Disclaimer: Rankings are based on schools I have covered/visited this football season.
1. Conant: No, the image above is NOT a snapshot of Conant's condiments station. This is a snapshot of the Cougars competion during the opening round of the 8A playoffs out at Homewood-Flossmoor last Friday night.
After nearly a two-hour drive in traffic, I arrived in Viking Country for the H-F vs. Fremd playoff game and was famished. That was by design.
I elected to intentionally starve myself so that I could try out a myriad of items at the Vikings concessions stand during halftime and was gravely disappointed.
Not only were the offerings limited, they were overpriced.
Somehow, a slice of pizza cost $6 there and was one-tenth the size of the deep dish pizza slices served over at Palatine.
As I waited in line and caught the pricing, I was expecting to see Wolfgang Puck himself back there twirling fresh dough over his head to make fresh pies.
$6? For a slice? Was it the last slice up for grabs in the city? Was the winning Mega Millions ticket embedded in the crust?
I can't fathom charging $6 for a slice of pizza that could fit in the trunk of a matchbox car.
At any rate, I was hungry, so I ordered a hot dog and the nice woman at the counter gave me my change and directed my attention to the condiments station. That's when I got a glimpse of the breathtaking station and knew immediately I had to capture it on my phone for all the world to see.
My goodness, the station looks like it was hit by an air-to-ground missile and there were only three survivors (ketchup, relish, mustard).
That was it. No napkins. No utensils. No bueno.
All that stood in Conant's way after that was Hinsdale Central Saturday afternoon when the Cougars traveled to play the Red Devils.
I managed to get to the high school 45 minutes prior to kickoff and got to park in the coaches lot, so I figured that things were already on the uptick from Friday night's fiasco.
Once again, I opted to not eat, drinking only an iced coffee to keep me from careening into a guardrail on the 50-minute drive to the high school.
After I parked my car, I noticed that a few men were already manning the grills outside of the concessions stand entrance. I figured that at 12:20, some food would be available so I stepped inside and asked the gentleman for a cheeseburger.
Unfortunately, they were not ready and he proceeded to give me attitude about it. Ah yes, it's my fault the burgers are not ready. I had totally forgotten that it was my turn to volunteer to cook for fans of the Red Devils that day despite never having actually been to Hinsdale Central until that very afternoon.
Willing to take anything that was actually available, I ordered some nachos. "Not ready," said Grumplestiltskin while giving me the stink eye.
No nachos? Was their cheese melty McMachine down or something?
At that juncture, I just turned about-face and did a few laps on the track since I had the shakes still from the two espresso shots I had dumped into my coffee earlier on the trip.
Finally, when I went back, I got the burger and although it wasn't bad (seemed like a frozen patty you buy from Costco in 88-patty bricks), it did not rival the Booster Burger at all.
I did have a slice of their pizza and it was pretty darn good and only cost $4— $236 less than what they charge at Homewood Flossmoor.
Next up to bat will be Barrington when they host H-F on Saturday afternoon.
2. Palatine:I didn't think anyone could hold a candle to the colossal burger that Conant offers at home games, but my second visit to the friendly confines of Chic Anderson Stadium convinced me to reconsider.
And the reason the Pirates have moved into a tie for the top spot in the concessions rankings in Week 7 is simple: Hot pizza.
Ah yes ,my endless quest for a piping hot piece of pizza at a high school venue ended on October 5th when I tried a slice of deep dish pizza on a rainy/miserable Friday evening in Palatine.
Actually, it wasn't even a slice at all, more like a wedge, that barely fit on a plate when being served.
Did I mention it was hot?
If that hunk of pizza I consumed squared off against the burger from Conant in a heavyweight bout, it would be Pay-Per-View worthy. Kudos to both schools!
Lastly, did I mention the pizza was hot?
The little things go a long way.
3. Barrington:The barbecue pork chop sandwich certainly gave the burger at Conant a run for the top spot, but that burger over in Hoffman Estates looks like it ate two pork chop sandwiches and then went looking for dinner.
I also grabbed a slice of pizza while at the Broncos/Vikings game this past Saturday and had mixed emotions.
For starters, the tip of the slice was cold while the remaining portion of the pizza was crisp and hot. It's almost as if the slice had been dipped in an ice bath, or, the heat lamps only covered 80 percent of the pizza and the end of it got the short end of the stick.
However, with 80 percent of the slab being, crazy as it sounds, hot, it far surpassed the quality from all the other concessions stands thus far.
And although they may not have usurped Conant for first place, first place award for best condiments/fixings station easily goes to Barrington. I definitely recommend making a pitstop at "Chuck Wagon East" or "Chuck Wagon West" at this venue.
T4. 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.
T4. Hoffman Estates: When I tried the "Walking Taco" at Garber Stadium last season, the only thing it made me do after consuming the hot-mess-in-a-bag, was proceed directly to the bathroom.
And so, this year, I decided to veer from that food option and played it safe by ordering a hotdog and pretzel with cheese.
The hotdog was hot and seemed to be boiled, which, was a nice touch, while the pretzel was fantastic and satisfying.
I'd have to give kudos to the school for offering crepes at the school. I mean, how many other schools can you say offer crepes at a football game? And Although I did not try them, I'll assume they are as good as the service by the volunteers inside the concessions stand — SUPERB.
5. 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.
6. Hinsdale Central: Attitude from the cantankerous curmudgeon taking food orders drops the Red Devils down a few spots.
7. Homewood-Flossmoor: Charging $6 for a slice of pizza and having a lackluster condiments station doomed the Vikings early.
8. Maine South: At least the Hawks are in the playoffs……..