Spring training fans headed to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches may work up an appetite watching the Houston Astros take on the Washington Nationals at the brand-new stadium on opening day, Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Where to take that appetite near the ballpark? It depends on how you define “near.”
Unlike the area around Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter’s Abacoa district, which offers a diverse cluster of restaurants within walking distance, the $150 million ballpark complex on Military Trail and 45th Street sits amid housing developments and a strip plaza where food options are scarce.
That’s not to say fans are entirely out of options. First, the ballpark itself will offer a decent range of traditional stadium fare and more select items in the suites and party decks.
As for outside the ballpark – the spring training home of the two opening day teams – fans may have to adjust their expectations, explore a bit and prepare to drive.
QUICK AND CLOSE
Romeo’s Pizza Kitchen
The best quick slice of pizza you’ll find near the stadium is baked at Romeo’s Pizza Kitchen, a modest, mom-and-pop spot tucked into the Foodtown plaza, directly to the north of the ballpark. Each generously portioned pizza slice has a thin, crispy crust and an oozy cheese topping. At lunch, two slices and a drink cost $4.75.
During the lunch rush on a recent day, a departing customer stopped by the counter to offer his review of the place: “Your pizza is really good,” he told owner Lisa Stefan.
A Romanian woman married to an Italian, Stefan was taken aback when we asked if she was ready for the ballpark crowds. She thought about it for a minute and replied: “Yes. Good! This could be very good!”
There’s more than thin-crust pizza here – there’s ultra-thin, thick and Sicilian-crusted pizza as well. There’s Stromboli, calzone, soup, salads, pasta, meats and appetizers.
Romeo’s Pizza Kitchen: 5335 N. Military Tr., West Palm Beach; 561-688-9799
Luckily for the restaurant-challenged ballpark area, there’s a place called Foodtown within walking distance. It’s a supermarket where the shelves, bins and coolers are stocked with global mainstays and delicacies. But hungry park-goers can skip the aisle browsing and head straight to the cafeteria located within the market. There’s a long buffet line offering hot Jamaican dishes, including oxtail, curry goat, brown stew fish, callaloo, jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish. Expect no broccoli-cheese soup on the “soup of the day” menu. Instead, Thursday belongs to cow foot soup, Saturday to goat head soup, Wednesday to red peas, with chicken, beef and fish soups on rotation on other days. Prices range from $3.99 for a small soup to $9.99 for oxtail.
Enjoy your meal without leaving the market – there’s a cluster of dining tables next to the cafeteria line. It’s not fancy and it’s often packed, but it hits the spot.
Foodtown: 5335 N. Military Tr. (South Wind Plaza); West Palm Beach; 561-242-1100
Community Drive hub
As you drive south on Military Trail from the ballpark, options pick up when you reach Community Drive. At the Crosstown Plaza, the plaza anchored by Publix, there’s a good full-service restaurant for Vietnamese noodle soups, a bubble tea shop selling Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, plus a take-out Chinese shop. At the very next plaza to the south, a busy Colombian sports bar awaits with a diverse menu.
Pho 16: This simple, family-owned restaurant offers a variety of long-simmered Vietnamese pho that’s served with all the fresh, crunchy accoutrements. You’ll also find appetizers and noodle bowls.
Pho 16: 2905 N. Military Tr., Suite E, West Palm Beach; 561-471-0991
Art of Boba: The family behind Pho 16 opened this bubble tea (boba) shop in the same plaza last year. Customize your sweet, chilly Taiwanese-style tea or choose from the menu’s diverse offerings. (Try the mauve-toned Cocotaro Milk Tea for a coconut-rich flavor.) Hungry? Try any of the Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. Or drink a smashed avocado in the form of an Avocado Avalanche smoothie.
Art of Boba: 2905 N. Military Tr., Suite H, West Palm Beach; 561-557-2996
La Fonda Restaurante Sports Bar: This spacious sports bar is popular with soccer fans as well as with lunchtime crowds seeking a quick yet hearty lunch. Get a good sampling of the menu in the highly shareable “picada,” an appetizer platter laden with beef, chicken, pork, corn arepas, fries, fried pork rind, fried plantain and grilled sausages ($21.99 for two). There’s also a selection of daily soups, including chicken stew and tripe soup on Saturdays and oxtail stew and tripe soup on Sundays. The “Fast Food” portion of the menu is perfect for those in a hurry. It lists loaded Colombian burgers and hot dogs, arepas and an enormous fried green plantain topped with meats and special sauce. At night, the place often morphs into a Colombian dance club.
La Fonda: 2845 N. Military Tr., West Palm Beach; 561-841-6056
In the heart of the Villages of Palm Beach Lakes residential communities, dining options are varied. Anchoring that hub at the Village Commons Plaza is Duffy’s Sports Grill (which, by the way, is sponsoring the ballpark’s ceremonial first pitches), serving American pub fare with its trademark efficient service at 721 Village Blvd.; 561-688-1820. That Village Boulevard plaza also houses the newly opened Aroma Indian Cuisine (which offers a daily lunch buffet), Amici Brick Oven Pizza, Toreros Mexican restaurant, C.R. Chicks rotisserie chicken eatery, Panera Bread, Cold Stone Creamery, Jersey Mike’s Subs and Yum Yum Express Chinese takeout. Just across the street, there’s Renegades, a country-themed restaurant serving comfort dishes.
Find the hub: Drive south on Military Trail to Community Drive, turn left and continue to Village Boulevard, turn right and travel a half-mile to the Village Commons plaza (on your right).
Palm Beach Outlets hub
West Palm Beach’s liveliest shopping district, located near the Villages hub, offers decent dining and browsing options. For pub grub and loaded burgers, try BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse (which pours its own microbrews) or Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. For quickie Asian fare, there’s Pei Wei. Breakfast and deli options are available at TooJay’s Gourmet Deli and First Watch. Build your own pizza at Cucina Pizza by Design. Or venture into the Whole Foods Market at the mall’s western strip plaza – there’s a buffet line of prepared foods as well as a sandwich shop, a beer and grilled cheese bar, a crepe station and a juice bar. Plus plenty of seating for in-store dining.
Find the hub: Take 45th Street eastbound to Village Boulevard (or to I-95 South), turn right and wind through the Villages. Turn left at Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. The mall complex is just past the I-95 overpass, on your left.
Noteworthy chain restaurants near the ballpark:
Pollo Tropical, 3085 45th St., West Palm Beach
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, 2411 Metrocentre Blvd. (off 45th Street), West Palm Beach