An Out-of-the-Ballpark Trip to Wrigleyville
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The new Wrigleyville
$19 Kobe burgers? Trendy clothing stores? Today's Wrigleyville rewards visitors with a lot more than T-shirt shops and sports bars. Click ahead to find out how why you should visit this North Side neighborhood -- whether or not you're a sports fan.
A blend of then and now
Parts of the old Wrigleyville still thrive today. You can settle on a wooden picnic bench at Murphy's Bleachers, a no-frills bar a few feet from Wrigley Field's outfield bleachers, and wander past beautiful brownstone homes on leafy, tree-lined streets.
But Clark Street now also teems with big, sleek bars and restaurants, many offering high-end twists on ethnic foods. You'll find shiny dark wood and plasma TVs, attracting fans who just spent several hundred dollars to go to a baseball game (and to watch a team that, unfortunately, hasn't won a World Series in 102 years).
And there's more. The area's shops and entertainment appeal to a wide variety of visitors: cinephiles who croon along with the movies at the Music Box Theater; kids in Goth- and punk-style clothes lining up for concerts at the Metro; power moms pushing strollers into Krista K Maternity + Baby, one of dozens of independent specialty clothing boutiques along Southport.
Pictured: Bins and displays of colorful, classic candies tempt shoppers at Candyality.
Wrigleyville's cleanup and redevelopment took place over many years, but Tom Tunney, a Chicago alderman and local restaurant owner, says the transformation really kicked into high gear in 2003. That year, the Cubs made it to the division playoffs and began opening Wrigley Field to concerts by Elton John, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffett and the Police.
But with new restaurants, new shops and an overall fresh look, one thing hasn't changed over the years: This is still the only residential neighborhood in the Midwest that just happens to have a major-league ballpark in the middle of it. And whether you're in the mood to cheer on the team or linger over slow food, you'll feel at home here.
Click to our next slides for our suggestions on entertainment, shopping, restaurants and lodging in Wrigleyville.
Pictured: One of the signature dishes at Uncommon Ground on Clark is the sweet-potato fries served with goat cheese fondue.
For sports fans
Cubs tickets Cubs games often sell out before the season starts, though you do still have a shot at some May and September games. If you don't snatch up tickets when they go on sale in February, you'll have to buy them at marked-up prices from brokers. Stop at the Wrigley Field box office, 1060 W. Addison St., at 9 a.m. on weekend game days (8 a.m. on weekdays) to see if they have any recently released tickets (773/404-2827; cubs.com). If you're lucky enough to get them, you'll pay face value (from $27). Otherwise, head to Stubhub.com, a Major League Baseball-sanctioned site that season-ticket holders use to sell their seats. For rooftop seats, try Wrigleyville Rooftops (773/842-5387; wrigleyrooftops.com).
Wrigley Field Tours Guided tours of the historic ballpark, built in 1914, take visitors to the Cubs clubhouse, visitor's clubhouse, dugouts, on-deck circles, press box, mezzanine suites and other locations (773/404-2827; cubs.com).
Beyond sports in Wrigleyville
IO Teams of comics at the former Improv Olympic get members of the audience involved in nightly shows. Admission charged (773/880-0199; ioimprov.com).
The Metro Since 1982, music lovers have lined up here, two blocks north of Wrigley on Clark Street, to hear live music. Among lesser-known bands, you might catch mainstream acts such as the Fray, Fall Out Boy, Plain White Ts or Coldplay. Admission charged (773/549-0203; metrochicago.com).
Music Box Theatre The 1929 Music Box Theatre (left) screens mostly independent and art films, but in recent years, it also has hosted silly fun like The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music sing-alongs. Velvet drapes, organ music and twinkling stars on the ceiling give the movie house a glamorous atmosphere (773/871-6604; musicboxtheatre.com).
Where to shop
Candyality Indulge in a sweet dose of nostalgia with Moon Pies, chocolate-dipped Oreos, licorice and more (773/472-7800; candyality.com).
RobotCity Workshop The laid-back staff invites patrons to play with every imaginable type of robot (left), including the newest version of the floor-cleaning Roomba robot (773/281-1008; robotcityworkshop.com).
