It’s almost time for Phish to return to New York City for their annual New Year’s Eve run at “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden.
We know food isn’t always the first thing on your mind during a show, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of those fleeting moments before the lights go down and Phish takes the stage. However, it just so happens that The Garden also boasts an impressive, constantly expanding roster of food vendors curated by some of the best chefs that NYC has to offer. It would be a mistake not to take advantage of MSG’s many dining options! With so many categories to choose from, our own Gideon Plotnicki teamed up with the music-centric food Instagram account EatHearNow to help narrow things down for you. Here are our top picks for where to grab a bite at The Garden during the upcoming Phish run.
Mike’s Hot Honey | Hot Honey Fried Chicken Sandwich | Section 115
There’s a new chicken sandwich in town at MSG. Located on the 6th floor by section 115, the new concession stand features a menu of fried chicken favorites including the Mike’s Hot Honey Fried Chicken Sandwich, a buttermilk-marinated chicken breast, fried to order, glazed with MHH and served on a Martin’s potato roll garnished with dill pickle chips and mayo.
Streetbird by Marcus Samuelsson | Uptown Wings | Section 111/112
The newest addition to Madison Square Garden’s ever-expanding food offerings, celebrated Ethiopian Harlem transplant Marcus Samuelsson recently opened an outpost of his now-shuttered popular fast-casual restaurant, Streetbird. Located in-between sections 111 and 112 at MSG, menu items include a Chicken Chili Dog and “Marcus Tots” with Smoky Cheese Sauce. However, the signature dish is Samuelsson’s famous “Uptown Wings”. The delicious, crispy chicken wings–which feature a tangy sauce that mixes apple cider vinegar, ginger, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme, and oregano–are out of this world, and showcase Samuelsson’s ability to take something classic and familiar and mix it with interesting flavors that reflect the influence of his home country.
Charlie Palmer Steak | Steak Sandwich | Section 115/116
Charlie Palmer has taken the steak sandwich from his restaurant at the Archer Hotel on W. 38th Street and added it to the Garden’s expansive SAP Madison Concourse. Palmer keeps it simple with his sandwich, which contains a full 5-oz New York Strip steak that is seasoned with his secret steak rub, before being seared, topped with caramelized onions, covered in his secret steak sauce, and arranged on a fresh brioche bun. The results are a delicious and juicy sandwich that is hard to top!
Fuku | Spicy Chicken Sandwich | Section 119
The Momofuku spinoff’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich went viral within the Phish community during the Baker’s Dozen run, and has remained a massively popular item at all events at Madison Square Garden. Renowned chef David Chang’s casual offshoot combines his unique Asian fusion flavor profile with a fast food item we are all familiar with, creating an interesting twist on a classic. The sandwich contains a chicken thigh that’s marinated in habanero, covered in buttermilk and a blend of spices, and then deep-fried to near-perfection before being served on a standard potato roll with pickles and butter. The end result is a juicy, crispy, delicious chicken sandwich experience.
Casa Nonna | Neapolitan-Style Pizza | Section 116/117
Pizza is always considered a concert favorite, but fans don’t have to settle for a mediocre stadium slice at MSG with Casa Nonna’s next-level Neapolitan-style pizzas. Derived from famed NYC restaurant group BLT, this offshoot offers wood-fired pies in three flavors: cheese, mushroom, and pepperoni. You’ll leave satisfied and ready to dance the night away.
Aquagrill | Lobster & Shrimp Roll | Section 117/118
Pre-show seafood may or may not be your jam, but Aguagrill’s lobster & shrimp roll is definitely worth checking out. Crisp, decadent seafood topped with a citrus mayo dressing and stuffed into a compact roll make this a delectable choice packed with flavor.
Jean Georges’ Simply Tacos | Short Rib & Chicken Tacos | Section 112/113
Who doesn’t love tacos? This stand is a collaboration between New York Taco heroes La Esquina and World renowned Michelin-star chef Jean Georges to make this an option that can’t be beaten. Choose between short rib tacos with habanero red onion relish and crispy onions, or chicken tacos with spicy avocado crema and pickled radishes, for two satisfying, savory, easy-to-eat options.
Hill Country Barbecue | Brisket Sandwich | Section 106
New York has become a mecca for Barbecue in the northeast, and one of the shining examples is Hill Country Barbecue. Their stand at MSG is a meat lover’s dream, with their insanely-good smoked brisket sandwich on a potato roll standing out as the must-try favorite. Pro-Tip: they also have delicious puddings if you are looking for a good dessert option!
Andrew Carmellini’s Sausage Boss | Italian Link Pizzaiola with Sweet Peppers, Onions & Sicilian Oregano | Sections 107, 112, & 116
Andrew Carmellini is one of New York’s biggest culinary stars, fronting popular restaurants Bar Primi, The Dutch, and Leuca. When Madison Square Garden reached out to Carmellini to curate a stand at the renovated arena, he jumped at the chance, delivering Sausage Boss, one of the best and most creative food options the venue offers. Carmellini’s pork sausage with peppers and onions is truly one of the best options you can get at the arena. Pro-Tip: There are three locations of Sausage Boss at MSG, (sections 107, 112, and 116), so lines should never be too long.
Carnegie Deli | Pastrami Sandwich | Section 105/106
Carnegie Deli is a New York staple, and their presence in Madison Square Garden is appreciated by locals and tourists alike. How can you go wrong with thinly-sliced pieces of fatty pastrami? The sandwich is huge, making it’s $15 price-point more than acceptable. A pastrami sandwich in New York is iconic, and Madison Square Garden has made sure that this famously simple yet over-the-top sandwich is on the menu. With the 50% pre-show discount in effect, a $7.50 price point of this sandwich makes this perhaps the best deal in Madison Square Garden.
Jean Georges Simply Chicken | Chicken Sandwich | Section 105/106
For those of you looking for a healthier chicken sandwich option, look no further than Jean Georges Simply Chicken. The stand was created by the namesake chef who is mostly known for his high-end fine dining establishments. The story goes that Jean Georges was at another stadium and got in line for a Wendy’s chicken sandwich, not knowing what it is (he had never eaten fast food before!). When he finally ordered his sandwich, he thought it was absolutely delicious, and embarked to create his own version, complete with a non-breaded, freshly grilled chicken breast, crispy onions, basil, pickles, and a spicy aioli. Pro-Tip: The lines at this stand will be much shorter than those at Fuku. If you don’t want to wait in a fifty person chicken sandwich line, Jean Georges is your best bet.
Daily Burger by Drew Nieporent | Cheeseburger with Bacon Onion Jam
Another local favorite, Drew Nieporent has delivered, by our estimation, the best stadium burger we’ve ever tasted. Cooked to a perfect medium-rare temperature, this burger is a blend of brisket, short rib, and chuck beef provided by famous meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda. Both charred and juicy, this burger packs in a ton of flavor, and bacon onion jam that is slathered on top is absurdly good. Pro-Tip: this stand has the best french fries at MSG!
For a full list of the food and beverage offerings at Madison Square Garden, head here.
—By Sara Furer (@EatHearNow) & Gideon Plotnicki