By Drew Olson Special to Published Oct 04, 2007 at 5:34 AM

It might be the most exclusive dining spot in Milwaukee. It's only open six months a year, and a couple weeks per month at that. No reservations are taken, but you need to know the doorman, or show a special pass, just to get through the door.

Once inside, you can eat and drink as much as you want -- at a cost of just $8 - while rubbing elbows with local and national celebrities like Bob Uecker, Vin Scully, Chris Berman, Don Sutton, Bill Schroeder, Brian Anderson, Jim Powell, Pete Vuckovich, Ron Santo, Joe Buck, Matt Vasgersian and others.

Where is this place?

The press dining room at Miller Park.

From April through September, it becomes a "home away from home" for writers, broadcasters, radio reporters, TV personnel, scouts and club employees from every facet of the organization, from the grounds crew to the scoreboard.

"It really is like eating dinner with a substitute family," said Tyler Barnes, the Brewers vice president of communications. "It's sort of a warped home environment, in a way, but it's like a second family.

"It's a nice, social time where we all get to unwind a little bit before the game. You try to create a pleasant atmosphere and food is a part of that."

Tom Olson of Sports Service, the company that manages concessions at the ballpark, plans the menu. Selections vary daily and can range from turkey and the fixings, pasta, tilapia, a traditional Friday fish fry, chicken cordon bleu and other entrees, along with soup, salad, hot dogs and brats, nachos and a sundae bar. The food is served cafeteria style and the tables seat up four to eight people.

"When you think about the people who work in baseball, they're at the ballpark almost every day and that is their dinner," Barnes said. "It's their dinner for the entire summer. We're substituting for their families. So, you like to have some creativity behind it besides just serving hot dogs and pizza every night."

Tom Haudricourt, longtime baseball writer for the Journal Sentinel, has been eating in press rooms for the past 25 years and says the food at Miller Park is vastly better than the offering at County Stadium, which one wag called "the stuff prison riots are made of."

Haudricourt said the food at Miller Park is one of the better stops in the major leagues.

"It's definitely in the top five," Haudricourt said. "A lot of places are cutting back on it. Some of the newer ballparks are good initially, but then they let the quality slide. Here, we got off to a rough start the first year and it's amazing how good it has been since then.

"We're not asking for a four-star, four-course dinner served on fine china. But, it's nice to have something that's a little more than just hot dogs or sandwiches, especially when you're paying for it and you don't have a lot of other options."

Adam McCalvy, who covers the Brewers for, agreed. "Miller Park is one of the best dining rooms in the league," he said. "Guys give me a hard time because I'm usually pleased with anything, but it's really good here."

Before he began covering the Brewers, McCalvy worked as an intern for the Bucks, whose pre-game press meal at the Bradley Center -- which is offered free of charge -- is regarded as one of the best spreads in all of sports. It's not uncommon to see a chef carving beef or turkey in the Bradley Center pressroom, which is noted for outstanding soups and fresh baked desserts. The Packers' pre-game buffet at Lambeau Field, is highly regarded by local and visiting media alike, also is served free.

"I'm surprised that some NBA teams don't charge for meals," Barnes said.  "A lot of NFL teams provide meals for free, but they only do 10 games a year and not 81. I think that's a big factor.

"We try to keep the cost reasonable, but it's not in any way a money-making proposition. It doesn't even come close.

Fans may wonder why teams feel the need to provide food service for reporters and employees. Generally, it's done as a courtesy. Many writers and broadcast employees arrive at the venue in the early afternoon for a night game and don't have time to leave the premises during the window between pre-game duties and in-game obligations.

"I'm sympathetic to the people out there who are traveling a lot," Barnes said. "I remember when I was doing a lot of traveling. We'd land at the airport someplace and, sad as it sounds, I'd be thinking to myself ‘I'm going to have some bad dinners here.'

"We try to make things as nice as we can and I think Tom Olson and the people in the dining room do a fantastic job. I'm the first to complain about lousy pressroom food, but I've been here for two years and the first day I walked in I knew we had something of a gem here.

"For me, the press room is a bridge between the business day and the baseball game. When you go in the pressroom, I think some of the best information is exchanged there. You hear a lot of great stories, most of them embellished and exaggerated.

"That's why I consider it like dining with my second family. It's a baseball family."

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.