Marlins Park, the new $684 million home to the Fish, is absolutely beautiful. I previewed this state-of-the-art stadium at the Diamonds and Dishes event during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival but was eager to take in a game.
When I received a Groupon alert for discounted tickets, I pounced. A few minutes later, I was in possession of two clubhouse seats for $55 each (regularly $90).
With a tropical storm churning in the Gulf, it would have been nice to park in one of the attached garages -- but not for $20. My husband and I chose a spot a block away where a cottage parking industry ($10) has sprouted at every single apartment building in the vicinity of the stadium.
Once under the retractable dome (great in case of rain -- but somehow it felt a little like cheating), it was time to get food and drink. The concessions, run by Levy Restaurants, are supposed to be innovative, fresh, and delicious, with choices that go way beyond the typical fare of dogs and beer. A scan of the first base concessions offered a few choices -- pizza, Mexican, burgers, kosher, and gluten-free fare.
First stop was the kosher stand, where we figured an all-beef dog would be more appetizing than the typical pork/chicken/mystery-meat kind. Two Presidente beers and one dog cost $25. After getting the beers, we waited for the dog. A few minutes later, a manager asked what we were waiting for. "A hot dog," I said, anticipating a custom-grilled frank. The manager simply reached under the counter and brought out a prewrapped tube.
Unwrapping the paper near the condiment stand, I got a first look at the dog. The poor thing was small, dark, and shriveled up. With a lot of mustard (alas, no sauerkraut), the dog was OK, but not worth $7.
After a few innings of excitement, which included a Marlins home run, missing a foul ball to my skull, Billy the Marlin, and some sea creatures racing one another around the bases, it was time to try some more food. Burger 305 offered "house-made" veggie burgers ($8). Indeed, the patty came from the grill and not from under the counter, so I was hopeful. I also stopped for an order of mahi tacos (two for $14), a Corona ($9), and a bag of peanuts ($5).
Back at my seat, I dug into the veggie burger to find it cold and tasteless, though the bun was good and the lettuce and tomato were fresh.
The tacos posed a problem. They, too, magically appeared on my tray a second after ordering. By the time I arrived at my seat, the wet fish and salsa had seeped through the soft shells, and the tacos fell apart when we tried to eat them. Unfortunately, the concessionaire didn't provide a fork, so I had to go get one. Finally digging into my taco, I liked the pickled red onions and salsa, but the fish tasted more like bait than mahi.
My husband and I just looked at each other. "Well, it is a ballpark," he said.
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Yes, but the food was supposed to be elevated at this new shrine to America's pastime. A little disappointed (and still hungry), I went back to watching the game. Then I remembered the peanuts.
I opened the bag and suddenly smelled that familiar, intoxicating scent of summer and baseball. There's something about ballpark peanuts that remind me of my grandfather, sunburned noses, and long evenings at the game.
Two hundred dollars later, the Marlins finally broke their losing streak to shut out the Blue Jays and I got my ballpark memory. My advice: Skip the overpriced food and stick with the beer and peanuts. Sometimes it doesn't pay to screw around with what has worked for generations.