Disclaimer: Rankings are based on schools I have covered/visited this football season.
1. Conant: Hands down the best burger I have had at any high school in the past five years, if not longer. Fans took to Twitter urging me to try out the burger when I covered the Cougars game against Maine South.
Initially, I had some reservations due to the horrible/burnt/slider-sized burger I had at Maine South last week, but holy cow am I glad I forged ahead.
This burger had to be at least half a pound nestled within a fresh (I believe it was) pretzel bun. It was cooked perfectly and the service from (forgot her name) the woman that served me this heavenly monstrosity, who was confident that “I won’t be disappointed,” was top notch.
And to boot, they had condiments and toppings available! Why was this such a major score? Well, at Maine South, the “condiments” station on the side of the concessions building consisted of a cardboard box filled with roughly 15-to-20 various packets (probably from someone’s car glove compartment) to dress your micro-machine sized burger with.
I’d have to say I’m excited to cover the Cougars last home game of the season so I can have at least two of these burgers- before kickoff!
Lastly, the concessions stand offered slices of pizza for just $2.50 and also had an option to purchase a chicken sandwich. I know, right? A healthy food option! Conant has certainly set the bar high moving forward!
2. Palatine: Palatine slides one spot based solely on the fact that Conant’s burger was the size of a beach ball. They still make a damn good burger and the service is impeccable.
3. Schaumburg: One of the best things about going to this venue, aside from its beautiful new football field, is The Gold Zone. The Gold Zone offers burgers, hotdogs and brats well before kickoff, but, as far as I know, is only accessible to media, alumni and security.
When I arrived to the Gold Zone prior to the Hawks/Saxons tilt, it was almost completely out of food due to such a big turnout for the game. At first, I was bummed out. Partly because it was free (free is always good), but partly because when I covered the Palatine/Schaumburg game last year, the gentleman manning the grill cooked one mean burger.
Not only was the burger superb (I had seconds), but the guy manning the grill did it flawlessly in sweltering 88-degree weather. The sun beating down on his face as he fought through buckets of sweat, this man's demeanor was upbeat and never wavered as he doled out delightful grub throughout the evening.
However, it's almost a good thing that I missed the window on that this year as it wouldn't have been fair to rank the Gold Zone in the concessions rankings that was not privy to all.
So, at halftime, I weaved through the masses to order some food from the main concession stand and purchased a slice of sausage pizza and a hot dog.
The pizza was cold, but I'm convinced that this is a universal issue at concession stands across the nation. Most pizzas are probably ordered in bulk by the schools far in advance of kickoff and don't have a proper way to keep them warm throughout the evening. At Maine South, I think they place the pies on a cold slab like Cold Stone Creamery ice cream does. Unless you arrive to a specific school at the same time the pizzas do, odds are, 95 percent of the time, you're getting pizza popcsicles.
Fortunately, despite being cold, the pizza had excellent flavor and the sauce saved the slice.
But the hot dog was certainly the hero of the two. It was hot, juicy and the best I've had so far this year at any high school.
Condiments were the only blemish on the entire experience.
With a crowd of (I'm guessing) 3,289 (okay, exact guess) at the game, the school provided a single 64-ounce bottle of ketchup for everyone to share. I understand that most schools are on a budget. And that tomato concentrate, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder and natural flavoring can be costly, but that's only 0.0194588 ounces per person.
Other than that minor snafu, Schaumburg has supplanted itself in third place on the list.
4. St. Charles North: I’ll have to admit, I ordered a hotdog and cheeseburger 30 minutes prior to kickoff not due to hunger, but for the fact that it was like, 45 degrees with a whipping wind, and I used the food as makeshift hand warmers.
However, when I did decide to eat them, there were no complaints. The service was quick, and I got the correct change. Always a plus.
4. Maine South: I think we know by now that eating before you leave for a game at this venue is a wise choice.