Out of the park
You don't have to be a Cubs fanatic to enjoy Wrigleyville, but you might want to skip the 'hood on game day.
It’s 40 degrees and rainy, but that’s not stopping ticketless Cubs fans from trolling Wrigleyville during a game. Hell-bent on staying in the ’hood and seeing a bit of the Pirates vs. Cubs action—but avoiding the drunken blue-and-red throngs—we stop by Guthries Tavern (1300 W Addison St, 773-477-2900). Unlike the nearby bars that boast a cacophony of big screens, Guthries is a picturesque dive with painted ceiling tiles, two oldfangled boob tubes and a wide array of board games in the spacious back room. “The owner doesn’t want us to become a sports bar,” the bartender tells us. But one of the three customers besides us mutters toward the TV, “There are more people here paying attention to the game than in that stadium.”
After we finish our HopMouth Double IPAs on tap ($4.75), we cross the street to a ramshackle hut with a sign that simply reads YESTERDAY (1143 W Addison St, 773-248-8087). The store looks like a strong wind might blow it over, but inside, we are surprised to find nostalgic printed items of all types; ephemera watched over by a bespectacled man nearly buried by stacks of Time and Look magazines, and newspapers with memorable headlines like “Elvis dies” and “Gacy found guilty.” I read a 1962 Ladies’ Home Journal article on “Why Women Are More Tired than Men” while my friend peruses the baseball cards. We don’t purchase any of the cheap, yellowed publications, but the man behind the counter seems glad for some company.
Strange Cargo (3448 N Clark St, 773-327-8090), which features DIY printed T-shirts and ’80s kitsch like Who’s the Boss? trading cards, is another Wrigleyville shop worth a stop for nonbaseball types. Or head a bit farther afield to Southport Avenue, which is lined with shopping hot spots such as posh boutique Jake (3740 N Southport Ave, 773-929-5253).
Leaving Yesterday for today, we push east on Addison Street toward the stadium. The crowds of white people ages 21 to 25 and branded by Cs grow ever thicker. W tarps dot the skyline and radios blare WGN game coverage. Even neighborhood denizens perform their ritual Sunday jog wearing Cubs tees. As we pass within pitching distance of Wrigley, we eye a host of Cubs-friendly establishments—Cubby Bear, Murphy’s Bleachers, Harry Caray’s, John Barleycorn—before ducking into Sluggers (3540 N Clark St, 773-248-0055). Above the bar area, there’s a massive sports-themed arcade. It’s run-down and nearly empty, so we buy $2 tokens and step into the batting cages, where fastballs whiz past our ankles.
In Sluggers’ doorway, a lovers’ quarrel brews between an allegedly over-21 couple. “I do everything for youuu!” can be heard above the roar of the stadium. To their right, two more youngsters are passed out on the sidewalk. Ticket scalpers bicker over territory and a bum swears at my friend.
All this commotion is making us hungry. We end up at Wrigleyville Dog (3737 N Clark St, 773-296-1500), where two wieners ($2.25 each) hit the spot.
Salty food devoured, it’s a good time to wet our tongues. We jog across the street into Gingerman (3740 N Clark St, 773-549-2050), an actors’ hangout best appreciated, like the rest of this ’hood, when the Cubs are on the road. We down spicy Bloody Marys ($8) at the charming wooden bar and watch the postgame tide of humanity pass by the window, including assholes proudly rocking their CARDINALS SUCK/YANKEES SUCK tees and grown men wearing white ninja costumes in a misguided attempt to show solidarity with Japanese right-fielder Kosuke Fukudome.
After the drunken hooting dies down, we venture out to see some real actors take the stage. Last month, Artistic Home made the Live Bait Theater (3914 N Clark St, 773-404-1100) its permanent residence. The company’s currently performing Sean O’Casey’s 1924 classic, Juno and the Paycock ($22–$25, through June 29), a tale of a family on the skids during the Irish civil war. With artistic director Kathy Scambiatterra delivering a stunningly convincing portrayal of Irish Juno, the play proves captivating—and turns our Wrigleyville day into a come-from-behind win.
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