Your guide to eating at Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars games

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Stadium food just isn’t what it used to be. You used to snarf down a hot dog, relish dripping down your wrist, during a break in the action. Who cares if you got mustard on your shirt?

At today’s arenas, you can pair craft beer with your burger; you can eat a healthy helping of spinach salad. The chefs at the American Airlines Center write new menus for every game, and lavish buffets are hosted in certain sections. Down on the main concourse, new concessions are added each season.

I toured seven areas of the AAC that serve food at Mavs and Stars games to check out the best options for all ticket levels.

Here’s where food-lovers will want to spend their money:

Gentleman Jack’s

Eat like the wealthy: If you go into the Jack Daniel’s bar inside the AAC, take the stairs down to Gentleman Jack’s, a buffet restaurant that opens two hours before tip-off or puck drop. On one side you can see Mavs players shooting around before the game begins; Stars players hang there after games. Another draw is the $22 buffet, which includes some of the items also served in a separate VIP restaurant for courtside ticketholders only. (Fancy!) At a recent Mavs home game, the menu was Asian-inspired, with items like chicken satay, fried rice, sautéed snow peas and sweet and sour pork loin. Accessible from inside the AAC and open to all ticket levels. $22 buffet.

Service King Lounge

Looking for a fabulous ambience: If you’ve got the right ticket, head up to the new-this-season Service King Lounge on the Admiral Level. These primo tickets used to be suites but were converted into 36 “theater boxes,” which are small seating vignettes that share a common eating area. But it’s anything but common: The swanky bar has cool gray counter tops; a stylish fireplace flickers near the buffet station. Hot dogs and dessert become available halfway through the games, but the real deal here comes earlier: kale parmesan dip, chicken cacciatore, veggie alfredo and the like. If you’ve eaten in the nearby Audi Club on the Platinum Level, the Service King Lounge has similar food but perhaps a better ambience. Ticket packages include 4 seats for all regular-season Mavs and Stars games and extra events such as concerts. Packages (which run about $100,000 per year) are currently sold out. Don’t worry if you don’t have that kind of cash; keep reading.

Texas Twister

Feeding an out-of-towner who wants to “eat like a Texan?” That’s hard to define, but perhaps it’s possible with the $10 Texas Twister, a jalapeño bread cone (yes, a cone) filled with brisket and cheddar mac and cheese.The Texas Twister is silly, but it’s fun, too. The brisket reminded me of sloppy joe mix, and by time you get a forkful of meat and mac and bite of the cone, it is, in fact, sloppy. Take it back to your seat and take a delightful photo on Instagram. Beef is what’s for dinner. Located at Stampede BBQ, at #121 on the main concourse, or #334 on the Plaza Level. $10 for the Texas Twister.

Pira Latin Fire

You’re hungry, but you also want to par-tay: Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase (for those 21 and up) in nearly every corner of the arena, I should say. But, the clubbiest atmosphere to get your groove on and also grab some grub is in Pira Latin Fire. Pira is a restaurant and ultra lounge that is accessible from inside and outside the AAC; you don’t need a sports ticket to enter. A small $18 buffet has Latin-themed food such as fajitas and tacos, and in the adjoining room you’ll find a DJ spinning and possibly some singles looking to mingle. Open to the public during AAC events. $18 buffet.

The AAC’s burger of the month

Just send me to the concessions: Dozens of options abound on the main concourse, and it isn’t all chain fast food. Executive chef Mark Mabry and his team have created a burger of the month on the main level. January’s is The New Year’s Cheese-a-lution, an anti-resolutioner’s burger. This $12 mammoth is a beef patty with pepper jack, provolone, American and pimiento cheese, plus “cheese-onaise” (mayo with cayenne, lemon, garlic and American cheese) and a few fried pickles on top. The burger can come paired with a craft beer for $15 total — which might sound pricey, but at a sports venue, that’s a deal on the beer. Burger and beer pairing change every month. Find them on the main concourse at #106 and #118. $12-$15.

(Courtesy of DallasNews.com, Photos Courtesy of Alexandra Olivia)

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