division.

To pay tribute to the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, Aramark Senior Executive Chef Mark Cornish created two signature dishes inspired by each team’s hometown. The Beantown Griller, named after Boston’s most famous nickname, is a slow-cooked tri-tip pot roast with caramelized onions, cheddar cheese from Cabot, a cooperative of 1,000 farm families in New York and New England. Bacon-infused baked beans are also served on the side. On the southern side, the ATL Fried Chicken Stak consists of waffle fries topped with buttermilk fried chicken, peach marmalade barbecue sauce, sour cream and green onions.

Houston cuisine on offer

Of course, NRG Stadium will also offer a number of Houston-centric culinary choices. Famed local chefs such as Ronnie Killen, who has long been considered the city’s top barbecue pit master; Chris Shepherd, a James Beard Award-winning chef; and Grady Spears, a nationally renowned Texas chef.

“Houston is one of the country’s most diverse cities and the Super Bowl provides the perfect backdrop to showcase the wide array of cuisine and talent contributing to its culinary renaissance,” said Aramark’s Chef Cornish. “While the game may be the main event, the Aramark team has been working tirelessly to create a world-class menu that brings the best of our city to life for visiting fans from across the country.”

At the concession stands, fans can feast on Houston classics such as Ronnie Killen’s BBQ Burnt End Sandwich and Brisket Sandwich, Grady Spears’s Steak Sandwich, Fuddruckers’ All American Pigskin Burger and more.

On the club level, ticket-holders can try Chris Shepherd’s signature 44 Farms Jalapeno Cheese Dog with jalapeno bacon jam and Chef Cornish’s Texas Surf & Turf, a cold-smoked tenderloin sandwich served with gouda mac and cheese infused with lobster and house-braised short rib grilled cheese with house made Pimento cheese on Texas toast and a side of house fried pickles.

Those lucky enough to score a suite can select from a menu package that includes Jackson and Company’s chicken empanadas with creamy avocado sauce; jalapeno bacon-wrapped chicken with raspberry chipotle sauce; smoked meatballs and Pimento cheese grits; maple-crusted beef tenderloin; and drunken pear and goat cheese salad.
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