Arizona Sands Club promises its members a top-flight dining experience … with networking benefits.

By Elena Acoba Photos by Shannon Christine Photo

All over town, but especially around the University of Arizona, bars and restaurants are getting ready for some football and making a comeback from the dismal coronavirus season of 2020.

Arguably the venue most ramped up for the season to start is the Arizona Sands Club, the nearly year-old private business and social club that commands an Arizona Stadium view five floors above the field.

Last year, none of its UArizona season ticket-holding members could use the 600 outdoor seats over the north end zone because COVID-19 protocols kept fans away from the Wildcats’three home games.

Arizona Sands, owned by national ClubCorp, opened in October 2020 at limited capacity to be able to follow CDC and UArizona guidelines. New members could use the dining area, bar and work spaces, but access to the rest of the stadium was off limits.

Now, the added staff and retooled menu are ready to bear down on the first home game Sept. 11 against San Diego State and run right through the season. Actually, the club will start its Wildcat football theme with the first game, a televised event Sept. 4 at Brigham Young University.

Game days may be all about fine stadium food, a hosted tailgate party and fully stocked bar, including local brews and wine, but the rest of the time is devoted to providingArizona Sands Club members with top-flight services and amenities to enjoy with clients, colleagues, friends and family.

Central to that is a seasonally changing menu of Southern-inspired dishes with Southwest and Asian influences. Le Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Matthew Hogg likes to call them “simple elegance.”

Although he never visited Arizona before working for the Sands Club, Chef Hogg is familiar with that Southwestern flavor from his Texas upbringing and culinary career. His smoked chicken quesadilla is stuffed with nopalitos (prickly pear pads) and black bean and corn relish, topped with poblano crema and chiltepin aioli.

That mild spicy kick continues in the Sonoran chicken sandwich with poblano and Anaheim peppers and the aforementioned aioli.

On the Asian side, Hogg’s grilled wings combine the flavors of cilantro, pineapple, garlic, honey and habañero chile. An appetizer of blistered shishito peppers and tempura-battered lotus root chips comes with a side of ponzu sauce for dipping.

Popular among lunch diners is a Sands Burger featuring Hogg’s own concoction: A bacon and tomato jam that adds a surprising sweetness. It really needs to be sold in jars!

For dinner, there’s shrimp and grits with an Anaheim chile polenta cake and andouille sausage. Chorizo dirty rice accompanies the smoked achiote half chicken. The vegetarian tostada is stacked with portobello mushrooms, black bean purée, roasted pepper and avocado.

Hogg has a busy kitchen. Besides lunch and dinner service, the Arizona Sands offers breakfast and hospitality stations throughout the day. There’s the happy hour menu and special foodie events like taco night and steak night.

There also are special events such as weddings, corporate retreats and board meetings. Exclusive tailgate parties and holiday events require Hogg’s attention, as well.

Additionally, he produces the menu for Bear Down Kitchen, the quickservice eatery that feeds Wildcat athletes and where Arizona Sands Club members can get full breakfasts. The club is the only one of ClubCorp’s six college-affiliated stadium/alumni clubs that has a contract to feed student athletes. Hogg calls the offering “chef driven. It’s taking the time to make something that you know they are going to appreciate.”

He’s had lots of experience to draw on, working at all of ClubCorp stadium/ alumni clubs, including at Baylor University, Texas Tech University, Florida State University and, most recently, University of Texas at Austin.

The chef insists on providing that kind of attention to all club diners. He will adjust a dish to meet dietary wishes. He’ll try to fulfill special requests. “Everybody’s a regular,” he comments about the member-dining experience. “I tell them, ‘I’m your chef.’”