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G-Braves stadium gives exclusive club an 'upscale' upgrade

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. The Home Plate Club serves The Knucksie sandwich with barbecue pork, onions, coleslaw and two kinds of barbecue sauce on a toasted corn muffin. Also served are smokey tacos with barbecue pork, peach salsa and chipotle barbecue sauce. The exclusive Home Plate Club at Coolray Field was renovated from a high-top table, pre-game hangout to a more welcoming dinner-type atmosphere.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. The Home Plate Club serves The Knucksie sandwich with barbecue pork, onions, coleslaw and two kinds of barbecue sauce on a toasted corn muffin. Also served are smokey tacos with barbecue pork, peach salsa and chipotle barbecue sauce. The exclusive Home Plate Club at Coolray Field was renovated from a high-top table, pre-game hangout to a more welcoming dinner-type atmosphere.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Enjoying a baseball game, for many, is equal parts game, weather and food. And really, the game is just an excuse to indulge in food and drink often prohibited on a normal day.

Those options abound at Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves.

But with certified chef Blake Stembridge on its staff, the options go beyond light beer, big hot dogs and cheese-soaked nachos.

If You Eat

• What: Gwinnett Braves’ Home Plate Club

• Where: Coolray Field

• When: Gwinnett Braves home games

• Cost: $35 per ticket

The most noted of the options is The Knucksie, the corn muffin covered in two different barbecue sauces, pork barbecue, sweet pickled chips and coleslaw.

But this year, Chef Blake, as he is known, and the G-Braves expanded the options beyond the indulgent barbecue dish and capped the new menu with an upgraded environment fit more for a meal than the typical scarf-it-down, wash-it-down, hold-it-in-your-lap style of most game-day fare.

“We were trying to make it more of a private club feel,” Stembridge said.

In one of the many, and most drastic, changes put in place over the winter by the Gwinnett Braves, the exclusive Home Plate Club was renovated from a high-top table, pre-game hang out to a more welcoming dinner-type atmosphere. To access the club people must have tickets in the Home Plate Club. Individual tickets cost $35.

The organization darkened the windows and dimmed the lights. They added long booths, deep cushioned seats and low four-top tables. There are more HD flat screen TVs and some baseball art on the walls. There are even game-used bases hanging on the walls.

It now feels more like a sports lounge rather than a room with a bar designed to kill time before first pitch.

“They can (eat) before the game or come in when it gets hot and eat and still watch the game,” Stembridge said.

The game airs, closed-circuit, on the televisions.

There are complimentary hot dogs and small fruit and cheese platters, a full bar and table service for those who want a sit-down meal.

And there’s the food.

The Knucksie’s praise began with the opening of Coolray Field two seasons ago, but the idea of the new Home Plate Club was to move beyond its signature sandwich.

Now included on the menu are tacos, with two barbecue sauces, peach salsa, cilantro and sour cream. There are two burgers, the Blazin’ Cajun and Braves. The cajun burger is topped with pepper jack cheese, jalapeno peppers and spicy mayo and the Braves’ burger comes with cheddar cheese, onion rings, barbecue sauce and bacon. They also have four different types of chicken wings, a barbecue drenched salad, a chili cheese hot dog and Buffalo-style potato skins. Always the family environment, there is a kids meal of a hot dog, chips and a small drink. Along with the full bar, there are bottle and draft beer options, wine, bottled water and soft drinks.

“(The fans) wanted it to be different (food) than the rest of the ballpark,” Stembridge said. “We still have the ballpark feel, just made it somewhat more upscale.”