Schlitz, Big Barring, 10:30 pitchers, and no BBQ

May 15, 2006 | Comments (2) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

I just don't have the energy to write about the current situation with the Cubs. Instead, here are our Top 8 memorable places to visit on a Cubs trip, and the shenanigans that have ensued. Feel free to submit your own. If they are filthy enough, we just might post them.

#8 - Salt & Pepper Diner - 3537 N. Clark St

The closest thing to a greasy spoon you'll find in Wrigleyville. A great place to visit the morning of a 1:20 game to fill your belly with some eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast. And what's better than washing it all down with a pitcher of Miller High Life? Having that pitcher brought to you by your surly old waitress, that's what. You know the type. That waitress that gave up on charming the customer long ago. The one that counts the minutes until she can go out back and smoke another Marlboro. The one that at any moment you're waiting for her to shout "Kiss my grits!"

All in all, I can't think of a better way to start the day.

#7 - Dunkin Donuts - Seemingly on every street corner

A good place to get a quick coffee and donut before hopping on the Red Line. Just remember that when you get coffee and they ask if you want cream and sugar, that means they will put cream and sugar in for you, and you don't need to. This lesson was learned by Ted the hard way as he needed me to give him some insulin to properly consume his doubly-sweetened beverage.

#6 - Harry Caray's Restaurant - 33 W. Kinzie St

If you truly are a Cubs fan, this place is a must-visit at least once in your life. The place is a virtual shrine to Harry and the Cubs and happens to be a pretty damn good steakhouse to boot. I've yet to have a bad meal here, from their risotto, to their Italian pork chops, to their filet mignon, everything is outstanding. When you eat at Harry's you also have the possibility of spotting a ballplayer. On one occasion we saw Fernando Vina eating with his family. One piece of advice, most of the main dishes do not come with a potato or salad, so if the waiter asks if you'd like a baked potato with your steak, remember that it will probably cost extra. For further information, you can ask Ted about his kickass $5 potato he had one time.

#5 - Goose Island - 3535 N. Clark St

I've been to Goose Island a handful of times now for some after-game grub. Every time, I've had the cheeseburger and its been fantastic. Every time, I've had a full day's worth of Old Style in my gut, so my judgement in taste may be slightly altered.

You know how in college there was "that place" you and your friends would head to at 2:30am for some late-night afterhours food? Whether it be pizza, or breakfast food, or gyros, or tacos, when you're completely blitzed, this food is the greatest culinary achievement of all-time. Whoever cooked it is a "frickin' genius"! You're absolutely sure of this and then one day when you're completely sober you think, "Hey I'll get that for lunch". Except now without the magic of excess alcohol, the food tastes mediocre at best. In fact its really not good at all (This is why Hot Pockets are still around. No self-respecting sober person would dare eat that garbage).

There's a possibility that the food at Goose Island I've had could just be "OK". Someday if I eat there sober, I may shed some light on this mystery. Given that I only go there after Cub games, and given that their I.P.A. is damn tasty, I doubt that day will happen any time soon.

#4 - Brother Jimmy's - 2909 N. Sheffield Ave

You know the saying "Getting there is half the fun"? Well in the case of our trek to Brother Jimmy's, getting there was ALL the fun.

So back in 2003, when Ben, Ted and I took Chicago by storm, Ben kept going on about how we "have to go to Brother Jimmy's". Apparently they had excellent barbecue. I know this because Ben told us about 2 dozen times. After a day of watching the Cubs at Bernie's, drinking Schlitz with a journeyman minor leaguer at Gingerman, and Ted and I, just for shits and giggles, feeding Ben a line of BS all day that we weren't going to walk 12 blocks to eat some lousy barbecue, we headed on our journey down Sheffield Ave. After about 30 minutes and a couple pit stops at bars along the way, we were finally about a block away from Jimmy's. It was then that a girl walked out of a nearby laundromat and was walking down the street with us. Ted made some small talk with her. Here's roughly how the conversation went.

TED: How's it goin?

GIRL: Good, what are you guys doing.

TED: Were going to get some food.

GIRL: Cool, where at?

