I visited Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg over the weekend for the first time in two years, and I was curious to see if the Tampa Bay Rays made any changes to their gluten-free program.
For several years, the Rays had a dedicated gluten-free concession stand behind center field that offered hot dogs and beer, and a few other items. Yes, the buns were awful, like every other gluten-free hot dog bun, but it sure was nice to have a hot dog and a beer at a baseball game.
But they have changed the program. The gluten-free stand is now tucked away in a corner behind first base, which isn't really a big deal except that it's very easy to miss if you're not looking for it. At least it's a dedicated gluten-free stand (take note Jacksonville Jaguars).
The big problem is they no longer offer gluten-free beer. You can get Angry Orchard cider but as I keep telling people who tell me they have cider when I ask for gluten-free beer, it's not the same.
At least they still have hot dogs. Of course, the gluten-free hot dogs cost $9, compared with the $5 hot dogs at the regular stand, meaning they're charging $4 for those awful buns.
But back to the beer. I've told bar and restaurant managers and stadium concession people for years that there's no reason they can't have Redbridge beer in stock. Redbridge is made by Anheuser-Busch and every establishment in the U.S. that sells beer has a relationship with Anheuser-Busch, so they can easily get it from their distributor. You can keep a couple of cases of bottled beer around forever and eventually someone will order it and drink it, and then you can restock. There is no reason to not have at least Redbridge in stock for the gluten-free crowd.
On a brighter note, I also got a chance to visit a dedicated gluten-free cafe in St. Petersburg that is a couple of miles away from the ballpark.
It's called the Craft Kafe and it offers a wide range of baked goods, as well as sandwiches and salads. I had a blueberry muffin that was warm and delicious. I also ordered an ice tea which was freshly brewed and because of that, it took forever to make and wasn't worth it. Next time I'll probably just get a muffin to go.
Strangely enough, there is very little signage to indicate that everything is gluten free but the staff told me that yes, everything is gluten free. It's always nice to find a place where you can order whatever you want without worries.