Dining lightens up at Arlington
Arlington Park's Million Room features elegant dining overlooking the track. | Photo courtesy of Arlington Park
2200 W. Euclid Ave., Arlington Heights
Racing at 1 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays; 3 p.m. Fridays
The Arlington Million is Aug. 18 at 12:15 p.m.
Closing day is Sunday, Sept. 30
(847)385-7801 or www.arlingtonpark.com
Updated: August 15, 2012 1:31PM
Racing fans will find a refreshing new twist to trackside dining at Arlington Park this season.
Ricky DeLeon, executive chef at Levy Restaurants, takes the food offerings up a notch just in time for the track’s 30th running of the Arlington Million scheduled for Aug. 18.
DeLeon and his culinary team are offering lighter and healthier fare that’s become just as popular as the burgers and hot dogs many track-goers crave.
“We’re going fresh and going lighter especially since it’s been so hot,” said DeLeon, a 14-year veteran of Levy Restaurants. DeLeon, along with Hugo Lopez, senior sous chef, and Chris Albino, executive sous chef, has switched up the menus in the many food destinations at Arlington Park. “Guests are going more to salads and cold sandwiches in the summertime. We’re introducing a little more this year and people seem to like it,” he said.
Some culinary highlights are:
Cobey’s Food Court
This popular concession area features some of DeLeon’s most popular culinary creations. Topping the list this year is the Arlington Fresh Market featuring fresh tossed salads such as a hand-tossed Caesar with chicken and tuna and chicken salad that “bring in that fresh feel, especially in summer.”
Cobey’s introduced flatbread sandwiches of grilled chicken with lemon aioli, lettuce and tomato topped with Fontina cheese, and their very own ZLT of marinated grilled zucchini smeared with sundried tomato pesto, topped with hot pepper jack cheese, lettuce and tomato.
The market also serves up “walking salads” such as a barley corn salad to a chicken salad served in a hand-held pita.
The focus is on freshness, DeLeon said, and healthy choices such as barleys and grains instead of the heavier, mayo-based items. Most items run $7-$8.
On the specialty tables throughout the food court are some prime bets as well. Every weekend, chefs at the carvery stand slice up smoked turkey to barbecue brisket, “our best sandwich in the house.”
Guests will also find Ditka’s Italian beef plus a selection of chilis.
The pizza stand introduced grilled paninis this season. They’re stacked with Italian cured ham, salami and provolone cheese and grilled to perfection in a panini press.
The Mexican stand added Mexican-style elotes, corn-on-the-cob rolled in butter and mayo with and covered in Mexican Queso Fresco cheese.
“People who try it, love it,” said DeLeon. “It’s corn like I see on stands in city neighborhoods.”
Another fan favorite is Meatball Madness. Choose six, two-ounce meatballs skewered or served on a foot-long hoagie. Try a classic meatball with tomato, or a Latin-inspired green salsa verde chicken meatball, a Thai barbecue meatball glazed with pineapple soy “that has a little heat to it, kind of like a naked pot sticker,” DeLeon said.
The fresh pastrami and corned beef at the New York deli also offer guests cold sandwich selections but top sellers continue to be hot dogs and burgers, DeLeon said.
Overlooking the entire track with floor to ceiling windows, the Million Room takes trackside dining up a notch. There’s a dress code in this luxurious, tiered white tablecloth dining room and the food is certainly worthy of it.
“We introduced a few more salads but kept the shrimp and crab Louie salad,” DeLeon said, who also created a sandwich of shrimp tossed in the Louie dressing, added some celery, onions, lettuce and tomato and served it on a croissant.
The new antipasti salad is similar to an Italian chopped salad with salami, cured ham, provolone, gorgonzola, olives and tomatoes tossed in red wine vinaigrette to a barbecue chicken salad with cornbread croutons tossed in baked bean vinaigrette. But classics like shrimp cocktail, bacon cheeseburger and Parmesan crusted tilapia remain on the menu.
“Our most popular item is our buttermilk fried chicken,” he said, adding another new favorite is a crab cake served with a light jicama Cole slaw.
Reservations are being taken now for Million Day with a chef’s table featuring hand-carved meats and a variety of salads and track specialties where guests can eat all day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A special celebration this year for the Million Day features a Million Party Zone, an all-inclusive drink and food package. Additional information is available online.
Mr. D’s Sport Bar
Located on the first floor, Mr. D’s is the place for drinks and popular grilled items including a Cuban melt sandwich of cured ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and a pickle crushed in an Italian loaf panini making for a crisp outside and soft middle. The signature Mr. D Burger is a double patty cheeseburger with a special sauce similar to a 1000 island dressing and smothered with caramelized onions. With wall-to-wall flat screen televisions broadcasting the races, Mr. D’s offers a getaway from the crowds in an inviting bar atmosphere.
The pub destination at the track features a pub burger with beer cheese made with cheddar and cream cheeses spiked with a pale ale and stacked high with caramelized onions, as well as true English pub favorites like fish and chips or bangers and mash.
In its second year, this outdoor café west of the finish line features casual dining in tiered seating which on a nice day, fills up quickly. The menu features a selection of refreshing frozen drinks and food perfect for sharing such as pot stickers, a pita and hummus plate, Chinese chicken salads and a Caprese melt with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and a light pesto vinaigrette pressed on a focaccia.
Introduced last year, the Million Tent has a grab-and-go feel but also features a sit-around bar with refreshing frozen cocktails and craft beers. making for a beer garden atmosphere When the live bands strike up the music on Friday nights, for “Park in the Dark,” you’re treated to a beer garden ambiance. Different themes each week are reflected on the menu.
“And the kiosks are right there,” DeLeon said, “so you don’t have to walk far to get a bet in and have a beverage.”
“We’re really trying to turn Arlington back into that social destination that horseracing used to be,” DeLeon said. “If you wear a dress and a hat, you can come up to the Million Room, or if you just want to go to the terrace café, sit in the picnic grove, or enjoy a night in the park after dark, you can come to Arlington and try some different sandwiches and the mix will be very good.”