Pay for writing a Food Blog: Zero Dollars
Tickets from Mom for the Cubs game: Zero Dollars
Street Parking in Wrigleyville: Zero Dollars
Personal food tour of the "Friendly Confines:" Priceless
I can remember going to Cubs games with my grandfather when Wrigley wasn't cool! It's not that I relish the good old days but day baseball is one of the great things about America. The sounds, the sights and the food when going to a game has gotten a lot more trendy over the years but it still invokes a sense of comfort at its core. To get a chance to see behind the curtain of Oz for just one afternoon, is a memory I won't soon forget.
My afternoon started by meeting the concession sous chef and staff of Levy Catering in the Sheffield Grill. It used to be the private party space for corporate events. This year it's been opened up to the public as a chance to deliver higher quality sandwiches and snacks. Parts of the menu will rotate from BBQ brisket, Pad Thai and on the day I was there a meatball sub. The food was full of flavor and you're not shoved up against a thousand new friends. This is by far the hidden gem of Wrigley and the potato chips - good, addictive good!
As we walked the concourse, my first stop was the vegetarian "burger." I'm a skeptic when it comes to veggie anything imitating meat. This isn't supposed to be a burger substitute. With the cumin and paprika, it came across with a sloppy joe like flavor. I ate half of it! I was really impressed with the nutty quality and rich flavor. For the non-meat eaters and gluten allergic, they also offer a chop salad which looked awesome.
I got to see the infamous 2lb pretzel! The picture in the slide show doesn't do it justice. You'll need friends or make new ones quick. I learned the bison sausage making its way in to the park this year is a healthy alternative but also owned by the Ricketts family. Some may scoff at this blatant taking advantage but all I have to say is you pay a billion dollars for the "loveable losers" - Do whatever you want!
The first bite of bison I got was on the foot long Buffalo dog. The buffalo sauce, bleu cheese, and celery on this smoky sausage was mmmmm good. I had more than a few bites. If you've never had bison, it has that smoky grilled flavor you get from a grilled hot dog. Walking down the left field concessions, I got to taste a regular Chicago hot dog, it was a baseball game and I'm a purist, a normal size Bison hot dog with grilled onions and the Italian sausage. The big change in this year's Italian sausage sandwich was the addition of the grilled onions and peppers with tomato sauce and parmesan. The Italian had great fennel flavor and would be worthy of any good beef joint found in Chicago.
From there we went upwards! The PNC club and the suites are not priced for the common man. The PNC club is brand new and was created by converting six of the old suites on the left field side. The luxury of this area is breathtaking. You get a buffet that is worthy of a 4 star hotel, your own bar and the ability to sit wherever you want. If anyone is interested there is seating still available but it won't come cheap a season ticket for ONE person is $24,000. Yep $300 a game...god I hope I win the lottery one day because this is where you'll find me in the summer. The regular suites aren't as flashy as some other spots in town but you get to choose off the Levy catering menu and the chance at the dessert cart. If you've never experienced a dessert cart, I shed a tear for you. I still wonder how they find caramel apples that big and it also proves no one likes carrot cake even when it's "free."
Two more stops to go...
First, was the season ticket holder private Stadium Club. The buffet rotates and what these chefs create in a closet of a kitchen is insane. Everything looked really good and creative. And if you're wondering...there is no basement at Wrigley making storage and space the biggest challenge when you're facing 24,000 plus hungry, thirsty fans! The Executive Chef David Burns and his staff had a great attitude and work a normal 12 hour kitchen day every game day. Not so glamorous but there are worse work environments.
My last stop was to get a helmet full of nachos. Yes, a child's souvenir helmet full of nachos. I'm deeming this the value of the park. It has double layered chili and all the goodies any nachos should have plus you get to take home the helmet! For $15, you'll feed a few friends and be the envy of everyone in the park. As I walked to my seat, I made heads turn and I'm not that good looking.
Wrigley Field is surrounded by bars and restaurants and most of them the food is mediocre at best. You'll get the same menu options just about anywhere. Am I being harsh? Maybe, but seriously the food in most bars is a total spin of the roulette wheel when it comes to quality. Most of you may comment that the food at professional stadiums is expensive but the food presented by Levy is actually in the lower third of all concessions throughout the MLB. A lot of the pricing is dictated by the sponsorships anyway so don't hate the concession worker or the vendors at your seats.
Hot Tips to Maximize Your Wrigley Food Experience
- Gates open two hours before game time - first hour you get 25% off all food and non-alcoholic drinks. You don't even have to ask it's already programmed in.
- Hit the Sheffield Grill located in the corner of right field for some great sandwiches.
- Tip the beer vendors - makes them come by more often especially last call around the 7th inning.
- Click on the MAP to see where specific food is sold.
- Save your pennies for the PNC club - and if you ever have an extra ticket I'm free. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Get the helmet nacho!
I have to give a special thanks to everyone at Levy for helping set this up. The chefs and staff were very gracious with their time before a Cubs game to take me around and answer all my silly questions! I had such a good time and can't wait to see the other venues in town that they cater for.