Really, Bengals?

I love Tina Fey (this is probably no surprise to any of you). I particularly loved the Weekend Update segments where she and Seth Meyers asked about certain topics, “Really?”

So, I ask the Bengals organization: Really?

I went to the Bengals game yesterday with the sole goal of trying out the food. I’d heard from everyone how bad it was but, of course, had to try it out myself. I was slightly heartened that the Bengals had changed their pizza contract from the non-local Donatos to the local LaRosa’s (it’s not my favorite but having a local pizza seems to make more sense than one that isn’t, right?). Maybe things were better than the last time I was there? Maybe everyone was exaggerating?

Nope. Not a bit. And it was actually even worse than people had told me.

At PBS, your choices for a pleasant repast are the following:

La Rosa’s pizza (pepperoni or cheese)
Gold Star Chili
hot dogs
“italian sausage”
nachos
popcorn
peanuts
hamburgers
chicken fingers
buffalo chicken fingers

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The Bengals’ site also mentions philly cheese steaks and corned beef sandwiches, as well as Graeter’s ice cream, but I never saw these options in a couple of spins around the stadium. Since the map also lists Donato’s, I can only assume that this is out of date.

We went to the game with another couple, and we women seemed to be the food-getters (fine, we weren’t as into the game as the guys were).  Monika is a vegetarian, and was dismayed that her only choices were essentially cheese pizza, nachos, peanuts or popcorn– there were no veggie dogs or veggie burgers, or anything else substantial and vegetarian friendly.  Her nachos were marginal.
During our first round of grabbing food, I picked up an Italian sausage and a slice of La Rosa’s pizza, after noticing the slice that the guys sitting in front of us looked pretty good.  The Italian sausage was really more of a brat, and had zero flavor (I don’t want to imagine what the hot dogs taste like).  The onion and peppers on top were cold, the bun was fresh out of the refrigerator and the only thing that redeemed this disaster in any way was the plain, yellow mustard.   The pizza was somehow worse– again, I’m not a huge La Rosa’s fan, but this was more like La Rosa’s that has sat out in the kitchen overnight after a party.  The portion was tiny, the crust was overbaked, yet the whole thing was lukewarm, congealed, and rather unpleasant. It stuck to the box like cement.nachos were pretty simple: cheese, salsa, chips– none of it warm.

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Round two was acquired by The Better Half, who asked me, “What should I get?”  The most unique thing on the menu seemed to be buffalo chicken tenders, and I suggested them, imagining chicken tenders tossed in buffalo sauce, maybe with some celery on the side.  He came back with chicken tenders, fries and a plastic cup with a plastic lid and a small hole cut out, partially filled with an orange sauce.  “This is what they gave me.”  Pathetic.  The chicken tenders were decent (they were, at least, hot) but the jerry rigged cup of sauce was the only reason for the upcharge.   The accompanying fries were average.

Drink choices are also limited: Pepsi products, beer (Bud or Miller, and one sad, lonely Hudepohl tent) and hot chocolate which I watched being made from powdered packages.  Charming.

Before commenters start saying, “But Julie, it’s FOOTBALL. The food isn’t supposed to be fancy!” I want to clarify: I do not expect gourmet food at Paul Brown.  What I do expect is the food that they serve is good.  After paying top dollar for tickets (not to mention property taxes for us Hamilton County homeowners), Bengals fans should be able to get food that is edible.  Really, Bengals?  Hot dogs that don’t taste like anything, and pizza that could have been leftovers from a frat party the previous evening?  Really?  A plastic cup makes the chicken tenders “buffalo”?  Really.  The thinking seems to be that people who buy tickets will eat whatever is served out of necessity.  Could part of the reason that ticket sales are falling (attendance yesterday was abysmal) be that not only do people not want to shell out money for tickets, they don’t want to be forced to eat bad food, too?

Really.

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I hear that the club level has good food– chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, edible hot dogs– but fans shouldn’t have to pay even more for the privilege of buying good food.  The average fan, sitting in the cheap seats, should be able to get a slice of pizza that, while overpriced, is at least satisfying.

Step up your game, Bengals– and I don’t mean on the field.  Really.