Spring Training is one of the most popular activities in Southwest Florida and fans of baseball love the friendly greetings that they get at Hammond Stadium, where the Minnesota Twins play. The stadium has a fun Beer Garden and has recently undergone some renovations. And while the food options are appropriate for a ballpark, you may want something more substantial either before or after the game.
Sitting just off of the busy Daniels Parkway, Hammond Stadium is reasonably close to almost any kind of atmosphere and/or cuisine you might be craving.
In fact you can see a strip mall just past the outfield, where you’ll find the popular local sports bar, Pott’s. If you want to watch more sporting events on TV and get enjoyable bar food, this is a great place to land.
It is always possible you’ve had enough of the sports scene and are looking for a place with a little more sophistication, but also a spot where your casual attire will be welcomed. Head to The Bell Tower Shops where you will find lots of dining, including Cru and DaRuMa where gourmet cuisine is served.
These 10Best options are within a five to ten minute drive from Hammond Stadium. Once you clear the parking lot, head back towards Daniels Parkway. All of the options listed, with the exception of Fancy's, will be in a westerly direction.
Patinella's Chicken Grill
Patinella's is a no frills rice bowl place that also serves good gyros. In fact, you can create your own, beginning with the traditional Greek, a Chicken Caesar or even BBQ. The rice bowls here are inspired by almost every type of cuisine; Mexican, Italian, Greek, Brazilian and Southern. They are quite large and come with lots of different toppings and sauces. Patinella's also has a good selection of soups, salads and sides. One not to miss is the balsamic cucumbers and tomatoes. The food is fresh, the service is fast and best of all, it's only five minutes from the field. ((239) 337-2333)
Pott's Sports Cafe
Pott's is a classic hole-in-the-wall sports bar and a long time favorite for locals to both watch sporting events and also gather before or after the Twin's games. This is the closest bar to the stadium, located in the corner of a strip mall that you can see just past the outfield. There is a decent sized patio in the back with TV's so you keep up on the action. Popular menu items in this sports bar are the wings, burgers, fried fish baskets and the cheeseburger wrap with bacon. You'll find a good value here on both the food and the beer. There is nothing high end about the place but you will almost always have a good time here. ((239) 768-5500)
European American Baking Company
Just the smell of European American Baking Company will make you ravenous; fresh baked breads and sweets, made from scratch everyday. This breakfast and lunch spot, three miles from the stadium, is a great choice for gourmet goods before the game. Breakfast specialties include flavorful frittatas, omelets, quiches and sandwiches. Vegetarian options and healthful salads also provide a good base before consuming your favorite ballpark junk food. It's not all about breakfast here, as there are homemade soups, wraps and freshly made panini's. It would be a shame if you didn't save room for some of the beautiful pastries and other sweet treats. There is a bit of Old World Charm in this cafe just off of Daniels Parkway on Metro, a street that is otherwise home to mostly industrial businesses. (239-225-0450)
The Shrimp Shack serves much more than shrimp. Besides oysters, crabs, fish, calamari and clams, you can also find pork, chicken and steak. This locally owned restaurant gets rave reviews on its New England style seafood, including the chowder. You'll also find a large selection of local seafood on the menu and all at affordable prices. If you like baskets and combos, you'll love the selection here. The atmosphere is casual and the service is welcoming, especially to families. Pack your child's straight A report card and be rewarded with a free meal! If you didn't save room for the homemade desserts, get a slice to go. Find the Shrimp Shack about three miles from the stadium on Metro Parkway. ((239) 561-6817)
Fancy's Southern Cafe
Sometimes in Florida, it can be easy to forget you're even in the South. A trip to Fancy's Southern Cafe will most certainly remind you. "Southern Sophistication" is the name of the game at Fancy's. Its rustic decor cleverly uses old doors, windows and more. But it's the authentic Southern cuisine that people really come for. Entrees include comfort-food favorites like pot roast, shrimp and grits, and their signature Chicken-n-Waffles, while the appetizers cover classics like fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs and frog legs. Even the traditional salad gets a Southern twist with the addition of "grit croutons." The large portions ensure you'll leave with a full belly, while the warm feeling of a home-cooked meal will ensure your return. (239-561-2988)