BEN: Brother Jimmy's

GIRL: Um, (short pause) that place closed down like 6 months ago.

BEN: WHAT?!?! NO!!!

TED & ME: (on the ground in full out laughter)

In my mind I don't think that could've played out better. While I'm sure walking up to a boarded up Jimmy's would've invoked a Clark Griswald-like response from Ben when the talking moose tells him WallyWorld is closed. The fact that just a mere block away, some random girl we knew for approximately 30 seconds broke the news just makes it much, much funnier. This would be an ongoing joke for the rest of the day, well at least until we got to the Big Bar. Which brings us to:

#3 - Big Bar - located in the Hyatt Regency Hotel

On that 2003 trip, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker Dr. The main bar at the hotel is this place called the Big Bar. The whole theme behind this place is that everything they serve is BIG, hence the name. So one night the three of us (Ben, Ted, & I) go to the Big Bar and order some 2 gallon beers, or whatever size they were, and Ben had a margarita that was so big that you'd need 18 roofie tablets to properly drug someone with it. On top of that we order a nacho platter that was taller than your average 7-year old. So we get all our stuff and are eating, drinking, marvelling over the absurdly gluttonous enormity of everything.

So about 45 minutes go by when we realize we've seen neither hide nor hair of our waitress. No refill inquiries, no bill, nothing. So at this point the notion of "dine and dash" has entered the conversation. Ben & I are psyching ourselves up to make our inconspicuous exit, while Ted is trying to be the voice of reason. After a little while Ted gets us settled down and we hang out for a little longer. Now, over an hour has passed without any sign of our waitress, when suddenly Ted says, "Well, see ya later!" and bolts. So now Ben & I, looking at each other in disbelief, are left to either wait for a bill or plot our exit. Finally I build up enough courage to leave my stool and begin walking to the exit. I begin heading down the stairs to leave the place, making sure to not look back, when I notice someone following me directly over my right shoulder. Shit, its probably a bartender that saw us skip out I figured, when suddenly I hear "Just keep going, just keep going." Ben had gotten up right behind me and we were now both making a break for it.

So we get to the elevators and get up to our room ready to give Ted shit for leaving us there. We walk into the room to find....Ted wasn't there. It then occured to us. Ted was just goofing and was coming back to our table. So now we're laughing our asses off at the prospects of Ted returning to the bar with an angry waitress or manager awaiting him to fork over the estimated $80 we owed for our humongous appetizer and libations. About 5 more minutes go by when the door opens and its Ted. He had gone to the ATM and was returning to the table when he noticed we were gone, so he quickly made a beeline for the exit and came to the room. The infamous Big Bar incident has now become legendary and we created a new term for giving someone the shaft we like to call "Big Barring", as the ultimate reference to our juvenile and shameless act.

#2 - Bernie's - 3664 N. Clark St

I came across a review of Bernie's written by Larry Majewski of I think he summed it up best.

"Not all season tickets are held by corporations and doled out according to office rank. Some individuals actually own their own seats, and have done so for decades. These are the kind of guys hanging out at Bernie's Tavern, the ones who can actually name the Cubs starting roster .... you can strike up a Cubs-related debate without a female fan chiming in with 'I like Mark Prior because he's cute.' You can't find a more casually-paced bar this close to the friendly confines."

Just a perfect example of why I like this place out of all the Cub bars around the stadium. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the other, more-trendy joints. I guess I don't like being packed like a sardine in a large, loud bar where half the people are there because "this is the coolest place people told me I should go to". These are the same posers that don't understand why we get up and chant "RIGHT FIELD SUCKS!" between half-innings. Frickin' sheep. Go cheer for the Cardinals why don't ya?

Some of the more memorable moments at Bernie's include seeing Billy Corgan walking down the street while we sat in the beer garden. He looked like a frickin' zombie with his pasty white skin, wearing all black with a black floppy hat. He couldn't have stuck out more. It doesn't help that he's also freakishly tall and stands a whole head above everyone else.

