photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia
Heading to watch the "good guys" down south? You don't just have to settle for overpriced beer and hot dogs at U.S. Cellular Field. Bridgeport continues to grow, offering new options for an increasingly diverse crowd - though the oldies are the real goodies.
Best of the nightlife
Go to some neighborhoods on the North Side and you can't go a half-block without passing an Irish bar. A majority of the time, these establishments are Irish in name only, having opened to capitalize on a certain neighborhood or post-ballgame foot traffic. Shinnick's is the real deal, having been owned by an Irish family for over 70 years (with history going way beyond that). The bar here is an authentic Brunswick, circa 1890, made out of mahogany and alleged to have been on display at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. The beer may not be quite as cheap as it was then, but it's definitely reasonable - perfect for the hordes of Sox fans who come to drink before and after the game.
Good for groups
With the 11th Ward Democratic offices across the street, mayors Daley, Kennelly, Bilandic and Kelly were known to draft policies behind the walls of this huge, family-run place - the oldest restaurant/bar in Chicago. On game night or during a playoff run, a nation of Sox fans is likely to spill, along with their beers, into the parking lot. Soak up the brews with hearty food like cheeseburgers, hash browns and plenty of pork products.
Maxwell Street Depot
Commonly referred to as the "Ghetto Dog" by its regulars, this 24-hour spot keeps the menu simple and inexpensive – Polish sausages, hot dogs, hamburgers and fries – all so cheap you could buy an order of each and still stay under $8.50. The Depot's trademark dish, however, remains its bone-in pork chop sandwich, a gloriously juicy (or just greasy, it's hard to tell) piece of simplicity, always topped with mustard and a mountain of onions. Blazing-fast service means you're actually eating your sandwich before you realized you made a decision. Oh, and make sure you check your orders for extra goodies, because the Depot is notorious for supplying about three extra orders of fries for no explainable reason (and no extra charge). (Note: Fine diners looking for a deal will want to check out Han 202, where the five-course meal for $20 can't be beat.)
Where to chill
Head to this neighborhood tavern for hospitality beyond compare and a few shots of Jameson on the rocks. Family-owned and run since 1965, this unpretentious bar takes in all kinds, from newly transplanted artists to longtime locals. You'll need to buzz in, but once you're inside you'll enjoy cheap, cold beers, a jukebox stocked with The Misfits, retro '80s tunes and pop/rock classics and chatty bartenders in a kitsch-littered space.
There is no printed menu at this politico-favored spot, just original slate tiles mounted above the counter with chalky lettering. In the only nod to modernity, a dry-erase board has been added for listing the breakfast specials. The prices, like the decor, are a throwback. A burger and fries will set you back $2.25. The menu is focused and sparse: burgers, pork chops, liver and onions and fries. Homemade in 50-gallon batches, the chili is saucy with a sprinkling of meat, beans and a sweet tinge of cinnamon and allspice balancing the heat. Served with a side of shredded cheese and diced onions, this concoction is more Cincinnati-style than steak Tex-Mex brew.
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