What’s food got to do with it?

One of the best parts about going to professional sporting events is the (expensive) food and drink you get to indulge in while you’re there. Food can make improve any fan’s day, and may be the lone bright spot of your trip, especially if you’re a Sabres fan.

I’ll never forget my first Fenway Frank, or the look of disgust on my father’s face when the vendor asked him to cough up his life savings for two of them. Eating and drinking is part of the culture of watching sports how they were meant to be watched: live and unfiltered. Forking over a few more bucks for a stale hot dog and a flat beer is just a part of the ride.

With this in mind, here’s a list of the best food you can get at each Atlantic Division venue.

ss-venues-tdgardenTD Garden

Home of: Boston Bruins

Best food: The Frank House

Although the Garden offers one of the widest assortments of dining options in the NHL – with restaurants, clubs, lounges and bars at every (of age) fans’ disposal – this hot dog on steroids is what sticks out to most Bs patrons. It’s basically a Kayem Hot Dog at its foundation, but it leaves enough room for customization that any fan can find some form of the dish that they will enjoy. Chili, cheese, jalapenos or Nacho Grande are just a few of the different ways to enjoy this signature dog.

Price Range: TD Garden does a pretty good job keeping their prices a secret. The only way you’re going to find out what they are is to order something off their menu, but no matter how pricy they get, isn’t that a part of the experience?

firestickgrill2_640x360Tampa Bay Times Forum

Home of: Tampa Bay Lightning

Best food: Anything from the Firestick Grill

For Lightning fans, it’s not about just one dish, and it’s definitely not about traditional “ballpark food.” The Firestick Grill is the main food attraction for Bolts fans, and it’s hard to argue with their choice. With a menu that changes from game to game and event to event, there’s always something different to try. That may not be ideal for those who enjoy having a “go-to”, but for those fans who like to keep it fresh, there’s nothing better. The Grill features everything from lobster bisque to Mediterranean ragout, fruit displays, seafood bars and everything in between.

Price Range: The place is all-you-can-eat at $57 per person (or $42.75 per person for full season ticket holders).

logo-cageBell Centre

Home of: Montreal Canadiens

Best Food: La Cage aux Sports

Similar to the Lightning’s formula, the Canadiens feature one of the biggest sports bars/restaurants in Canada in La Cage aux Sports, located directly inside the Bell Centre. Although the food itself is impressive, what might cause a few more jaw-drops is just how large this venue is. With two levels that can hold up 550 guests, 70 TV sets and four giant screens, there may not be a better place to watch a hockey game in Montreal (besides having glass seats, of course). The traditional chicken finger basket is a fan favorite, but La Cage also delves into some more exotic dishes, with wraps unique to the Montreal area.

Price Range: $3.99 – $33.99

9746287-largeJoe Louis Arena

Home of: Detroit Red Wings

Best food: Polish dog with cheese

There are many dining options as you move throughout the concourse of one of the most storied arenas in the NHL, but the item that sticks out to most Wings fans is the Polish dog with cheese. One of the cheaper items on the menu at $4.25, this dog is available at all the general concessions stands. The arena also stacks up well in terms of the availability of chain restaurants and food, including local establishments like Hockeytown Café, Cheli’s Chilli Bar, Buffalo Wild Wings and Little Caesars pizza.

The Air Canada Centre

Home of: Toronto Maple Leafs

Best Food: Take your pick

The Leafs’ home arena features the most clubs and restaurants of any Atlantic Division venue, so to pick just one would be a sever injustice. It offers a Union Market to cater to the mainstream fans, with Toronto staples like Pizza Pizza, Mr. Sub and Tim Hortons, but the real attraction lies in its top-level restaurants and clubs. The Platinum Club (which offers exactly what it sounds like it offers: fine dining and over 600 different types of wine), The Air Canada Club (its most popular upscale dining hall, with an assortment of wine pairings and “sophisticated” menu options), and the Hot Stove Club (which offers traditional steak house cuisine), all combine to make The Air Canada Centre one of the classier dining venues in all of the NHL.

The Air Canada Club Price Range: $6.50 – $55.00

Canadian Tire Centre

Home of: Ottawa Senators

Best Food: Smoked-meat sandwich

Like every professional arena today, the Canadian Tire Centre offers up a boatload of dining options. With restaurants and bars for every time of the day and every type of “pre-gamer”, there’s something for everyone. Despite having an assortment of options, the 111 Deli and Pub is the go-to place to eat, thanks in large part to its signature sandwich. The smoked-meat sandwich is the most popular menu item for a reason, with smoked steak smothered in barbeque sauce and topped with virtually any condiment you want, it’s been a best-seller for years.

Price Range: Just like at TD, the espionage of menu pricing is in full-swing in Ottawa as well. A sandwich place can’t be too wallet-punishing, can it?

jerk-shrimp-tacos-with-pineapple-salsa-slaw-and-pina-colada-crema-500w-7624BB&T Center

Home of: Florida Panthers

Best Food: Take your pick

The Panthers go with a quantity over quality approach at the BB&T Center. That is not to say that their food is terrible, only to highlight that there’s more options than a signature dish. They expanded their menus in 2012 to appeal to more fans, bringing in more unique items like jerk shrimp tacos and sweet & spicy pineapple jam, pulled chicken croissants and local favorites, all designed to provide different tastes and textures at a reduced price. You can’t go wrong at the BB&T.

Price Range: See TD Garden, Canadian Tire Centre

First Niagara Center

Home of: Buffalo Sabres

Best Food: Take your pick

Like the Panthers at the BB&T, the Sabres and the folks running the First Niagara Center decided to expand their menu, all in hopes of attracting more fans and providing a better overall experience (and when you’re team is dead last in the NHL, you’re going to need all the help you can get). Buffalo’s Lexus Club is now featuring several new seafood dishes like crab cakes, bubbling crab dip and chicken and shrimp jambalaya, all of which can be customized with peppers, onions, tomatoes, spicy sauces and Cajun rice. The pepper-dusted walleye (which is a fish dish with lemon-poached butter beans, Swiss chard and tomato jus) is a best-seller.

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