If you’re headed to Wrigley Field, you may be tempted to fill up on cotton candy, hot dogs or a “cap full of nachos” while you’re there. Why not? It’s a great Cubs tradition. However, if you are willing to eat before or after the game instead (or in addition), then you can discover the many dining alternatives within walking distance of the ballpark.
There’s nothing better than to meet a group of friends and to take a leisurely hour or two before a weekend game to soak up some sun and eat a casual brunch. One of my favorite places to do this is Uncommon Ground (3800 N. Clark Street). The restaurant has grown past a coffee house vibe to become a hip restaurant known for serving sustainable cuisine in a classy setting. For breakfast, I’m a particular fan of their seasonal yogurt topped with fresh fruit and a “312 lunchbox”, a drink made with Goose Island’s 312, a shot of Amaretto and orange juice. This restaurant also has an exceptionally good dinner service, so you can head back after the game for a meal, too.
If you like getting elbow-to-elbow with Cubs fans, you might try your luck at Vines on Clark (3554 N.Clark Street). Their enclosed patio is a nice place to hang out but go early on game day if you need space for a group. They have a breakfast menu, though a better bet is either the BBQ chicken or artichoke & goat cheese pizza, or an order of white bean hummus with pita and veggies. If you swing by on off-days, you’ll find they run numerous drink specials.
For an early dinner before the game, consider Socca (3301 N. Clark Street). Socca has a white table cloth image, but it’s really a cozy, neighborhood restaurant that serves excellent pasta, red-wine glazed steaks, and a tasty selection of flatbreads. Try the pomme frites — they come paired with a delicious peppered truffle sauce, or the funghi pizzette topped with fennel sausage and gorgonzola. The wine selection here is solid and decently priced.
If you plan to stay a little later in the neighborhood, then Rockit Bar and Grill (3700 N Clark Street) is a good choice for comfort food. For me, the highlight of their burger menu is the Lobster Burger, a patty of lobster meat topped with avocado and served with a mound of sweet potato fries. However, I have friends who swear by the Blank Angus Burger. Whichever sandwich we get though, everyone agrees the mac and cheese at Rockit makes the trip worthwhile.
Whether it’s brunch, lunch, dinner or a snack, there are plenty of complements to the ballpark menu. But if your appetite can only handle Wrigley Field, then kick back and watch the game with a hot dog and an Old Style because locals do that, too.