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Wrigleyville in winter: Hot places to visit on game day

by Noah Liberman
CHICAGO -- North Siders assume everyone has been to Wrigleyville, but if you're coming to the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 from Detroit -- or another NHL city, or just from suburban Blue Island or Glen Ellyn -- it's going to seem a little foreign.

So here's a quick guide to Wrigleyville's hot spots, wintertime version. Actually, they're not all hot. Some are cool, some are quaint, some aren't even in Wrigleyville, but they're close enough to reach in a few minutes by foot, cab or train. The point is, if you want to do more than watch a historic hockey game, start here.


Yak-Zies, 3710 N. Clark St. -- A stone's throw north of the rink on Clark, Yak-Zies lives to serve drinks to sports fans and young people on the prowl. Top-rated Chicago rock station WXRT makes it the headquarters of its annual Cubs Opening Day broadcast, so you can't doubt this place's sports bona fides.

Murphy's Bleachers, 3655 North Sheffield Ave. -- Along with Yak-Zies and Cubby Bear, Murphy's is at the epicenter of the Wrigley Field sports bar scene. Right outside the center field wall Murphy's serves great, messy hamburgers and it's made the news in recent years for leading the sometimes-contentious battle for the rights of rooftop entrepreneurs against the Tribune Company.

Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison St. -- Big, loud, blaring. This spot is right across the street from the Wrigley Field marquee, and it'll be jam-packed on New Year's Day. What it lacks in subtlety it makes up in proximity.


Underground Lounge, 952 W. Newport Ave. -- A Wrigleyville stalwart with years and years of history and a good vibe -- all underground, if you prefer your beer under a black-painted ceiling. Underground Lounge often has excellent music, and back in the early '90s it featured a performance artist with half a mustache. No tunes this year on New Year's Day, just a hip, young crowd and a range of drinks from cheap to fancy.

L&L Lounge, 3207 N. Clark St. -- If you're the shot-and-a-beer type, follow Clark Street a quarter-mile south of Wrigley Field to the L&L Tavern. The owner used to be justifiably proud that he was the only purveyor of Pabst in the city. He's not any longer, but you still can get it for $2 a bottle, and that trumps exclusivity any day.

Guthrie's Tavern, 1300 W. Addison St. -- Another well-loved neighborhood spot, Guthrie's has free pretzels and Dijon mustard for dipping, and board games to settle in with. It'd be a nice place to hit early in the day if you're heading east to the game along Addison.


Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway Ave. -- Arguably the most famous bar in the city -- well, after the Billy Goat downtown -- Green Mill is a true jazz club that was a favorite hangout of Al Capone. It is a few stops north of Wrigley Field on the Red Line train, a few steps west of the Lawrence Avenue stop. There's a 16-piece swing band playing the night of the game -- just right for uptown tastes.

B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N Halsted St. -- Chicago and its environs have dozens of blues clubs, and if you want to cap off an unconventional hockey day with some classic Chicago blues, head a mile south of Wrigley Field on Halsted to B.L.U.E.S., the closest blues club to the stadium.


Uncommon Ground, 3800 N. Clark St.
-- Less than a quarter-mile north of Wrigley Field on Clark Street, Uncommon Ground harks back to the North Side's roots as a singer-songwriter haven. Today Uncommon Ground serves food and all kinds of music -- on New Year's Day evening it will be a fine electric jazz guitarist -- but it's still thought of as one of Wrigleyville's revered coffee houses.

J. Meinl, 3600 N. Southport Ave. -- If Starbucks is too charred and 7-Eleven tastes too much like truck-stop brew, but you still want your coffee from a franchise, hit J. Meinl going to or from the game, about a quarter-mile west of Wrigley Field on Addison. It's good coffee. J. Meinl is an Austrian company, so while you're there, ask the counterperson if he or she knows which country Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek hails from. If you get more than a blank look, consider yourself a winner.

Beans & Bagels, 1812 W. Montrose Ave. -- Right below the Montrose stop on the Brown train line (about 10 minutes from Wrigley Field) is a homegrown, sincere coffee shop that's worth hitting if you're staying with friends north of the park. Excellent coffee, light food and a no-frills atmosphere.


Salt & Pepper Diner, 3537 Clark St. -- About five doors south of Wrigley Field on Clark Street, Salt & Pepper serves what one reviewer calls "damn good cheap food." This is a true diner, with big helpings and seasoned staff, and because they're so close to the field, they're used to boisterous behavior.

Diner Grill, 1635 W. Irving Road -- Can't beat the name. About 10 minutes north and west of Wrigley Field, this, um, diner-grill is in a whitewashed old train car. It's open 24 hours a day, and it's seen more than its share of post-game revelers wending their way northwest from Wrigley. If you're really hungry, order the Slinger -- hash browns, grilled onions, two cheeseburger patties and two eggs over easy covered in chili. Octopus is not on the menu, though.

Ann Sather, 909 W. Belmont Ave. -- If you're coming to Wrigley Field from the south on the Red Line, get off one stop early -- at Belmont -- and walk a few doors east to this Chicago fixture. Known for better-than-average eggs, coffee and pancakes, Ann Sather's (as Chicagoans call it) is best known for its warm, gooey breakfast rolls. If you're running late for the game, just stop in and buy a box of these -- they'll keep you warm through three periods. 


Giordano's Pizza, 1040 W. Belmont Ave. -- One Red Line stop south of Wrigley Field (and a few blocks west of Ann Sather's, for those of you who like to double-up on meals), Giordano's is part of a Chicago chain that's been in business for 35 years. Simply put, if you want Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, you'll get it here.

Matsuya Restaurant, 3469 N. Clark St. -- If you want to add a little sophistication after the game -- but not too much -- consider Matsuya, an unpretentious, family-run Japanese spot a couple blocks south of the field on Clark. Chicagoans who know their Japanese food say Matsuya is more authentic than the more expensive places downtown. Opens at 5 p.m.


Belmont Army Surplus, 855 W. Belmont Ave. -- About a block east of the Belmont Red Line stop, this Chicago fixture devotes only some of its space to army-surplus gear, but the rest is full of boots, coats, clothing and other stuff that pleases punks, goths, skateboarders and city hipsters of all kinds. If you're looking for something suitable for a hard-hitting outdoor hockey game, this is your place. Please note -- it's not open on New Year's Day, but opens at 11 a.m. on Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.


Chicago Brauhaus, 4732 N. Lincoln Ave.
-- Fifteen minutes northwest of Wrigleyville by train (take the Brown Line to the Western stop) or cab is Lincoln Square, a neighborhood that used to be sleepy, quiet and full of German folk. Now it's gentrified and full of hip young people, hip young families -- and some enduring German places to eat and drink. The Chicago Brauhaus isn't open New Year's Day, but if you're in town before or after, hit this roomy, windowless and slightly wacky authentic brauhaus for lunch, dinner, drinks and -- if you're lucky -- oompah music.
Carola's Hansa Clipper and Huettenbar, 4659 and 4721 N. Lincoln, respectively
-- We put these two joints together because if you hit one, you might as well hit the other --two German bars that have transitioned from little watering holes to popular spots for people of all ages and backgrounds. There's cheaper beer to be had on Lincoln Square -- such as at Ricochets across the street, at 4644 N. Lincoln -- but the Hansa Clipper and Huettenbar have great German brews and a friendly, bustling vibe.

Noah Liberman is a Chicago-based writer and author of "Glove Affairs The Romance, History and Tradition of the Baseball Glove" (Triumph).


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