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Take Me Out to Eat Before the Ballgame

A fan can't survive on peanuts and Cracker Jack alone, so keep these Wrigleyville spots in mind for game day.
Saturday Apr 11, 2009.     By Matt Wood
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Another baseball season is upon us, and it couldn't come a second sooner. If you root for the North Side, you're no doubt looking to get out to as many Cubs games as possible. But a fan can't live on peanuts and Cracker Jack (or even ballpark nachos) alone. With that in mind, here are some places that go above and beyond the normal ballpark grub and Wrigleyville bar fare — and a few cheapie food options, so you'll have enough scratch left over for a $6 Old Style at the game.

Better than ballpark food:

Tapas at Twist
A touch of class mixed in with the dirty watering holes around Wrigley, Twist serves up the usual Spanish hot and cold small plates but takes it a step further with its international fusion dishes. Try the jalapeno gnocchi, or if you want something a little more substantial, go with the twisted paella, topped with chicken and seafood. A word of warning: The small dining space gets crowded and it doesn't take reservations, so plan ahead. But summertime brings additional seating in the patio out front, and you could do much worse than sipping sangria on a warm game night while you wait for a table — and a Cubs rally.

Smoked duck wings at Risque Cafe
The rest of the menu at this BBQ joint just south down Clark is nothing to write home about, but oh those wings. They're fall-off-the-bone succulent, and would contend for the title of "best duck wings in the city," if there were such a category. If you're going to the game with friends, skip the entrees and order a pound of wings for the table. Wash 'em down with one of Risque's nearly 200 microbrews from all around the country—including Eureka, California's Lost Coast 8-Ball Stout topped with ice cream for those sunny summer days—and you've got a pretty good start (or end) to your game day.

The Holy Cow! Burger Bar at Harry Caray's Tavern
The newest Harry Caray's locale, which took over the former Hi-Tops space, offers so many different takes on the standard patty, that you can build one grand slam of a sandwich. In addition to the traditional sirloin, you can order burgers made of Wagyu Beef (from Australia), lamb, turkey, venison, black beans or Tallgrass Beef. You get a multitude of choices and extras, like eight cheeses, ranging from goat to fresh mozzarella; a choice of preparations, including Cajun-style; Giardinera, sauteed mushrooms or fired onions; and five different buns. And the location on Sheffield means you're practically in the park when you're done. And if you want to get even closer, check out Harry Caray's offshoot patio bar/resto Captain Morgan Club, which is actually adjacent to the park.

On the cheap:

Free hot dog at Full Shilling
You can't get any cheaper than free, and that's how the Shilling attracts hordes of hungry penny-pinchers on game days. Stop by the sports bar just north of the park and get a free hot dog with a beer purchase an hour before or after the game. We know what you're thinking: They're probably the reject franks from last year's playoff run. But the dogs are surprisingly fresh and filling, and come with all the fixings. You could also do a lot worse than the $6 "big ass" 24-ounce cans of Bud, Miller and PBR.

Burger and fries for $6 at Merkle's Bar and Grill
Stop in to this Clark Street favorite just south of the park before or during any Cubs game and get a half-pound burger and order of fries for just $6.

Tortas at El Burrito Mexicano
If you've been heading west every time you exit the Addison Red Line stop, you've been missing out. Just east of the station (and the ballpark) is this quaint little burrito joint—the only one in the area, really— that pumps out cheap and tasty Mexican food to those in the know. Watch your food made right in front of you, or wait for it outside (it can get kinda sweaty inside). The burritos are good, but the $3.99 tortas (basically a burrito in sandwich form) are even better.

More of a White Sox fan? Check out these great places to watch the South Siders battle all season.


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