Southport Avenue This mile-long strip has an uber-trendy men's clothing store, designer doggie treats, travel-themed clothes and accessories at Ciao Bella, a monogram store called A Little Bit of This and fashionable women's clothing at Krista K and Tula (choosechicago.com).
Where to eat
Ian's Pizza This Madison, Wisconsin, favorite has now ventured into Chicago. Order by the slice ($3.75 each) to sample some of the popular creations, all served on flimsy paper plates. Or create your own masterpiece with ingredients like fresh avocado and french fries (773/525-4580; ianspizza.com).
Penny's Noodle Shop Vietnamese spring rolls and chicken pad Thai are served up in this popular and easy-on-the-wallet noodle restaurant, which Americanizes many Thai dishes (773/281-8222; pennysnoodleshop.com).
Rockit Bar and Grill The "it" bar of Wrigleyville, this rock-n-roll-themed restaurant adjoins a loud sports bar. The specialty is the $19 Rockit Burger (left), made with Kobe beef, melted Brie, fried shallots and served with truffle fries (773/645-4400; rockitbarandgrill.com).
Salt and Pepper Diner Cheap food and beer are just a few feet from Wrigley Field in this 1950s-style diner. The interior's a bit shabby, but the service is friendly. It's best known for breakfasts, but don't leave without trying the deep-fried macaroni and cheese wedges (773/883-9800).
Uncommon Ground No hot dogs and Old Style at this Wrigleyville coffee house, famous for its fresh, locally grown food, friendly service and live music. Try the sweet-potato fries with goat cheese and chive fondue ($7), or an Uncommon Cubs Soda ($8) made with blueberry-flavor Italian soda, served with whipped cream and fresh strawberries (773/929-3680; uncommonground.com).
Yak-zies You'll be in the minority if you don't order chicken wings at this longtime Wrigleyville establishment, which offers a big menu of above-average bar food. Cash only (773/525-9200; yakzies.com).
Where to grab a cold one
Bernie's Tap and Grill (773/525-1898).
Cubby Bear Lounge Across the street from the park, it's an institution for Cubs fans and has live music every night. With its 30,000 square feet and 75 plasma TVs, Cubby Bear hangs on to the same true-blue fan feel it's had since opening in 1953 (773/327-1662; cubbybear.com).
Murphy's Bleachers (pictured at left) (773/281-5356, murphysbleachers.com).
Where to stay
Old Chicago Inn You can walk to Wrigley from this new B&B inside a classic Chicago graystone. "It reminds me of my old Chicago apartment," is how most guests describe it. Decorated with antiques, the guest rooms in the four-story house range from a double-bed room with a bathroom across the hall to the basement Wrigley Suite. From $125 (773/472-2278; oldchicagoinn.com).
How to get there
Driving to Wrigleyville usually means paying a lot for parking. Consider these tips before you go.
Parking On game days, this will not be easy or cheap. Metered spots on major roads have two-hour maximums, and side streets have game-day and nighttime restrictions. On game days, your options are to pay upwards of $25 to park in one of the little lots scattered across the neighborhood, or park in the big lot at Addison and Western avenues and take the shuttle to Wrigley Field. Many Wrigleyville residents let people pay to park in their garages, so you'll see people standing with homemade signs waving you into their alleys.
Public transportation Coming from a hotel downtown? The Red Line on the El train stops at Addison, less than a block from Wrigley Field (which is at Clark and Addison). While the trains are crowded, this is the easiest way to get to this neighborhood when there's a Cubs game (chicago-l.org). For those coming from the suburbs, Pace buses run express shuttles between both Woodfield Mall in northwest suburban Schaumburg and Yorktown Mall in west suburban Lombard. Either will drop you off right in front of the park and costs just $4 per person each way (pacebus.com).
Pictured: Clark Street, where Salt and Pepper dishes up 1950s diner favorites, hops at night.
For more info and to plan your trip, contact the Chicago Office of Tourism, which has a special page on its site about Wrigleyville (877/244-2246; explorechicago.org).
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® May/June 2010.)