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The Ten Best Dishes at Barclays Center

When the Barclays Center opened in the autumn of 2012, it promised to be a boon to local business. To deliver on that vow, it launched Brooklyn Taste — a collection of no fewer than 55 Brooklyn-based food vendors scattered across multiple levels of the 18,000-seat arena. Most of these purveyors cook up event-friendly fare specific to the venue. Together they represent a wide spectrum of dining options indicative of their home borough’s ethnic diversity. Dining at Barclays is unlike the predictable junk-food-fueled experience of a typical stadium. But as at any other sportsplex, it doesn’t come cheap. To accommodate the constraints of your wallet — and stomach — we’ve assembled a list of the ten best dishes to seek out during your next Nets game, rock concert, or (next season) NHL match.

10. Signature Concrete ($7.50), Junior’s, Section 26

This frozen Frankenshake blends organic Blue Marble ice cream with chunks of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and Junior’s legendary cheesecake. It’s a textural marvel served in a plastic drinking cup, best tackled with a spoon.

9. Grilled corn Mexican-style ($5.75), Habana, Sections 25, 209/210

Habana’s handheld offering is like corn on the cob on steroids: The ear is dusted in a layer of tangy cotija cheese before it takes a bath in chile powder and fresh lime. Each semi-sweet bite is lifted by smoky char from the grilled kernels.

8. Boneless wings ($11), Buffalo Boss, Section 22

These bite-size morsels of white-meat chicken are caked in a thick breading, which provides ample crunch and a perfect landing pad for generous amounts of spicy buffalo sauce. They’re served alongside a pile of Nathan’s crowd-pleasing crinkle fries. It’s a well-executed, classic combination of flavors that’s bungled far too often at inferior venues.

7. Cali’s Greek nachos ($12), Thomas’ Greek Kitchen, Section 225/226

Familiar arena fare gets a Mediterranean makeover in this gut-busting array of feta, scallions, kalamata olives, and beef chili heaped atop house-baked pita chips. The savory beef works well against the saltiness of the olives. With plenty of chopped tomatoes and onions topping off the plate, it can get messy. Bring a napkin, and some friends.

6. Baja Fish Taco ($14), Calexico, Section 03

Ordering fish at a sporting event seems like a bold move, but the beer-battered tilapia at the core of this Mexican staple is legit. Flaky and not overly greasy, it brings a delicate seafood flavor that’s still detectable through the sweet mango salsa add-on. Lining the pair of flour tortillas is your standard-issue chipotle “crack sauce” — basically a spicy sour cream.

5. Smoked White Cheddar Brat ($8.50), Brooklyn Bangers & Dogs, Sections 08, 225/226

This ain’t your typical dirty-water dog. Plump and juicy house-crafted, German-style bratwurst opens up to reveal an inner lining of molten white cheddar. The smoked sausage is served tucked inside a locally baked potato roll, the perfect vehicle for squishing up any additional flavor that might otherwise be lost along the way.

4. Lobster Monster ($18.50), Boomer and Carton Kitchen, Section 17

Red Hook Lobster Pound provides the goods in this mouth-watering union of crustacean, mayo, and butter-toasted bun. Sizable lumps of tail, claw, and shoulder are all prominent, studded with the occasional chunk of celery and sprinkled with chopped scallion. It’s a mouthful of meat to help justify its stately sum. [

3. Batchagaloop Burger ($14), Boomer and Carton Kitchen, Section 17

This absurd smorgasbord between buns was invented by local sports radio personality Craig Carton. The sandwich stacks an American-cheese-blanketed beef patty from Paisanos with deep-fried chicken fingers, pickles, and french fries on a buttered brioche. Beyond the novelty, the constituent parts work surprisingly well together. And you have to applaud efficiency: Why waste time eating everything individually?