My favorite moment at Bernie's though, happened two years ago. I was in Chicago with my friend Mark, and we had tickets for a 1:20 game that had been pushed back to 3:00pm for ESPN. We thought we'd leave our hotel in the Loop that morning and take the Red Line to Wrigleyville early and just hang out, check out the souvenir shops and stuff before we grabbed some lunch and met up with the rest of our party that were carrying our tickets at 1:30. So we get off the train at Addison around 10:20am. We made one lap around the stadium before we had this exchange.

ME: "What time is it now?"

MARK: "10:30"

ME: "Is it too early to start drinking beer?"

MARK: " its not."

We then proceeded straight to Bernie's and were the first two patrons of the day. In fact we were the only two until about 11:30 when the regulars started filing in. Needless to say instead of lunch, we sort of lost track of time, had 3 pitchers between the two of us and sprinted to the Harry Caray statue at 1:25 to meet the other guys for our tickets. All I ate that day was a hot dog from that vendor under the bleachers. The moral of the story: if you're gonna drink all day and not eat, know where your hotel room toilet is.

#1 - Gingerman Tavern - 3740 N. Clark St

The Gingerman is probably one of the coolest bars I've been to. Just a stones throw from Wrigley, this place is a far cry from your traditional Cub bars like Murphy's or The Cubby Bear. Its got a sort of Bohemian/Indie vibe to it and you can expect to find a wide array of people there from your Cub fans, to your indie/art kids, to just your average joes, there to shoot some pool. What really makes this place great is the beer selection along with their prices. I pretty much stick to the PBR on tap (which is the best bargain in the area on game days), but they do have a nice selection of imports and microbrews to choose from as well.

In 2003, Ted, Ben & I stopped at the Gingerman and had a chance encounter with a Mr. Keith Johns. Keith was once a journeyman minor leaguer that bounced around various farm systems. We got to shoot the shit with him for a while as he told all sorts of baseball stories. We also got to drink Schlitz in a bottle, which sadly no longer exists. You can find Schlitz in a can no problem, but apparently when we drank all the Schlitz bottles that day, there were no more to be found on the planet. I returned a year later with Mark to make the sad discovery and wound up drinking PBR and Crown Royal while talking to some dude for hours about music, namely Led Zeppelin as I recollect.

In 2005 the infamous trio returned as we needed a place to lay low for a few hours. We bolted in the 8th inning after a dismal Cub performance, but not before I cleaned out the pot in the "Cup Game" we were playing with some guys sitting one row in front of us. Now before you start harping on me that it was a dick thing to do, let me just say that these guys were complete douchebags and were stiffing us out of money for a good 3-4 innings before we left. So the bastards got what they deserved, which was a solid Big Barrin'! Needless to say the $22 in loose ones was more than enough to buy a round of beers at the Gingerman as we revelled in our small heist.


Chaim Witz @ 11:08 PM, May 16, 2006

Good Lord. For the record, having eaten at Goose Island sober hell, I won't wreck the illusion for you. Yeah, sure it's great. But you know what? It's no Brother Jimmy's. It's no Brother Jimmy's (voice tailing off)...

Chaim Witz @ 11:18 PM, May 16, 2006

More random thoughts:
Bernies: Love it, bears my fathers birth name, but more and more it's being populated by the characters from 'Da Bears' skit. Which I suppose makes it all the more classic.
Salt and Pepper: Most underrated place in Wrigleyville. Where else can you get a good, greasy Iowa breakfast (at Iowa prices) and a PITCHER of beer for $6? Great coffee and next time you're there, get the the Bloody Mary. Best kept secret in Chicago.
Dunkin Donuts: Love the shit. A sugary jolt to start your morning. It's like they drop a sugar cube and Twix bar into that bitch.
Harry Carray's: Good prime rib, a notch below Ditka's. Great place to see ballplayers whose lack of creativity or curiousity often always leads them to here, Ditka's, Morton's or Gibsons. In other words, where there is steak, there are ballplayers. And mustaches.
Brother Jimmy's: Rest in Peace, they BBQ of the Gods.
Big Bar: Ah, hotel bars. The possibilities for a cheating businessman are limitless.
Gingerman: Not cool enought for the Trixies and Ken Dolls but one of those bars you hope stays popular enought to stay open but not enought to become trendy.