By Brian Murphy, Foodable Contributor
Baseball season is close with spring training already underway. This translates to a lot for establishments that look forward to more patrons coming in to watch a baseball game or are neighbors with a major league ballpark. The excitement about the start of baseball season is an even larger deal for the many vendors throughout the country that offer their signature items at the games, a business decision that gains restaurateurs and breweries exposure and potentially a new clientele.
Stadium Food Redux
There are baseball purists and longtime fans of the game that romantically stick to a hot dog at the ballpark, with the cliché peanuts and Cracker Jacks thrown into the mix “because it’s in the song.” Something about that feels good and nostalgic, but times have changed at the ballpark.
There is so much happening at the ballpark, there are people that attend for the overall entertainment experience, and hey, if the home team wins, great. Petco Park in San Diego is a great example of a major league ballpark that offers so many options, one could realistically attend a game without actually seeing one pitch and leave completely satisfied. The list of activities and things to do within the ballpark is getting longer, and the dining within stadiums is following suit. Petco Park has seen a lot of success in showcasing local flavors. A trip to San Diego to cheer on another team now allows visitors to indulge in the flavors that are putting San Diego on the craft beer and culinary map. Locals see the options at the ballpark as a way to have some familiar favorites while enjoying the game. Every which way, teaming up a successful local restaurant with a ballpark is a win.
The range in cuisine at a ballpark like Petco Park is vast. The aforementioned “ballpark” snacks are still available, but so are some fine dining and local restaurant options. San Diego’s proximity to Mexico contributes greatly to flavors found in San Diego, so an assortment of Mexican food establishments are scattered throughout the park. A kitschy, Mexican wrestling-inspired local taco shop, appropriately named Lucha Libre Taco Shop has set up a third, seasonal location within the confines of Petco Park.
Pizza Port, a local favorite known for their pizza and surf-community, casual concept is another local business enjoying success in Petco Park. Pizza Port is known beyond the city for their beer, and attendees are fortunate to have the option to indulge in one of their delicious brews during the game. Pizza Port offers a few of their popular brews and then ups the ante by offering a Petco exclusive, Petco Park Ale. A smart business move for a concept with a following, as guests love exclusivity. A local fan is now justified in spending more for a single beer than they would had they gone to the restaurant.
Hodad’s is another local, beach community success story that has gotten love from a variety of travelling food shows and articles on food not to miss in San Diego. It is only appropriate that their messy “run down your arm” burgers can now be found at the ballpark. While on the subject of messy ballpark food, barbecue is covered at Petco with local favorite Phil’s BBQ. Phil’s is busy enough to include a webcam that streams the current line status on their website. The Petco Park location now allows locals to share their beloved “El Toro” and “BBQ Broham” sandwiches with opposing fans and guests visiting San Diego that may not budget the time to go wait in line at a local, fast casual rib joint. More exposure for Phil’s BBQ, and plenty more sales with a kiosk in the outdoor “Park at Petco Park” and another location inside with expanded menu items and seating.
Beverages from the San Diego area are well represented at Petco Park as well. Beer is an obvious one, and while prices of a beer at the ballpark are expected to be high, the flavor and higher ABV of local craft beer helps justify the sticker shock. Local brewers like Stone Brewing, Ballast Point, Mike Hess, and Monkey Paw are just a few on a decent list of local brews that can be found in the stadium. The potential for attracting guests with a discerning palate when it comes to beer increases, as does exposure to beer nerds visiting the city and taking in a game. Ryan Bros Coffee offers their locally roasted brew at a couple locations throughout the stadium as well. Craft coffee business is on the rise, so a partnership between Petco and Ryan Bros seems like a natural fit since they are less than two miles apart.
Thrillist lists Petco Park in San Diego as number four in their ranking of Major League Baseball stadium food and beverages. The examples of quality and options provide guests with enough options to buy season tickets and not burn out on the food options. Many are local favorites, so pleasing everyone in a group is easy to do. Offering standard ballpark fare is not gone, the options are simply expanded. Stadiums are becoming a “Best Of” destination of sorts when it comes to food and beverage, and operators not considering the exposure that could take place need to consider the stadium expansion. Baseball season only last so long, and a stadium is a complex place with an insane amount of logistics to consider, but the reach to a wide demographic make the investment and time well worth it.