2. Hot Pastrami on Rye ($16.75), David’s K Deli, Section 06

It can’t be a proper Brooklyn experience without a decent Jewish deli. And the hot pastrami from David’s K is beyond decent — it’s delicious. More than half a pound of thinly sliced smoked meat is piled high betwixt two pieces of traditional rye bread. It’s served without frills — just a small cup of slaw and an oversized sour pickle on the side.

1. Short rib banh mi ($13.75), Fatty ‘Cue BBQ, Sections 07, 222/223

One of the city’s best barbecue joints, Fatty ‘Cue is renowned for fusing the flavors of the South with Southeast Asia. Here, it elevates the standard Vietnamese sandwich into the stratosphere, building it around tender beef short rib. The meat is magnified with a unique smoky-sweet barbecue dressing and finished with a crunchy layer of cabbage-carrot slaw. A doughy French baguette holds it all together.

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THE KING AND HIS COURT

While having the Super Bowl take place in New York last year was epochal, the game was, after all, in New Jersey and much of the excitement turned out to be about how to get there. This year, however, the NBA All-Star Game is in our face, with events spread between Brooklyn and Manhattan, including a concert in the Flatiron District — this will be fun. And it comes just in time, as our basketball season has been pretty bleak. The game will feature our own Carmelo Anthony, who will be joined by the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and the Rockets’ James Harden (favorites for MVP this year), and the one and only king, LeBron James, among others. Getting into the game is going to be tough and pretty pricey, but we highly recommend both the Rising Stars Challenge and All-Star Night, which includes a Dunk Contest and Three-Point Competition. If you can’t make it in person, the sports bars will be popping.

Fri., Feb. 13, 9 p.m., 2015

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JUSTIN TIME

The renaissance of Justin Timberlake’s solo career has been something of a transition for the former boyband star. With Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds, Timberlake established that he could continue on as a pop star in his own right — but The 20/20 Experience aims for adulthood and maturity, both sonically and in subject matter. “Mirrors” and “Suit & Tie” both sought a more contemporary, jazz-infused sound, and the rest of the record played with experimental instrumental breakdowns, gospel, and doo-wop. For the most part, it worked, and Justin was able to ascend into a new, more grown-up phase of his career. The follow-up second volume of the record wasn’t as critically lauded as its predecessor, but revealed that Timberlake and his constant collaborator Timbaland aren’t afraid to take chances. But turning *NSync fame into a full-fledged solo career wouldn’t be possible for just anyone — JT still performs with the same verve and charisma that makes an arena feel like a living room.

Sun., Dec. 14, 9 p.m., 2014

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Best Major League Sports Venue

You sometimes have to remind yourself that the Barclays Center is a sports venue. It’s not just a flashpoint for the Brooklyn gentrification debate, or the place that has overtaken the hallowed Garden to become the most desired music venue in the city for most major touring acts. It’s not just the House that Jay-Z Built (with a wee assist from a Russian oligarch). The reason the arena exists at all is because it’s the home of the Brooklyn Nets. And it’s a fine place to watch a game. Most indoor arenas are bereft of the charm and nuance that make baseball stadiums so unique. But watching basketball at Barclays feels different, cozier, than most of its cousins around the NBA, even that famous one in Manhattan. It has great sight lines (the cheap seats here feel much less so); and the dark color scheme all around the arena (rich browns, cool grays, and, of course, black) makes the shock of golden light that illuminates the smart, herringbone-patterned floor seem almost theatrical. It’s like watching hoops at La Scala…until the droning, monotone “Broook-lyyyn” chant begins. And then there’s the food. All-Brooklyn vendors, an impressive craft beer selection, and probably the best nachos in professional sports, courtesy of Calexico. Next year the Barclays Center becomes the home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, as well. We’ll learn quickly if “Brooklyn on Ice” is as cool as it sounds.

