This review will only be of interest to those who plan on heading out to catch a Marlins baseball game. All 60 of you. Of course the Fish, as the team is endearingly called, cannot hope to contend this year because their player payroll is only slightly higher than what most clubs spend on Gatorade. Still there's nothing like a relaxing day at the ballpark, where family and friends can indulge in food, drink, and conversation while watching the game. During a recent visit to The Stadium Formerly Known as Joe Robbie and Soon to Be Formerly Known as Pro Player, I embarked on a comprehensive tasting tour of the various food stands. I'm not certain how these concessions were chosen, but it's pretty clear it wasn't for their ability to put out a decent product, and I mean relative to other ballparks.I started out by going to the public-relations desk (section 155) and obtaining an alphabetical listing of all the foods and beverages and where they're available. It reads like this: Arepa -- sections 140, 145, 443, or 446. Black beans and white rice -- section 153. And so on, up to Sno-Kones. You may note that the first two items are Latin, but they're the only ones, and there are no food specialties native to Miami. In California they serve sushi and a wide range of Mexican fare to satisfy the ethnic tastes of their fan base; Baltimore's Camden Yards offers steamed crabs. The two main concessions at Pro Player -- Pelican Grill and the Seaside Grill -- dish out only a mundane menu of inferior fast food, at incredibly inflated prices.
The Pelican sells mostly snacks, like peanuts, Cracker Jack, and nachos, the last a small serving of circular, ghostly white chips with a plastic cup of gloppy, malodorous jalapeño-cheese dip. If you want more dip, you have to ante up an extra 50 cents. The only hot foods are cafeteria-style pizza (on the 100 level) and a competent all-beef hot dog. Oh, and corn dogs, too, but I don't get paid enough to sample these. The Seaside's more extensive menu includes jumbo kosher hot dogs, grilled chicken or sausage and pepper sandwiches, hamburgers that can only be described as McDonald's wannabes, and four flat pieces of limp chicken tenders over microbrew fries. which are really just the regular skinny sort.
Not all the foods are losers. Premo's Subs (section 143) serves respectable sandwiches such as Italian cold cuts, turkey with Provolone, tuna salad, and, for vegetarians (we all know how many vegetarians go to baseball games), a sub with carrots, cucumbers, red onion, peppers, lettuce, tomato, and Provolone. Premo's is one of the two best bangs for your buck, and the other is close by -- Bru's Wings (section 154), where you get ten crisp, freshly fried chicken wings with a side of hot sauce. It's worth coming to this stand just for the rich-brown ribbon fries, which are far superior to any others in the park.
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Various concessions at Pro Player Stadium
Pro Player Stadium, NW 27th Avenue at NW 199th Street; box office 305-350-5050. Open weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., weekends 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Parking costs $7.
Cracker Jack $3.50
Beef hot dog $2.50/large$3.50
Sausage and pepper sandwiches $5.75/$4.75
Fried chicken wings $5.75
The main concessions serve Miller or Bud, but you can take your pick from more than a dozen microbrew and imported draft beers at the High Tide Bar (section 453, by ramp H). You can also get liquor at these spots, as well as by ramp F. Alcohol and beer sales stop after the seventh inning, but Mrs. Fields cookies (146,153,443) keeps right on pouring coffee and cappuccino, which will work better at keeping you alert while Alex Gonzalez is at bat. Carvel, the other national chain represented here, is sold all over the place.
I make fun of the Fish, but they have some young, talented players who are capable of maturing into stars within a couple of years. If the Marlins eventually supplement them with a few big-time free agents, they'll have a contending team. Before we give John Henry a single dime for his new ballpark, though, let's have him submit a menu. If we as taxpayers are to be enticed into coughing up millions, he should at least offer us a decent medianoche. There is, of course, some doubt as to whether Henry ever gets his field of dreams, but if he does, and plans on rewarding vendor contracts to the same careless cronies as before, I've got a suggestion for the stadium's corporate-sponsored name: Mylanta Park.