Batter’s Eye Restaurant to evolve into Everglades BBQ Smokehouse
Since the opening of Tropicana Field, it has been an iconic part of the landscape of this unique domed stadium. It’s dark tinted windows concealing plenty of zealous Rays and visiting fans perched just above dead Centerfield.
It was one of the only a few restaurants options right off the playing field that I know of in Major League Baseball that seems to be so perfectly placed for dining fans to get that “up close and personal feel”, almost like they are just hovering above Tampa Bay Rays CF B J Upton’s left shoulder. I know the San Diego Padres havea their own Batter’s Eye Pavilion, but it is not a sit-down restaurant concept.
Sure every MLB stadium has it’s own special type of dining experience for game day fans, but none were perched within feet of the playing surface, or who give you a chance to hear the bang of a long Home Run bouncing on or down its roof during a MLB game. I still remember the first time I ate in the restaurant during Batting Practice and watched the action from above the playing surface.
The Batter’s Eye Restaurant has been for years one of the most unique dining experiences inside Tropicana Field where you could dine before, or during a Rays game in the luxurious setting of a tasty and gourmet ballpark inspired menu. The restaurant was a famous stop for Rays fans before the games also for their ala carte menu and their free Wine Tasting gatherings during 2010.
The Rays and their concessionaire Centerplate tried during 2010 to revive the old dining glory by offering unique Diamond and Platinum game buffets when the concession lines used to overflow with hungry fans. They event tried to get the casual Friday night fans into the CF icon with $ 19 buffets with everything a ballpark menu should be. And Saturday nights the Restaurant offered a dining experience at $34 dollars per person which bordered on a gastronomical ballpark menagerie.
Heck their Sunday brunch buffet (my favorite) even offered made to order omelette’s, entrees, salads great pasties at a affordable $26 a head. It was one of the great meet and greet places before the Sunday matinée games with seating available the moment the gates opened at 11 am. But all that is going into the Rays history book this April. A big change is about to happen to that huge Batting Practice target as the Rays open their 2011 season.
The new Rays BBQ experience will again offer an external simplified Everglades BBQ menu that can be purchased ala carte at select concession stands in the First Base Food Court and the Right Field Street area for an BBQ-insipred moments for attendees of Rays games.
But you can bet this step back towards a more casual “family-style” dining experience will be an instant hit with the Rays Republic as the menu will feature such Southern classics as pork, ribs, chicken and wings smoked fresh daily on site at Tropicana Field by the Rays/Centerplate culinary team. There will also be barbecue favorites like corn on the cob, potato wedges and a few unique dessert options.
The Batter’s Eye held it’s last “official” function during the Rays Fan Fest as the site of Joe Maddon’s “Thanksmas” celebration and Q&A session. It is a bit sad to see the old concept go, but it might have outlived its Rays usefulness. In its place will be a vibrant, new and exciting concept that will offer its food creation both inside and outside the restaurant for Rays fans to enjoy.
I am actually looking forward to the new BBQ concept that will bring back a few of the great food items lost when the American Plate and Chef Enzo did not return to bring buckets of BBQ ribs and Southern inspired creations to my taste buds on a nightly basis.
Got to give the Rays and Centerplate a huge round of applause for again providing that missing Southern food element back into my game day experience. Hopefully it will explode into one of those “must have” food selections for visitors and fans to the Trop that will entice, entertain and become a new Rays ballpark tradition…just like those old Batter’s Eye Sunday brunch buffets…. only this time it will be finger licking good.