Wrigleyville Bar Project: The Stretch

Today's Bar: The Stretch Bar and Grill, 3485 N. Clark

Douchebag Factor (1-10, with 10 being this guy) : 4

Who You'll See Here: A solid mix of Cubs fans and beautiful people, with the age skewing closer to Derek Lee than Jeff Samardzija. This is a good thing, because today's youth remind me of my own mortality. That said, there was one really douchey looking guy with a mohawk, but that's to be expected at any of the newer Wrigleyville haunts.

What to order: Wow, a Wrigleyville bar with standout pub fare? Say it ain't so. The Clark Burger that we had was possibly the best burger I've had in the whole city, not just the neighborhood. Cooked perfectly, topped with bacon, avocado, cheese and a few onion strings atop a soft toasted bun, it was Kuma's Corner good. The accompanying tater tots were perfectly crispy and had some seasoning on there that really put em over the top. Add in a top-notch appetizer (fried Mac N Cheese balls with marinara dipping sauce) and ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. A word to the wise: We ordered the appetizer and opted to split the burger and this was more than enough food. Don't say that TMS isn't looking out for your wallet in these times of economic woe.

If you were to see a celebrity here, it would be: Mindy from Rock of Love, Justin Long, Reed Johnson, Jeff Probst (host of Survivor)

Summary: Occupying the former Tryst space (that's okay, I don't remember it either), The Stretch is a cool and unexpectedly friendly new addition to the increasingly trendy Wrigleyville bar scene. Divvied up into a front section (which kind of looks like a classier version of Bernie's) and a back room, the Stretch features wall to wall cedar paneling, vaulted ceilings and a loft like feel, while still maintaining some sense of intimacy. Adorning the wall over each table are photos of various celebs (I spied Eddie Vedder and Ditka) singing the 7th Inning Stretch. This is a neat idea that I wish was mine. As you can imagine, there are flat screen TVs everywhere you look, most of them clustered in groups of four, so there isn't a bad seat/angle in the whole joint.

We snagged the last table in the back on a Saturday afternoon during the hectic Cubs-Cards series and despite our initial reservations (see: douchey guy with mohawk) the service was tremendous. Our waitress was golden: perfectly timed visits without hovering, spot-on recommendations and genuine kindness not often found in the Chicago dining/bar scene.

The food menu is creative (cheese stuffed hotdogs wrapped in bacon served on a pretzel roll!) but wisely sticks to the basics of appetizers, burgers and a few sandwiches so as not to be too overwhelming. The beer selection is also an exercise in quality over quantity. You won't find a million pretentious beers on tap, but instead you get a good mix of your basics (Old Style, Bud Light) along with a few essentials (Stella and a few microbrews that I can't remember but that everyone else that writes for this site probably loves). It looked like they also had a few specialty cocktails (Margaritas, Bloody Marys, Arnold Palmers) in mason jars, small and large.

The best part is the price. You would think at a trendy new hotspot you'd be paying up the arse, especially on a Cubs-Cards gameday. Imagine my surprise then, when we got our bill and my Old Styles were a mere $2. One Old Style and a Bud Light draft were $6 here. Comparatively speaking, when we went to the new Harry Caray's afterwards, that same round was $10.25! Even at TMS sponsor The Gingerman, that round ran us $8.

The Stretch will never be mistaken for your neighborhood dive or hole in the wall, but among the newcomers to the Wrigleyville area, this is tops in my book. You get great food (I'd go here to eat even when the Cubs aren't playing), killer service and cheap beer. Once you get the bill, you may actually be tricked into thinking that you were at a your favorite dive bar, only here, the waitresses are good looking and still have all their teeth.

Thunder Matt Rating: 11 empty Old Style cans (kraeusened) out of 12.

The Clark Burger, side o' tots. Unexpectedly awesome, like your team's pitcher hitting a grand slam.

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