DaRuMa is a more sophisticated spot for dining after the game but perfect for large parties who want the classic entertainment found at hibachi tables. And during Spring Training, casual dress is almost always acceptable. The chefs at DaRuMa are entertaining, making your experience more of a celebration than just an observation of cooking. Though the main emphasis would seem to be the classic hibachi dishes, unlike other similar restaurants, DaRuMa gets sushi and it is just as outstanding as the rest of the food served here. There is a sushi lounge and a good sized bar where you can watch the masters skillfully slice and roll a myriad of ingredients, creating fresh rolls that are almost too pretty to eat. By the way, they taste as good as they look. (239-344-0037)
This restaurant is just minutes from Hammond Stadium, situated in the corner of a strip mall that sits far enough off of the main road (Daniels Parkway) to make you strain a bit to see. Formerly in Bonita Springs, Thai Star moved to Fort Myers in 2013 and has been extremely well received by local residents. The menu contains everything from basil frogs legs and duck, to thai curries and sautés, to noodle and rice dishes. Patrons rave about the mango sticky rice for desserts. The space is small but there are a few tables outdoors, along the side entrance and the welcome here is always friendly. (239-208-4057)
Nino's Restaurant and Pizzeria
Some of the best homestyle Italian cooking can be found at Nino's, with portions big enough to take back to your room for later. Owner Graziano Buccini has been dishing out his hot pastas, pizzas and other specialties in Fort Myers for more than twenty years. Open for both lunch and dinner, you'll find that an extremely satisfying lunch special will easily cost you under ten dollars. The pizza is thin crust, the pasta comes in everything from a basic garlic and olive oil drizzle, to capellini with chicken in an artichoke, tomato, basil, cream sauce. Nino's also has a full bar to accompany the no nonsense, good Italian food. (239-768-5376)
Even though Cru is one of the places to see and be seen in Fort Myers, it does have a casual side. It's really a three-in-one spot with a classy dining room, a hip inside bar with house music and a laid back outdoor space with bar tenders playing everything from classic rock to reggae. From the Twins stadium, a five-minute drive west on Daniels Parkway, you'll find Cru at the popular Bell Tower Shops. Over the years, this has been another local spot frequented by the players looking for great food and a cool vibe. The service is first class and so is the food with selections such as truffled short ribs, grilled venison, seared black bass and their famous spicy crab rolls. Skip the hamburger at the ballpark and try Cru's pressed cheeseburger with truffle fries. ((239) 466-3663)
Football Hall of Famer Leroy Selmon loved to eat southern cookin' with a dose of soul. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer also loved sports so he combined those passions, opening his first restaurant in 2000. The Fort Myers location is one of eight in the state, an upscale sports bar where you can see a TV from any seat in the house. The restaurant and bar also serve some of the best comfort food in the area. The back country nachos are a favorite, made with pulled pork and topped with okra instead of jalapenos. Diner's also rave about the homemade fried chicken, meatloaf, ribs and some of the best wings in town. Leroy Selmon's is on Daniels Parkway, about five minutes west of Hammond Stadium. (239-690-EATS (3287))
About Gina Birch
Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for 22 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality.
Besides brandishing a microphone, Gina is good with a camera and computer, publishing a restaurant guide for Lee County called FLAVOR.
Gina is a self-proclaimed Oenophile, traveling to wine regions all over the world to sip what she calls "the nectar of the Gods." When not in the vineyards she loves to explore beautiful beaches and new restaurants.
You can find more of her musings in her blog "The Birch Beat" (www.thebirchbeat.blogspot.com)
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