Miami Dolphins: We rank the new food offerings for this NFL season at the Hard Rock Stadium

New food choices include pizza, steak from Los Ranchos, doughnuts and burgers


Football is upon us again, and with the Dolphins coming off a 6-10 season, there are no promises that what fans see on the field won’t cause further indigestion.

In the concourses? That’s another story.

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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross coughed up a half-billion to renovate Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens and he’s not done, having just announced a football training facility on stadium grounds that will cost roughly $75 million.

With a goal of making Hard Rock “best in class,” Ross knows he must provide concessions to match.

Here, then, is my annual installment highlighting the upcoming season’s eatings.

Or, as I like to call it, my most fulfilling assignment of the year.

Guacamole cart

Where to find it: Must be requested by suite holders before each game.

The taste buds say: Face it. There’s something so right about a warm Sunday afternoon, football, creamy guac and a cold brew.

This season, a cart will take it as far as fans want to go. If you want (apologies to Howard Cosell) to go all … the … way, dive into jalapeños with the left hand, making certain that beer is at the ready in your right hand.

The guac garnished with bacon was OK, but a better option is the crab, tasty enough that you might have to forgive your friends for double-dipping. Might.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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Los Ranchos

Where to find it: Sections 106, 350.

The taste buds say: Los Ranchos bills itself as “Miami’s Premier Latin Steakhouse.” I sampled the churrasco chop (marinated tenderloin) and queso frito bites (fried cheese with cabbage salad).

In both cases, I expected more of a jolt. The advertised charbroiled flavor somehow eluded the steak, although it’s possible that’s solved via a full grilling setup on game days rather than a mini display for sampling only.

All was not lost, however. A spoonful of the chimichurri sauce atop the steak was the gastro equivalent of a 21-yard pass on third-and-20.

For a crispy change of pace, the cabbage slaw was OK, although a tad on the salty side. 

Rating: ⭐⭐

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Shorty’s BBQ

Where to find it: Sections 104, 132, 219, 247, 313.

The taste buds say: Shorty’s pulled pork sandwich was like the old Wildcat offense the Dolphins sprung on the New England Patriots. The sandwich was plopped in front of me out of nowhere and it just clicked.

I have a thing about pulled pork sandwiches. Some barbecue places serve them dry so you can choose any of a half-dozen sauces in squeeze bottles at your table. What that doesn’t afford you is the all-important time the sauce needs to bond with its new best buddy, pork. It’s like throwing five fat guys out on the football field for the first time and expecting them to form a decent offensive line.

Shorty’s takes another approach, mixing the sauce with the shredded, tender pork in advance to reach the right consistency. It’s not too dry, yet not so drenched it soaks through the bun and turns everything into a slobbering mess.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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&pizza

Where to find it: Sections 142, 345.

The taste buds say: Before we digest, we must digress. We know what you’re thinking.

What in the name of Jos. A. Bank is an “&pizza”? Couldn’t they afford to at least hit the spacebar after the ampersand? Is it pronounced “and pizza”? Why not “plus pizza”? And is the something else besides pizza, as the name implies?

Actually, there is. There’s a story. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has a stake in this chain, which has locations primarily in the Northeast including on Broadway. To survive in the pizza capital of the United States means you are doing something right.

The location at Hard Rock Stadium marks &pizza’s first in Florida and fills the void (if you can call it that) caused at the expiration of the stadium’s contract with Papa John’s (motto: “mediocre ingredients, mediocre pizza”). The timing was a mercy killing, just before the big cheese at Papa John’s was found to have used a racial slur that mushroomed into a national controversy.

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A source said Papa John’s was going to be toast at the stadium regardless of controversy, so in moves &pizza, which is marketing itself in ways diametrically opposed to the cheap, national take-out pizza chains.

“&pizza® is an anti-establishment establishment built on the renown of its creative pies and craft beverages, localized shop design, and the strength, unity and vibe of its living-wage-paid, ampersand-tattooed Tribe,” the firm’s marketing literature says. The reference to wages is a shot at the chains if there ever was one.

