Nothing goes with baseball more than an all-American hot dog, however, ball fields have come a long way also offering regional specialties and other gourmet items.
Recently, Food Nation Radio Network made two visits to the Trop to find the best grub they have to offer. Along the way, we learned they serve around 3,000 Cuban sandwiches on game nights, they utilize 18 kitchens, and the signature hot dog at the Trop ($5), made by Kayem, is also known as the Fenway Frank in Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
There is one flagship restaurant at the stadium, Everglades BBQ Company Smokehouse. It overlooks the ballpark and the cool air conditioning and comfy seats make it a pleasant spot to get away from the crowds and enjoy the game from right above the field. Each game night they serve a special. This time it was fried chicken livers over stone-ground grits with pickled peaches. The livers were pounded thin and fried in a crispy breading that contrasted perfectly with the creamy, perfectly cooked grits. The pickled peaches compensated for all the rich flavors. It sounds simplistic, but it was a home run dish, and I had a hard time not eating the whole thing. (After all, we had many more items we needed to sample.)
Everglades smokes their pork, chicken, ribs and brisket all in-house. Although they are tasty by themselves, some of the more creative items on the menu such as the Smoked Beef Brisket Quesadillas ($9) and the Pulled Pork Nachos ($9) take those tasty smoked meats and just make them better. The quesadillas were smoky and sweet, served with salsa, guacamole, red jalapeno and sour cream for dipping. The nachos were piled high with corn chips, shredded pork, lots of melted cheese and topped with those spicy red jalapenos, as well. Both dishes were HUGE for appetizers and certainly made to share.
The salad bar has some of their smoked meats, fresh cheeses and cold crispy salad fixins’ along with their Brunswick Stew. The Stew is one of the fan favorites in the restaurant. The salad bar can be ordered alone for $11.95 or with a sandwich or entree for $6.95 and is served with fresh bread (for dipping in the stew, of course).
Secret tip: Everglades has a kids’ meal option for $4.95. It is not listed on the menu but includes, hot dog, fries, a soft drink or milk and a chocolate chip cookie.
If you want something quick, I’ve stopped in for the big Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12). It’s made fast, to order, the pork is moist and there’s plenty of it served with potato wedges, vinegar slaw and red jalapenos. Most of the side items are vegetarian that come with the entrees including the Brisket ($14), The Ribs ($16/$22), Chicken ($15). You get a choice of two sides which include potato wedges, whipped potatoes, buttered corn, green beans, onion rings and skillet cornbread. The only side that is not vegetarian is the tasty baked beans.
I have to mention in our travels we came across the *tbt Party Deck which I had never seen before! It’s modeled after a street in Ybor City, complete with street lamps. It’s a great group of folks mingling around, watching the game with beer selections and concessions available. The view of the field from there is tremendous.
We also had a chance to slip into the ray tank area, where we could touch and feed actual cownose rays. It was a little scary for me, but a great experience for kids.
Concessions are not just hot dogs and popcorn anymore. We stopped by the Gluten Free stand where they serve hot dogs on gluten-free buns, gluten-free sausages and gluten-free beer. Although they say it’s not one of their more popular stands, they like to have the option available for folks with special dietary needs. Next on our stop was one of their stands that serves their Cuban Sandwich ($5 half/$9 whole). It’s made with Boar’s Head meats and cheese and pressed on Tampa’s own Cuban bread. Freshly made, it’s hot and melted and oh, so Ybor City. There’s a little mini-stand that serves Italian Sausages with green peppers and onions on pizza bread ($8). It was just like you’d get at a festival in my home state of New York but the pizza dough made it even better. An Everglades outpost stand has pulled pork sandwiches for ($8).
We did not venture into hamburger territory, but their hamburger stand makes a Cuban-style burger ($12) cooked to order on the grill while you wait. I was too full to try it, but it looked like a juicy mess of love on a plate. Outback Steakhouse also has a stand with filet tips, chicken sandwiches, Bloomin’ Onions and other signature items. Finish up with a bag of spiced nuts for $6.
Tickets for the game with access to the Hancock Bank Club may be a little more expensive, but the food and drink are all-inclusive. There’s a full-liquor bar, a selection of wines, craft beers and soft drinks and nothing is spared on the food displays. They’ll make your pasta to order at the pasta bar, gyro bar, brats, risotto, meats, omelettes, cheese selections, dessert selection with lemon merengue and other servings of pies, cakes and much, much more. Make sure you find Reverend Norwood making brats and ask for the Norwood special. He might even sing for you.