When it's baseball time in Cubdom, the Wrigley bars stock up, raise prices and clear their tables to jam as many drinking fans as possible into their small stake of liquor-licensed real estate. Much as we appreciate the samplings of the neighborhood on game day, we're willing to walk a few extra blocks to find a bar with a little breathing room from our baseball-loving bar buddies. We sidestepped the main strip and snuck into a few of the best pre- and post-game spots.
This one, located four blocks south and one block west of the stadium, is a personal favorite, and not only because it helps me pay the bills. The official Michigan State tavern is a belly-up shot-and-beer spot with a classic Brunswick bar, an old-school beer cooler and a non-smoking policy. The crowd, a mix of older blue-collars to young professionals and everything else, intermingles without much attitude, and the menu is equally eclecticójambalaya, liverwurst and burgers fit for kings. Among the 30 bottled and four draft beers you'll find Guinness, Old Style and Labatt Blue Light.
Bar on Buena
Make a beeline north to the Lakeview/Uptown area for this Cubs fanatic-owned watering hole. Most days find the bar's retractable garage-shop windows open so that the not-quite-middle-age crowd can spill into the sidewalk seating for an outdoor beer garden. Watch the game on a pull-down screen projection TV and flat-screens above the bar and in every corner while noshing on bruschetta or the classic chicken wrap, stuffed with bacon, guac and pepper jack. The bar even matches its long drink listófrom Belgium Bock to a standard pintówith proper glasses for each type beer.
Lange's Lounge is the place that most Wrigleyville stereotypes have forgotten. The square bar, with the bartender boxed inside, offers plenty of stool space for older patrons and gruffer folks who aren't interested in hassling for a seat. It's smoky and dingy, the pool table is level and the Golden Tee works. Considering the hubbub of the rest of the Southport corridor, Lange's is an oasis of calm despite its proximity to Wrigley (just a few blocks west). Though a bit introverted at first, the crowd at Lange's warms up to newcomers in no time.
Cheap PBR ($2 bottles and cans), nearly 20 Irish whiskeys and a chilled Tuaca machine aren't the only attractions here, though they're certainly a good reason to hop off the L at Belmont instead of Addison. It's the bartenders, who scoff at anything Wrigleyville, that exemplify the L&L's true charm; big-time bar behavior won't be tolerated. Dark, smoky and scattered with a cluster of tables, the bar airs the games on one of two TVs. When the game isn't on, you can count on the jukebox, with selections ranging from Miles Davis to the Beastie Boys to Dusty Springfield, for extra entertainment.
Town Hall Pub
Located two blocks northwest of Addison and Sheffield, the hetero-friendly Town Hall Pub in the heart of Boystown offers a getaway from the Wrigley buzz. Belly up to the L-shaped bar for an exotic selection of inexpensive imports and domestics, like the Mendocino Red Tail Amber Ale for $3.50. Tap beers include Rogue Dead Guy Ale and $3-per-pint Sapporo, and pizza is available should your stomach start growling. On weekends the bar clusters its one row of small, circular tables to make room for bands on corner stage. Night games can be found on one of the four TVs. A Golden Tee and a packaged goods area in the front of the bar complete this low-key joint.