When the Miami Dolphins take the field on August 10 against the Atlanta Falcons, fans at Hard Rock Stadium will enjoy much more than football. Visitors will be treated to more improvements and new experiences in price ranges for everyone — from a new standing-room-only section to a luxury Aston Martin lounge.
The biggest surprise of the season comes in the form of a chicken sandwich by one of the United States' most revered chefs: David Chang is bringing Fuku and its spicy chicken sandwiches to the stadium.
The prolific chef, author, and restaurateur is best known for Momofuku Noodle Bar, which opened in New York City in 2004. Chang's culinary empire includes restaurants in Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas; Toronto; and Sydney.
Fuku, his first foray into the South Florida market, is Chang's fast-casual concept. Launched in New York City in 2016, it specializes in fried chicken sandwiches.
While it may be an unusual step at first glance for Chang to forge into the Miami market by way of a football stadium, the chef explains a kind of serendipity led to the venture, telling New Times he's always wanted to open a spot in Miami. "I'm friends with a lot of people down here, and we've been looking at this area a long time. It's a good first step."
Does that mean Fuku at Hard Rock Stadium is a precursor to a possible Momofuku opening in Miami? Though there are no immediate plans, Chang sounded open to the idea, saying, "I hope so. You never know. We don't have the most traditional approach to expansion. First and foremost, we'll probably just focus on doing this. Maybe we'll be good luck for the Dolphins."
The chef, by the way, turns out to be a big Fins fan. "In general I'm sort of a sports nut, and if you ask me anything about the Miami Dolphins, I can probably answer." Chang explains he was "born" a Washington Redskins fan. "The Dolphins were one of the teams I was allowed to root for that wasn't an NFC East team. My brothers took the Steelers and I took the Dolphins."
Fuku, located at sections 116 and 319, will offer its famous spicy fried chicken sandwich, along with Fuku fries with jalapeño seasoning. Fuku fingers and fries with honey mustard or ranch will also be available, along with a peach margarita Fuku slushie. Says Chang of the sandwich that makes New Yorkers queue up for hours, "We made the spiciness level where it would be a debate. For those people who like it superspicy, they may say it's not spicy enough, but for those who can't eat anything spicy it might be too spicy."
Chang wouldn't go into the bird's seasoning, saying, "There are a lot of years of R&D that go into something as simple as a sandwich." What would he reveal? "It has the latent spiciness of a habanero pepper. There are other elements, but really it's just a delicious chicken sandwich. For a lot of people that may not know what Momofuku is, it's sort of an entry into what we do. But, honestly? I don't care if they know or not. It's just good. Maybe they'll have it with a nice cold beer and watch a great sporting event."
Take Chang's advice about the beer and head over to one of two taprooms, located at the north and south sides of the 100 level to find an impressive selection of local craft beers by Wynwood Brewing Company, J. Wakefield, Islamorada Brewing Company, Funky Buddha, the Tank Brewing Company, 26 Degrees, and more. In addition, Bud Light will be offered in limited-edition Miami Dolphins aluminum bottles around the stadium.
Local restaurants are also featured at Hard Rock Stadium. Returning favorites include Ray and Shannon Allen' s Grown (sections 148 and 242), Shula Burger (sections 114, 142, 222, 250, and 345), and Sushi Maki (section 245).
New additions to the food lineup include Shorty's Bar-B-Q (sections 104, 132, 219, 247, and 329) offering up brisket, pulled pork, corn on the cob, and coleslaw; Jackson Soul Food (section 134) serving fried wings, fried shrimp, fried conch, barbecue rib bites, a Jax grilled pork chop sandwich, baked macaroni and cheese, and collard greens; and Los Ranchos (section 350) serving queso frito bites, a churrasco or chicken chop, and tres leches.
Coyo Taco (sections 214 and 313) also joins the team, featuring guacamole, burritos, burrito bowls, elote, and four different tacos (pollo al carbon, carne asada, cochinita pibil, and hongos). Coyo's Scott Linquist says that when stadium officials approached Coyo's partners, joining was an easy decision. "For us, it's about branding and having a presence. Hopefully the team will do great this year."
Fans who arrive early to day games can also enjoy pancakes from Fort Lauderdale's O-B House. Located at section 146, it will serve eight-inch oven-baked buttermilk pancakes in plain, blueberry, and andouille sausage and corn. Additional items include a BLT, the Technical Knock Out (two oven-baked free-range eggs with cheddar, thick-cut bacon, vine ripe tomato, and butter lettuce between two slices of thick, buttered toast), mimosas, mango bellinis, bloody marys, and more. O-B's goodies might just make Hard Rock Stadium South Florida's hottest new brunch spot.
Hard Rock Stadium. 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens;305-943-8000; hardrockstadium.com.