Hot brown pizza? It’s not something that comes to mind on a visit to Churchill Downs, but it might be soon.
Last week Churchill unveiled a renovated second floor clubhouse area and a few new menu items for the Spring Meet and the Kentucky Derby, including a wood-fired thin crust pizza topped with in-house roasted turkey, bacon and diced tomatoes scattered on top of a Mornay sauce, a combination that pays homage to the Brown Hotel’s legendary hot Brown.
“The thing that’s fun for us, here’s something that’s a Louisville classic, everybody knows, and we’re trying to make it our own,” said David Danielson, working his seventh Derby as executive chef at Churchill Downs. “(It’s) just kind of a great variety of a local dish and a new twist.”
You’ll also find a new Italian grinder, smoked turkey and a mint julep inspired Derby sundae.
The sundae combines vanilla soft serve with mint julep syrup, bourbon barrel smoked sugar, a Woodford Reserve macerated cherry and fresh local mint all served in a Derby glass.
Danielson, who leads a staff of 4,000 on Derby week, tested each new offering.
“That was the best part,” he said.
The second floor clubhouse concession area for box seat patrons was demolished and rebuilt. In addition to the expansive feel of the new, modern space, Churchill Downs has invested in state-of-the-art equipment to cook and present its fare.
The menu boards are bright LED screens with mouth-watering displays of each stand’s offerings. All the barbecue brisket, pork and turkey are smoked in-house, a first for Churchill, Danielson said.
The pizza crusts for the hot Brown and traditional pizzas are given a quick char in a new wood-fired oven before heading to the assembly station and conveyor melt.
“The other big thing is we’re working with a lot of local farms to try to take that initiative with what we’ve been doing in the premium areas and really move it down to the concessions and the general public,” Danielson said.
Most of the new menu items feature calorie counts, as well, for those who are watching their intake.
Last year’s Burrito Barn has been renamed the Central Ave. Cantina and continues to feature fresh made Chipolte-style pork, chicken and vegetarian burritos and a taco salad.
The Coop returns after its debut last year with Buffalo and regular chicken fingers and a fried chicken salad.
The Bourbon Batch BBQ stand features a sweet sauce for its brisket, pork and turkey, loaded pork nachos, burgoo and a soup of the day.
The Perfecta Pizzeria stand serves the hot Brown, pepperoni, veggie and cheese pizzas, a grilled chicken Caesar salad and the new Italian grinder that’s a combination of ham, salami, banana peppers, provolone cheese and Italian vinaigrette on a six-inch hoagie roll.
Grilled burgers and chicken sandwiches are served at their own stand as well, of course, and most stands include everyone’s sports event go-to food, the hot dog.
For fans looking to watch more live racing with less standing in line, Churchill has in-app ordering, which debuted last year. App users can place their order over the phone and will be alerted when it’s available for pick up at its “Fast Track” stand.
“We’re always trying to push ourselves, we’re always trying to push the team, “Danielson said. “I want people to come here and see some new things, some different things. Our goal is to set this apart from every other sporting event in the world. …
“Here, the Derby, the food, the drinks, the fashion — it’s all part of the day. We play really a big role and we want to make sure we’re up for that. We spend a lot of time trying to make sure we give great food to people whether it’s on concessions or Millionaires Row.”