Is football stadium street food the worst in the world?
Every time you attend a football match, you are almost guaranteed to encounter the ubiquitous burger van outside. White plastic walls, garish lettering and blu-tacked signs offering hot tea and burgers for under a fiver. You can picture the grease dripping from polystyrene boxes. The yellowing air-vents, stained from years of burger fat. The slightly sweaty, guilty sensation you get after eating one.
Burger vans and hot dog stands like these aren’t the most appetising places to eat on the planet. In fact, some cities have tried to get them banned. Yet, this is arguably where the modern street food vendor began – capturing the hungry beer-filled punters outside our nation’s stadiums.
strEAT generally favours street food that offers high quality, fresh ingredients. But we’ve realised we simply cannot ignore these older, firmer fixtures that have dominated streets for decades.
One favoured stand is Piebury Corner on Holloway Road, minutes from the Emirates Stadium. “It’s an Arsenal institution. It went from being just a stall on Gillespie Road to a full-blown deli,” says local resident Ellie Clayton. It even has pies named after the players, from the ‘Thierry Henry’ (venison in red wine gravy) to the ‘Charlie George’ (worryingly described as the ‘lucky dip’) Today, with a super clean interior and 100% Scotch Beef pies, they’re setting the bar for aspiring street-to-permanent vendors.
Stanford Bridge seems to be greasy hot-spot for football fans – with hot dogs for approximately £3, complete with fried onions nestled in a soft white untoasted roll. Do local punters mind the extra grease? “It doesn’t sound appealing, but it actually makes it taste better,” says regular customer Romil Patel. “They’re just good match day grub, easy to hold in one hand”. Clearly an important factor when choosing a pre-match snack.
Nick Birkett, another Chelsea fan, summarises the culinary variety quite aptly: “The street sellers outside the Chelsea stadium serve the standard sh*t burgers, capable of causing a heart attack”.
A former ball boy for Watford FC wrote in to us about a food stand outside that was notorious for making people ill. Legend has it that Elton John’s driver once bought something from this stand and tunefully threw up when driving the celebrity home – after which it was never seen again…..
Jasper Griegson, a long-term Tottenham Hotspur fan, once decided to opt for a spring roll on White Hart Lane because it was pre-packaged. As he took a bite into it, grease spilled out down his chin. Not an attractive image of Chinese street food. But Spurs’ grounds are known for a very different delicacy – the bagel. Inside the stadium, fans are known to snack on smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels while cheering their team on. Outside, bagels of all shapes and sizes are offered – for a slightly cheaper price.
West Ham fans will be offered a juicy burger for £3.50 and a double-sized burger for just £4.50. One top tip – if you come out of the stadium late after the game, all the burgers are often on sale for £1. The vendors just need to get rid of them! Useful for those who need a little sobering up on the way home.
But where can you find the best stadium food? Writer Tom Dickinson wrote an entire book on his travels around the nation’s 92 professional football stadiums, sampling the pies that were on offer. Exeter even had someone selling homemade carrot cake outside their stadium (only in Exeter..). However, we’ve heard some whispers on the wind that the pies at Wigan’s football stadium are the best in English football.
What do you think? Have you had some excellent or abysmal food outside sports stadiums? Any real horror stories? Let us know on Twitter or by commenting below – we’d love to hear from you!