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JAM BANDS

It’s hard to believe that famed record label Def Jam Recordings was founded just 30 years ago in producer Rick Rubin’s NYU dorm room. The label simultaneously feels as if it has existed forever and is completely brand-new. That’s a testament to the type of talent it has continued to attract since the mid ’80s, including Public Enemy and LL Cool J. Its current roster is loaded with the most important names in hip-hop, like Kanye West, Ludacris, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz. To celebrate, artists from across Rubin and Russell Simmons’s label’s history will come together for a historic night. It’s not every day you get to see Ashanti and Ja Rule reunited on the same stage as Jhené Aiko, DMX, and Foxy Brown.

Thu., Oct. 16, 8 p.m., 2014

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Best Photo Booth

You can take all the selfies you want during the Nets game or concert you’re taking in at Barclays Center, but nothing will compare to the high-quality photo you can shoot in one of the four MetroPCS Photo Booths therein. The booths function as phone-charging stations on their exteriors, but the interiors, designed to harken back to phone booths of yore, are actually photo booths where you can shoot yourself for free, then email or text the result to yourself. The background’s a black-and-white photo of the Brooklyn Bridge, guaranteed to inform your Facebook pals exactly where you were last night (or to remind yourself, if you, um, overindulged). While someone else is hogging the bright-purple booth and you’re waiting on the wrong side of the door, you can keep abreast of the game or show on one of the TV monitors built into the exterior walls, all while juicing up your device. Hooray for multitasking!

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Judas Priest

As iconic, leather-clad Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford accurately observes, “I dare say we were probably the first to start calling ourselves a heavy metal band. I think it’s fair to say it really started with Priest and Sabbath.” Forty-five years later, the archetypal Priest still spew arena-sized music, their unrelenting, soaring, larger-than-life metal inciting and exciting headbangers ranging in age from middle-schoolers to AARP citizens. You’ll get (to the delight of Beavis & Butt-head) “Breaking the Law,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” and with 17 albums’ worth of songs to choose from, nary a quiet moment is guaranteed.

Thu., Oct. 9, 8 p.m., 2014

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THE KEYS TO SUCCESS

Gene Simmons can say that rock is dead all he wants, but that hasn’t stopped the Black Keys from keeping the spirit of the genre kicking. Since their formation in the the early aughts, the Ohio duo has slowly risen to become rock ’n’ roll’s foremost act. Albums like Brothers and El Camino have churned out hits like “Tighten Up” and “Gold on the Ceiling,” as well as a string of ad themes that you can’t seem to escape (they famously poked fun at themselves on an episode of The Colbert Report with fellow admen Vampire Weekend). This past spring, the Black Keys released Turn Blue, a bluesier-than-ever set that is sure to spawn more than a few festival and stadium favorites. Determine which ones will take the crown tonight.

Tue., Sept. 23, 8 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 24, 8 p.m., 2014

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The Weeknd

It’s next to impossible to make it through a Weeknd single without contracting at least one sexually-transmitted disease. The confounding thing is, you’ll ultimately want more of what producer/singer Abel Tesfaye excels at: more VIP-booth accoutrements, more narcotized R&B-pop deliriums, more sweat-soaked designer sheets teeming with groupies and strippers, more drugs. Tesfaye has the odd gift of rendering sexual exploitation (of self and otherwise) appear wholly seductive and alluring and thoroughly creepy, the orgasmic be-all-end-all of modern fame. At his best, Weeknd opens a portal into the emotional wasteland such abandon yawns into; at his worst, he’s another leering opportunist.

Fri., Sept. 19, 8:30 p.m., 2014

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Luke Bryan

New York-area country fans are so hungry for Luke Bryan, he’s bringing his That’s My Kind of Night Tour back to the Big Apple for even more sold-out dates. It’s easy to see what they’re excited about: trucks, pretty girls, beers — you name the country trope, Bryan’s got it. Plus, he’s got the swagger and star power to make even the most mundane dirt road sound like a party. “Bro country” criticism be damned; Bryan knows how to pack stadiums for one helluva good time.

Sun., Sept. 14, 7 p.m., 2014