Next Tuesday, July 11, Marlins Park in Miami will host the 88th-annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game, also known as the Midsummer Classic.
For one night only, team rivalries are dropped and all-stars from the sport's American League face the best players from the National League for what's arguably baseball's most exciting matchup.
The All-Star Game is actually the culmination of a series of events that begins July 7 with the All-Star FanFest. Other events include All-Star Sunday and Monday's All-Star Workout Day and Home Run Derby.
Of course, the game is just half the experience of being at the ballpark. Food and drinks play a big role. And today's fans are no longer satisfied with just a dog and a beer.
Last year, when Vince Navarrete, executive chef of Levy Restaurants (the park's main food concessionaire), began to plan the menu for the All-Star Game, he knew he wanted to reflect Miami's flavors. "I wanted to show who we are through our food," Navarrete says.
His idea was to show visitors the real Magic City through an immersive experience. That includes setting up a beer garden with Wynwood-inspired murals and local brewers such as J. Wakefield, Miami Brewing Co., and Concrete Beach, and a mojito bar with a living wall of mint.
The chef also created several new menu items that combine classic ballpark fare with Latin influences and local ingredients such as Zak the Baker bread and Homestead tomatoes. New Times was invited to a preview of the most interesting eats at the park. Most items are available during Marlins home games, and prices are subject to change during All-Star weekend. Here are the ten best things to eat at Marlins Park.
1. Cuban Hot Dog
If you're at the ballpark and feel like you should eat a traditional hot dog but you're Jonesing for a Cubano, this is your solution. A Nathan's all-beef half-pound frank is placed inside a classic Cuban sandwich and pressed. The bread, by the way, is from Zak the Baker, making this treat the most Miami-Americana mashup ever.
Available at the High Cheese food truck; $13.
2. Soft Pretzels
You simply cannot go nine innings without a soft pretzel. These gourmet versions are not run-of-the-mill frozen types. They're handmade daily and are incredibly fluffy and light. Choose from traditional, served with a three-mustard blend, or cinnamon sugar, served with a side of cream cheese frosting.
Available at the Aquafina area; $8 each.
3. Fresh Yellowtail Snapper
When was the last time you had locally caught seafood at a baseball game? Chef Navarrete wanted to tap into Miami's proximity to the water with this dish. Yellowtail snapper, delivered daily from a local fishmonger, is butterflied, filleted, lightly fried, and served over rice.The dish is limited to only 30 portions per game (75 portions will be available daily during All-Star weekend) to maintain freshness and to ensure it's made properly. Says Navarrete: "I'd rather make it right and run out of the item than rush this."
Available at the Goya Latin Cafe; $20.
4. Bacon-Wrapped Plantain
Miami's version of a corn dog, this item wraps a plantain in bacon and garnishes it with queso fresco. Served on a stick, the sweet, salty treat leaves your other hand free to hold your beer.
Available at Goya Latin Cafe; $6.50.
5. Miami Brewing Co. Beer
In a stroke of genius, Miami Brewing Co. opened its own minitaproom at Marlins Park. The area, located behind the seats in right center field, serves a large selection of Miami Brewing's beers, including Big Rod, Shark Bait, and Little Havana Cafe con Leche. The area also boasts classic arcade games and murals by Wynwood street artists Claudia La Bianca and Aquarela Sabol. The vibe is so chill and the game viewing so good, you might never go back to your seats.
6. Macaroni 'n' Cheese and Pulled Pork in a Batting Helmet
Forget the fact that the pork is cooked low and slow and then topped with a sweet/tangy sauce. Forget that the mac 'n' cheese is flavorful and cooked al dente. What you're really interested in is the fact that it's served in a Marlins batting helmet, which makes it an instant Instagram hit and makes you feel like you're a kid at your first baseball game all over again.
Available at MIA BBQ; $11.
7. Pulled Pork Nachos
How do you improve on classic nachos? Top them with slow-cooked pulled pork, barbecue sauce, and horseradish slaw.
Available at MIA BBQ; $11.
8. Arepa Burger
In a surge of nostalgia, Chef Navarrete channeled the days when the Marlins played at Joe Robbie Stadium (before the many name changes). The tradition included getting a classic sweet corn arepa from carts outside the stadium. Navarette uses those sweet arepas as the bun for his brisket/short-rib patty and then adds mozzarella, pickled onions, and cilantro lime aioli. That crunch when you bite into your arepa burger? Chicharrones!
Available at BGR Deck; $11.50.
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9. Marlins Wine
Celebrate your team's victory with wine. Miami Marlins Club Series Reserve is a 2015 vintage Napa Valley red blend with aromas of dark blackberry and cherry. A special All-Star Game limited-edition sparkling white has hints of green apple, pear, and melon; only 500 cases were produced.
Both wines are available at local select retailers, restaurants, and hotels listed on mlb.com/wine. In addition, the All-Star sparkling wine will be available at the All-Star Game at Suite level; $19.99 suggested retail.
10. Chicken Tacos
Though there's nothing new about eating tacos at a game, these are in a league of their own. Moist marinated chicken is served in fresh soft flour tortillas. The key ingredient is salsa made with Homestead tomatoes. Add a squeeze of lime to bring out the subtle jalapeño notes in the meat.
Available at Miami Mex; two for $10.