Madison Square Garden's restaurant partners turn arena into a culinary destination

New menu items and long-running signatures welcome sports and concert fans for the 2023-24 season.
Under the banner "MSG Eats" are more than two dozen food concepts, including two newcomers for 2023-24. | Image courtesy of Madison Square Garden.

When famed restaurateur Drew Nieporent was asked to partner with New York City’s Madison Square Garden 12 years ago, the foodservice team said “you got the hamburger.”

“I said, ‘No, no, no. I worked at McDonald’s in 1972, I don’t want to do hamburgers.’ But when they told me that was all that was left, I gave in,” said Nieporent during an MSG Eats tasting for the media on Wednesday.

Nieporent went on to create Daily Burger, a concept that has grown from one concession to several in the years since, and by popular demand, the burger is also served in the suites and club level.

This year, a number of newcomers join Daily Burger and other Garden veterans. Long-timers include Carnegie Deli (the last outpost in New York City) with its overstuffed corned beef and pastrami sandwiches; David Chang’s Fuku with a menu of chicken sandos, fried chicken tenders and waffle fries; and Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque, introducing a St. Louis rib plate with house-made cornbread and slaw.

MSG estimates that the Daily Burger stands sold 125,000 burgers during the 2022-23 season at New York Knicks basketball games and New York Rangers hockey games. The burger is a blend of brisket, short rib and chuck, topped with bacon jam and cheese sauce. But it’s also the special cooking and holding technique that Nieporent developed that makes it so craveable.

“I found a conveyor belt that cooks 18 hamburgers in four minutes and toasts the buns at the same time. They come out a perfect medium-rare,” he said. “Then we put them in this incredible pleated wrapper and they hold without losing quality.”  

Two newbie concepts cater to today's trends. The Go Beyond Grill is serving up plant-based steak tacos and a burger created from pea protein at its own branded kiosk in the Garden. It’s a new concept this year, as is Monster Bodega. On the menu there is a true New York City-born bodega sandwich: the Chopped Cheese. The sandwich features chopped beef patties, onions and lots of melty cheese on crusty French bread.

Madison Square Garden no longer has a majority interest in Tao Group Hospitality, but the group’s Lavo Restaurant remains. And new this year is the Lavo Classic Meatball One Pounder—a mammoth meatball fit for a pregame meal for an athlete—maybe one of the 7-foot-tall Knicks.

The Wagyu beef meatball is topped with whipped ricotta, garlic bread and Lavo’s signature marinara sauce. “We encourage sharing,” said the chef.

Lavo also offers a range of Italian specialties, including chicken marsala meatballs and vegetarian eggplant meatballs, as well as an Italian cheesesteak hero made with shaved beef, provolone and Calabrian pepper relish.

Italian cuisine fans have several other choices as well. Fratelli’s Deli offers several paninis, including the Milano layered with a breaded chicken cutlet, prosciutto, provolone, arugula and Calabrian pepper spread. The Figgy Piggy and Chopped Italian, both newcomers, round out the selection. And Brooklyn’s own Paulie Gee’s has its signature pizza for sale.

To quench thirsts, Madison Square Garden has plenty of beer; 1,042 kegs provide draft brews to the stands. And while Rangers fans prefer M&M's and Twizzlers for dessert, Knicks ticket holders go for soft-serve ice cream.

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