Chef "rubbing" seasonings on a fish fillet

Eat, Play, Love at the BNP

Indian Wells’ own premier tennis tournament, the BNP Paribas Open, is amping up this year’s culinary game.

Lizbeth Scordo Restaurants, Tennis

Chef "rubbing" seasonings on a fish fillet
Salmon, as prepared by Workshop Kitchen + Bar, also a Taste of Tennis participant.

There was a time when food and drink options at sporting events were limited to plain, pedestrian snack fare. (Take Me Out to the Ballgame was probably just tempering expectations by having spectators demand peanuts and Cracker Jacks).

Thanks to today’s foodie culture, however, many sports facilities now come equipped with celebrity chef–helmed restaurants and upscale concession stands doling out everything from wagyu steak to ceviche to small-batch whiskey. So it makes sense that Indian Wells’ own premier tennis tournament, the BNP Paribas Open, is amping up this year’s culinary game — wining, dining, and wowing its annual crowd of well-heeled spectators with fancy fare and cool cocktails. There’s even an exclusive food festival called Taste of Tennis.

The BNP is now attracting guests who are just as interested in the meals as in the match. Here’s the rundown on where to drink and dine all tournament long.

Taste of Tennis

Following in the footsteps of the success of Taste of Tennis at the U.S. Open in New York and the Miami Open, the one-night festival (March 6) is all about mingling with tennis greats over amazing eats. Chefs from around the valley and beyond will create signature bites and — here’s the really fun part — each will pair up with a player who will help run the station and even serve up the food (a slightly different kind of serve than the pros are used to), before heading out to hang with the attendees. Expect to rub elbows and share hors d’oeuvres with Sam Querry, Nicole Gibbs, and Ryan Harrison.

The food facts: About 15 to 18 stations will be set up for Taste of Tennis on the Serena Lawn at host and sponsor property Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa. Local notables taking part include Michael Beckman of Workshop Kitchen + Bar; Tara Lazar of F10 Creative; and Brad Weimer of Brandini Toffee (who is planning to serve a toffee milkshake). L.A. restaurant chefs will be cooking as well, along with headliner celeb chef Jonathan Waxman. Mixologists from Bootlegger Tiki will be shaking up craft cocktails. Expect a red carpet, DJs, and maybe even 
an intense game of pingpong 
(it’s happened before). 
Tickets: $200–$350

Brad Weimer of Brandini Toffee is planning to serve a toffee milkshake at Taste of Tennis.

Plates from F10 Creative, some of which you can sample at Taste of Tennis.

insider tip:

How to make sure you’ll get time with the players at Taste of Tennis

i“First and foremost, make sure you recognize them,” says Penny Lerner, CEO of AYS Sports Marketing, which runs Taste of Tennis. “We always like to tell people to study the players without their uniforms. Have a cheat sheet of them in their normal clothes because they do look different.” And come early. “That’s when they’re in their best moods and they’re really ready to engage with the first people they see. And sometimes they’ll talk to those people for an hour.”

Indian Wells Tennis Gardens, home to the BNP Paribas Open.

Insider tip:

How to sample everything at the BNP Paribas Open

Steve Birdwell, CEO of Indian Wells Tennis Garden and the tournament, suggests buying a ticket for Stadium 1 (go for loge seating if you’re looking for lower-priced — but still decent! — seats). “With that ticket you’re going to be able to traverse the whole stadium. You’ll be able to sample everything you want throughout Stadium 1 and then save some room for what’s at Stadium 2.”

Luxe Restaurants for Watching the Match

Renowned Japanese restaurant chain Nobu opened a location in Stadium 2 a few years back. This year, another pedigreed restaurant opens its doors on the grounds: Wolfgang Puck’s Spago will be located in Stadium 1; it’s the first to offer outdoor dining tables overlooking a court. If you’re a celebrity chef stargazer, heads up: The BNP Paribas Open and Indian Wells Tennis Garden CEO, Steve Birdwell, says that Puck, Nobu Matsuhisa, and others have all committed to being on premises for several tournament days.

The food facts: Spago’s final menu is still in the works, but expect it to be close to what you’d get at the Beverly Hills flagship (seasonal California cuisine with Asian influences such as pan-roasted jidori chicken, sautéed ikejime black cod, bigeye tuna, and Puck’s hamachi chirashi box) along with a few flavors unique to the valley (care for a date?).

As for Nobu fare, patrons can look forward to signature dishes such as yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, scallop truffle chips, and melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef.

Nobu’s yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño.

Gourmet Concessions

Plenty of new and notable chefs will put a sexy spin on street food in Stadium 1 this year. If you don’t want to rush back to your seat (or if you only have a grounds pass), grab some grub and settle in at Stadium Plaza with its green spaces, picnic tables, and newly expanded 84-foot wide screen, where you can keep an eye on several matches at once.

The food facts: Ray Garcia’s B.S. Taqueria (sister restaurant to his beloved Broken Spanish in downtown L.A.) will be offering “inauthentically authentic” Mexican fare like lemon-pepper chicken chicharrones and chorizo and papas tacos. Michelin-star chef Josiah Citrin (of Melisse in Santa Monica and newer hot spot Charcoal Venice) will add his Staples Center staple Dave’s Doghouse to the mix, serving up haute dogs with toppings like mac ’n’ cheese and Boston baked beans.

Try the gourmet fusion tacos from Ray Garcia’s B.S. Taqueria.

Vegetarians can get their fix at Melissa’s Produce, while craft beer connoisseurs now have booths dedicated to both Shock Top and Golden Road. If you’re after local fare, valley stalwart Sherman’s Deli will have a presence and Piero’s PizzaVino will be adding a quick-service option.

Suite Stuff

Those splurging on a private suite can work with staffers to create custom spreads for their parties ahead of time. And the sky’s the limit: “We’ll create any experience and menu the guest wants,” says Birdwell. “You’ve pretty much got unlimited options.”

The food facts: Suite-holders who’d rather decide on a whim will be able to use in-suite tablets to order from any of the concessions as well as some limited offerings from Nobu and Spago, which will be delivered right to their door. Who knows, Wolfgang might even bring over that signature smoked salmon pizza himself…

Chef Josiah Citrin brings Dave’s Doghouse to the tournament, serving up hot dogs imported from the East Coast.