Wrigley Field steps up to the plate with new dining options

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The Cubs are two years into a three-year renovation plan at Wrigley. This year, not only are there improvements in the park's concession stands, there's also another half dozen or (WLS)

The Cubs are two years into a three-year renovation plan at Wrigley. This year, not only are there improvements in the park's concession stands, there's also another half dozen or so great options across the street.

Our Hungry Hound says the off-season has been more active than ever, with the construction of an entire level below the stadium, giving the kitchen staff a fully-loaded, state-of-the-art kitchen.

Not to mention the nearby Hotel Zachary, where you can check off pretty much every sports-friendly type of food and drink imaginable.

Let's start with the concessions. In addition to the old standbys, you'll see a few new options inside the Friendly Confines this season. Once again, the team from Chicago's own Levy Restaurants is handling the food here.

"This year we did a twist on the flavors of a Chicago hot dog, we call it is Chick-Ago sandwich. Instead of a hot dog, we're using chicken," said Levy Executive Chef David Burns.

Make that pickle brined thighs topped with tomatoes and tempura-fried sport peppers tucked into an onion bun. Also, a taco cart yields a trio of chicken tinga tacos or beef barbacoa topped with watermelon. Most impressive of all, a massive new smoker, giving them tons of delicious options.

"Bone-in beef shortrib that we smoke in-house for 12 hours, it's meant to be shared - it's quite large - we serve it with house-made pickles, some coleslaw and some sliced white bread," said Burns.

Just outside the stadium, there is the Park at Wrigley, with a few options like a serious craft beer program at Lucky Dorr, and around the corner, a brand new Jeni's Ice Cream, with their rotating list of creative flavors.

"We oversee the Park at Wrigley, all of the restaurants you see adjacent to the stadium and then of course this lovely building," said Nathan Brethold, the Food & Beverage Director for Hickory Street Capital.

That would be the Hotel Zachary, named for the man who designed Wrigley Field.

"Zachary Taylor Davis was in the same breath as Sullivan, Adler, all the great architects we have within Chicago," said Brethold.

On the second floor, drinks and light bites all day in the bar - like marinated and fried chicken wings dressed in a zippy, sweet-hot chile sauce - but also a quieter breakfast space, called Alma, where you'll find omelets, benedicts and hearty chilaquiles, loaded with braised pork, crisp tortillas and a pair of cage free eggs. Next door is Mordecai - named for pitcher Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown. Upstairs, it's all rare bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and antique glassware, with a menu from the team behind Billy Sunday in Logan Square and A10 in Hyde Park.

"It's a small, intimate space that is really going to drive quality and hospitality, that huge focus of spirit component and understanding where the spirits came from," he said.

The menu will have some ambitious dishes, like grilled octopus over a Middle Eastern-inspired bed of chickpeas, olives, spring ramps and smoked paprika aioli. There's also some inspiration from the neighborhoods, like West Town Bakery, with its whimsical, boozy milkshakes, delicate, colorful pastries and high-energy pastry bar.

"From Wicker Park, Big Star and Smoke Daddy are actually going to be bringing their concepts that they've tried and true in the Wicker Park area and we brought Big Star and Smoke Daddy into the mix as well," said Brethold.

That means on-site smokers at Smoke Daddy, where they might thinly-slice some of their brisket, then pile the slices onto toasted burger buns, topping them with cheese and onion rings, as well as a healthy drizzle of barbecue sauce. Right next door, Big Star brings the Honkytonk, as in tequila and whisky, but also hot chips - a spicy take on loaded nachos - and their stellar queso fundido, served with warm, homemade tortillas. Brethold says the entire space is a nod to the man who built Wrigley.

"Telling the story about him, the bar at Hotel Zachary, really focuses on the classics," he said.

The only reason this building is here in the first place is because McDonald's allowed Hickory Street Capital to tear that old restaurant down and build this brand new building, making one concession: they had to build a brand new McDonald's on the first floor, so you can still get your quarter pounder with cheese if you like, but there are lots of options here in the Hotel Zachary right across the street from Wrigley.

In Steve's Extra Course video, he sits down with the owner of Mordecai, Matthias Merges, who tells him about his impressive collection of Pappy van Winkle bourbon, upstairs in the cocktail lounge.
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In Steve's Extra Course video, he sits down with the owner of Mordecai, Matthias Merges, who tells him about his impressive collection of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, upstairs in the

Hotel Zachary
3630 N. Clark St.
773-302-2300
http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/restore-wrigley/enhancements/concessions/
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