Bank of America Stadium’s food offerings are getting a bit of a shake-up this year.
Sabor Latin Street Grill, a chain with 17 locations throughout the Charlotte area, will have a stall at the about 75,000-seat stadium this fall. Raydal Hospitality Group, which owns Sabor, will also open La Caseta pupusa stand at the stadium, the city’s third location.
The locations will both open for the first time for the Carolina Panthers Fan Fest on Friday evening and will be open for Panthers games and other events. Sabor will be located near Section 101, while La Caseta will be by Section 133.
“They were really, really focused on bringing authentic food from our city,” Dalton Espaillat, CEO and founder of Raydal Hospitality, told The Observer. “Yeah, we do have a Latin restaurant and El Salvadoran pupusas, but I’m Charlottean, too. This was born here, these concepts were born here and a lot of people know about us. It was just a perfect fit to go into one of the highest-profile venues in the state, per se.”
The openings will be a part of the new food and beverage experience at the stadium. More will be announced leading up to the Panthers’ regular season opener.
Sabor will also begin an official partnership with the city’s new MLS team, Charlotte FC. The logistics of that partnership are still being worked out, but it will include in-kind donations and getting involved in the community alongside FC. The team will have its first season in 2022.
Tepper Sports & Entertainment first approached Raydal Hospitality with the idea towards the end of 2020, but Espaillat didn’t respond to their emails until early in 2021. At first, he said he didn’t realize who was trying to contact him and instead thought that someone was trying to sell him something.
“At first I thought they’ve got the wrong guy. I’m not going to go into the stadium and pay big dollars and all that,” Espaillat said. “(I) went ahead and talked to them and I got to realize that, oh wow, these guys are serious about involving the community and the Latino population to this whole football club. They’re really not in for the money, they really want it for the fans and that really got my attention.”
Espaillat co-owns the Raydal with his wife, Miriam. Known for its authentic fast-casual street fare, Sabor’s influences come from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and El Salvador. La Caseta sells Latin Street Food and the concept was inspired from Telma Moran, Miriam Espaillat’s mother, who owns a bodega in Queens, New York. Raydal also owns Three Amigos Mexican and Cantina Grill.
All employees at the locations will come from Sabor’s own restaurants, unlike the other food locations at the stadium. Sabor did for a time sell food at Truist Field, where the Charlotte Knights play. Espaillat said that they learned from that experience how to focus the menu on prioritizing the freshness of the food, which was a non-negotiable for entering into this agreement at the stadium.
“The things that we’re going to be selling are going to be really focused on the freshness and in us making it in-house,” Espaillat said.
La Caseta, whose first location opened at Camp North End last year, will sell only pupusas, which Espaillat’s mother and wife will be making by hand at the stadium before the events. A pupusa is a Salvadoran dish that consists of a thick corn tortilla that is stuffed with different savory options. One option will be the Revuelta, made with pork belly, cheese and refried beans. The other will have cheese and refried beans.
The Sabor location will have a heavy focus on three food items — empanadas, loaded yuca fries (similar to nachos) and steak and shredded chicken tacos, which can be had authentic or American style.
“Partnering with Rydal Hospitality allows us to bring two local favorites in Sabor and La Caseta to Bank of America Stadium,” said Mark Hart, vice president and chief operating officer for Tepper Sports & Entertainment. “It’s important to us that our fans have a variety of high-quality concession options available to enjoy at events. We look forward to sharing even more information about some of the new and exciting culinary offerings coming to Bank of America Stadium this season.”
Renovations have been made to Bank of America stadium in anticipation of the first MLS season hosted in Charlotte beginning in 2022.
New additions include a center tunnel, a new home locker room, multiple broadcast camera locations for soccer TV angles, as well as two new food and beverage bar areas in the concourse behind the supporters section.
The renovations also include significant changes to the Bank of America Stadium East Gate, including the addition of a 210-foot-long LED screen at the entrance for digital motion graphics and other team signage or video clips.
Friday, Fan Fest will also feature for the first time the stadium’s new artificial turf field, a change from the grass that was used since the stadium first opened.
. The food options at Bank of America Stadium consist of traditional stadium food; hotdogs, hamburgers, some local beer. Bojangles and BBQ food are available for purchase. But unlike other stadiums in major cities, there hasn’t been a diverse array of options.
Espaillat hopes that this is just the start of having Charlotte represented on this big of a local stage and that other local restaurants which showcase different parts of the community join him.
“My goal is not to put Charlotte on the map because we’re going into the Panthers (stadium). My goal is to say on the map that we have such a diverse culture here in this city, and that’s what we are,” Espaillat said. “Charlotte is a melting pot. It’s really rare to see people that were born in Charlotte, so you get all these implants and all these immigrant communities and all that.
“We’ve been here for so long now that we embrace the American culture and also our culture and putting something like that into this major venue, it’s not typical.”