Oh, but there’s more: “We don’t hire people because we think we might be able to turn them into mechanized, pizza-making robots. We look for people who think differently. Who act un-accordingly. Who live with passion.”

Offerings at the stadium include “Gnarlic,” which includes grilled onion and garlic; “Maverick,” with salami, pepperoni and Italian sausage; “Simple Pie,” with cheese; and “Lil’ Roni,” with cheese and pepperoni. All come as flatbread slabs.

I tried the ‘roni, and it satisfied. To say it’s a clear upgrade over Papa John’s isn’t doing &pizza justice since the same could be said for 3M Pro Grade sandpaper. Only wish: more generosity when doling out the pepperoni. Or, to put it in &pizza terms, a little more &roni, please! 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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We Make You Smile

Where to find it: Sections 139, 350.

The taste buds say: With all those early afternoon kickoffs, you want something to cool off. The ambitiously named We Make You Smile lives up to its name, serving eight flavors of ice cream in eight-ounce cups or 16-ounce soft-serve cones.

The chocolate/vanilla swirl cup, with a dash of sprinkles, did the trick. The chocolate was not so overwhelming it dominated the vanilla, and together they were right consistency — not so hard they shattered your plastic spoon, yet not so soft it was soup when you reached your seat.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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O-B House

Where to find it: Section 148.

The taste buds say: All of the Dolphins’ regular-season home games begin at 1 p.m. O-B House appears to be cornering the market on fans who arrive early and aren’t ready for a hot dog.

Eight-inch-high pancakes are the featured attraction, with an egg-and-bacon sandwich and BLT also available. Since we’re talking the Sunday brunch hour, a mimosa or bloody Mary awaits to wash it down.

I sampled the pancakes with Belgian chocolate and raspberries, which were tasty, tender and not obnoxiously sweet. It was punctuated by a warm center that tied it all together nicely.

Rating: ⭐⭐ 1/2 

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Fuku

Where to find it: Sections 116, 319.

The taste buds say: “It’s a lot of things,” the woman handing me a “CBR” sandwich said.

One thing it is not: It’s never to be consumed in the presence of your dietician.

Fuku’s CBR is chicken (fried), bacon (smoked applewood) and ranch (dressing). By finishing one (I didn’t), you risk requiring CPR, having consumed caloric content sufficient to transform wide receivers into defensive tackles, only heavier.

Now that I’ve shamed you, I probably ought to say: It’s just as crunchy, flavorful and tasty as you’d think.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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Shula Burger, Sushi Maki

Where to find it: Sections 114, 142, 222, 250, 345 (Shula Burger); 244 (Sushi Maki).

The taste buds say: These are the Cameron Wakes of food offerings at Hard Rock Stadium. Like Wake, they’ve both been around awhile for a reason. You know what you’re getting from each — some of the best grub you can find at a sporting event.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Mojo Donuts

Where to find it: Section 217.

The taste buds say: I’ve saved Mojo for last because (surgeon’s warning: take my word for it) if you go there, it will be your last stop at the concessions for the day.

Nat Moore, the ex-Dolphins receiver and current VP, cracked up at the sight of me lifting the monstrous Deco Delight. The Mojo people say it’s their most popular doughnut. It’s large enough to satisfy a family of four or the population of most small islands (whichever is larger).

Ingredients include white and dark chocolate, cereal (for crunchy texture), blueberries, strawberries and raspberries and banana puree. Also, a treadmill permanently set on “George Jetson” speed to work it off. A small drop-cloth wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, because with each bite, flakes of cereal tend to fly off the sides, which will either delight the fan seated in front of you or threaten world peace.

Now that I’ve gotten the disclaimers out of the way, to answer your question: Yeah, those things are crazy good. Sinfully, decadently good.

You’ll need a beverage handy to wash it down. You’ll need wet wipes to wash your gooey hands. You’ll want a knife to divide it among friends.

I managed to consume about one-third of one before conceding. Moore, unimpressed, predicted I would not be eating dinner that night even though it was only 3 p.m. when Nat had his little laugh.

He was right.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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