Taste of the Backside(tm): An occasional series dedicated to the critical review of that Last Frontier of Handicapping, the track cafeteria.
Note: All numerical ratings are given in my own patented "Backside Slop Factors" (BSF's), wherein the Sportsman's Park cafe is designated a par 80 in every category.
This installment: Turf Paradise, Phoenix, AZ
Category 1 - Cowboy hats and cowboy boots: The Turf Paradise track cafe rates a BSF of 101 in this category. There were so many boots, hats, and big silver buckles present that I could have sworn I was back in Montana. The highest rating in this category to date.
Category 2 - Accessibility: A mere 60. While the cafe is indeed located centrally to all the stables, and isn't too far from the backside chapel in case something bad happens in the cafe and one feels a need to throw oneself upon the grace of God, it is not "Open To The Public". One must have an ADOR license card, or be with someone who does, to get on the backside in order to visit the cafe. Or else take advantage of the loophole in the system I discovered on my visit.
Category 3 - Amenities: This category was a tough one for me to rate. On the one hand, the cafe does boast a couple of mutuel windows and a separate groovy bar, both of which the cafe at Sportsman's is sadly lacking. On the other hand, the cafe has no restrooms - one must take a hike down to the KOA Kampground-like freestanding facilities. While this is a far cry better than the "back of the barn, next to a trash can" approach provided at, say, Rillito Downs, it is still a serious shortcoming, particularly if one has been taking advantage of the groovy bar for awhile. Final BSF: 70.
Category 4 - Prices: Prices at the TuP cafe were quite reasonable, with a big breakfast burrito, rice, beans, and coffee ringing in at just over $3.50. However, they did not strike me as the "bargain" Sportsman's prices do. Final rating: BSF 75.
Category 5 - Service: Too slow, consistently, except in the bar. The TuP cafe could do with some workflow analysis. BSF 55.
Category 6 - Sheer quantity of food: Not bad, but not great. BSF 75.
Category 7 - Menu selection: Kind of weak here. A relatively small selection of 7 or 8 items in each category (see below). BSF 72.
Category 8 - Food quality (traditional): Not bad, not bad at all. I might complain about the rather flavorless ham (and a small flavorless piece at that), but the hash browns are outstanding and tend to cancel that one complaint. BSF 80.
Category 9 - Food quality (Mexican): I was sorely diasppointed in this category, it being Phoenix and all. You'd think it would have been the highlight of my several trips to the cafe. But nope. Rather bland and unexciting, along with dry rice. Good refried beans, though. BSF 65.
Category 10 - Hot sauce: A bonanza! Several different types of salsa in small plastic cups, plus the standard red sauce and Tabasco, and I was in hot sauce heaven. Almost cancelled out the bland food. Almost. BSF 92.
Category 11 - What's on TV: No OJ! None! Just race replays and a game show. Gotta credit that. BSF 88.
Category 12 - The physical plant: Pretty standard, nothing to shout about. The tables tend to be a little bit rickety, and the metal folding chairs do not meet the fine standard established by the Sportsman's plastic-backed models, but overall things are good. BSF 77.
There you have it! A final BSF of ~76 for the Turf Paradise Track Cafeteria. Just as they say an army marches on its stomach, I say a track marches on its backside, and now you, like me, can use this valuable information to help you determine just how well those trainers, grooms, jocks, and hotwalkers might perform in the race you are betting.