For the week of the Super Bowl, Lonny Sweet, the CEO of the Connect Group, concocted the idea of a “premier destination for food, football and entertainment,” and brought it to life.
The 50 Yard Lounge hosted a slew of chefs, music, and sports talent. Heaven for foodies and/or sports lovers, the concept was curated to operate like a weeklong food festival, meshed with the ultimate football fan experience. Attendees ate, drank, watched sports on multiple screens, and mingled, sometimes with celebrity chefs and famous football players. Socially Superlative was lucky enough to be on hand to document three of those days, including the big day.
The space was huge. The venue joined what is usually Local Cafe and Lucy’s Cantina Royale outside of Penn Station. Ramps and a temporary ceiling joined the two existing venues, and were divided into the main area, the USA Today Sports Lounge, 888 Poker Lounge, complete with a functioning poker table, and the Rums of Puerto Rico Lounge. Spirits like Jim Bean bourbon and Pinnacle vodka passed around specialty cocktails themed after the event. Nespresso offered caffeine options for people that needed it.
On kickoff day for the 50 Yard Lounge, the theme was “I Love New York, Food”. Quintessential NY Chefs, Marc Forgione, Fredrik Berselius, Mario Pagan, and Butcher Pat LaFrieda created dishes ranging from vegetarian to a very large delicious burger. I did learn that Pat LaFrieda does not serve their burgers with “fixins” because they feel the meat needs to be tasted by itself to be full enjoyed and appreciated.
Friday night, “American Classics With a Spin/Dessert Demo/NYC Sweets,” was probably my favorite food-wise. What’s great about this event is that you get to try dishes from restaurants and chefs you might not have before. I will definitely be traveling to 8th Street to try Sticky’s Finger Joint chicken fingers. It’s a simple dish, but perfect football food, with just an extra bit of flare. They even had a Salted Caramel chicken finger with white barbecue sauce! The Melt Shop and Coolhaus ice cream options didn’t hurt either.
Sunday we spent 11 hours (!) at the 50 Yard Lounge, but we had so much fun it felt like 2. We began our morning with “Steak, Bloodies, and Eggs.” We tried food from Ai Fiori, Dylan Prime, American Cut, NYY Steak, and Davio’s, which is a new venue near Grant Central. Davio’s featured a Cheesesteak Spring Roll with Spicy Ketchup and Mayo, a different kind of brunch dish. On stage, we listened to ESPN’s Pre-game Radio Show experts Michael Kay, Stephen A. Smith, Don LaGreca, and Ryan Ruocco give their insight on how they thought the game would go.
The late afternoon menu before game time, was the very apropos, “Ultimate Tailgate.” Hill Country BBQ showed that their not just a barbecue joint with Mini PB&J cupcakes that gave any savory dish a run for their money! Other dishes were provided by the Cannibal, Esposito Sausage, the Lion, Mario Pagan on behalf of Rums of Puerto Rico and the Ultimate Chili Mac & Cheese Bar from Mary Guiliani Catering and Events. Rums of Puerto Rico continued to pass out their delectable Piña Coladas and Celebrity Cruises Ice Lounge had “Liquid Chef,” Junior Merino from Molecular Bar, making specialty cocktails in their booth.
The game and commercials may have been lackluster for the most part, but the exciting food and sports-fueled oasis of the 50 Yard Lounge made it a good game day. We know this was specially crafted because of the super bowl being hosted in NY, but we hope they consider creating this experience next year for people that want something a little different and more upscale that watching the game in their usual pub.
– Stephanie Carino