With decidedly unusual offerings among the food stands—vegan lumpia, Oaxaca cheese tamales and sweet potato tartlet—Chase Center’s departure from standard arena fare is clear. If a Warriors game without a hot dog and fries is unthinkable, they’ve got you covered, but fresh food springing from the Bay Area’s diverse cultures and communities is the culinary order of the day.
“We wanted to retain some nostalgia, but also offer something new,” says Mark Jeffers, Chase Center’s culinary director, who’s held various roles, including chef for The Ritz-Carlton company. Jeffers handles Chase Center’s chef training, menu development and food preparation for Bon Appétit management, which the Warriors hired for its history of partnering with local communities. If the Warriors’ goal was to celebrate the Bay Area’s diverse food options through local partnerships, they certainly achieved it—and they’ve made sure they have adequate resources too. The new arena boasts eight kitchens, 36 food concession stands, 200 cooks, 23 bars and seven top-caliber chefs. Make no mistake: This is an arena that even a full-fledged foodie can appreciate.
Notably absent will be large chains. That’s because Warriors President Rick Welts says the Warriors organization consciously chose smaller businesses and focused on the region’s diversity.
“That represents the best of the small things we love about Bay Area food, like Sam’s Chowder House and Tacolicious,” he says. “We’re bringing back the concepts of Big Nate’s BBQ in San Francisco, Bakesale Betty, Hot Dog Bills. For people who don’t know about that place, they have burgers shaped as hot dogs that are served in hot dog buns.”
The following are just a few of the local food vendors you can find at Chase Center that were specifically chosen because of their philosophies on food and their work in the community.
The Sarap Shop
Bay Area natives JP Reyes and Kristen Brillantes founded The Sarap Shop, a catering service and a food truck in SOMA Pilipinas, San Francisco’s Filipino Cultural Heritage District. They work to involve people in the community and raise awareness about Filipino culture through their food. The fact that they are the only Filipino food vendors in the arena is not lost on them, and beyond the excitement of being associated with a team they love, they especially value the opportunity to share Filipino culture with thousands in the arena.
“I grew up watching the Warriors,” says Brillantes. “It’s not just another corporate venue, but one bringing many different kinds of people together.”
Reyes is the chef, having jumped feet first into the culinary field with no formal training. He worked his way up to sous-chef for Google. Brillantes serves as CEO and all-around mastermind, juggling her catering responsibilities with a full-time gig in design operations.
The duo have come up with a winning recipe, mixing tradition with innovation. Those familiar with Filipino food will recognize dishes such as adobo, sisig and laing. What may be unexpected, however, are dishes such as the BAE’s Dirty Dog, a variation on the ballpark favorite with longaniza—a Spanish sausage similar to chorizo—and Big Bro’s Adobo Gravy Fries. Another twist on tradition is Reyes’ late-night nosh, lumpia seasoned with curry and filled with vegan-friendly meat standing in for the traditional pork. Ready to dig in? That’s by design: Sarap, not coincidentally, means zest, relish or gusto—in the culinary and the emotional sense.
“In Filipino culture, everybody at your table is enjoying the food,” Brillantes says. “Everything on our menu is based on cooking for the people we love.”
Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas
As Mission chef incubator and food industry disruptor, nonprofit La Cocina holds another concession at Chase. The organization will rotate vendors in its space.
First up will be Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas. Alicia Villanueva grew up in Mazatlán, where stuffing tamales for her relatives and neighbors was a weekly tradition she shared with her mother and grandmother. Her beginnings in the States are humble—she started out 18 years ago selling her steaming meat- or sweet cornhusk-wrapped masa rolls door to door.
She found her way to La Cocina and upped production from 500 tamales a month to 25,000 in five years. She has since opened a small tamale factory in Hayward and oversees a staff of 20 that churns out 45,000 tamales a month, hawking at festivals and catering to numerous Bay Area corporations and private events.
La Cocina’s focus is uplifting low-income women of color and immigrant cooks and chefs, says its deputy director, Leticia Landa. It provides affordable kitchen space, technical and marketing training, and administrative assistance. “The entrepreneurial talent is everywhere, but the opportunity is not,” says Landa.
More than 30 Bay Area restaurants now display the “Born at La Cocina” sticker in their windows.
With her choice of the name “Los Mayas” (meaning “the Mayans”), Villanueva says she wanted to invoke the strength, dignity and fierceness of the ancient Maya civilization and its peoples’ many innovations. “They were warriors,” she says.
Fans of today’s Warriors—and the many concertgoers who will fill the stadium seats—can choose from handcrafted tamales stuffed with chicken and vegetables with salsa verde, carnitas with chipotle salsa, Oaxaca cheese with green pepper, or a vegan version. But as Villanueva says, “Heart and soul is the main ingredient.”
Old Skool Cafe
Just off Third Street in the Bayview neighborhood is one of San Francisco’s most surprising restaurants. Behind Old Skool Cafe’s doors is an elegant, retro speakeasy style, youth-run, jazz-themed supper club with velvet button-tuck upholstery, its back bar glowing like a giant candle.
The cafe is a cleverly disguised nonprofit that trains, employs and mentors local youth who’ve had brushes with the law, lived in and out of foster homes, endured physical abuse and faced other challenges.
Founder Teresa Goines, a former corrections officer, started the program in her apartment while a family services manager with the San Francisco Unified School District. Her team settled on a brick-and-mortar location in 2011, completely renovated it and built out the restaurant, which opened in April of 2012. The cafe’s spot in Chase Center is an “externship” option for the final quarter of training. Much of its international soul food menu—diced swai with lemon, chile pepper and a Tongan cream sauce; fried okra; fried chicken, short ribs and seafood gumbo—originate with students’ families.
Choosing arena offerings, Goines says, was “a collaborative effort.” The lineup includes a Creole meatball po’boy with pepper jack cheese and Cajun sauce, fully loaded three-cheese mac and cheese, and a sweet potato tartlet.
“Yes, this is another big business, but it is so much more than that, and it’s going to affect a lot of people” Jeffers says. “Partnering with small businesses is what this city is all about. And it’s creating a new set of expectations for future arenas.”
Find The Sarap Shop on the United Club 200 level, Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas on the 200 level and the Old Skool Cafe on the upper concourse 500 level.