April 26, 2012
Ninety-eight-year-old Wrigley Field was not built with fine dining in mind. "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack" wasn't just a song lyric; it was practically the whole menu. (Heck, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is only six years older than the park.) Concession spaces are tiny, ill-suited to producing a wide range of food.
Food vendors at Wrigley, therefore, operate at an infrastructural disadvantage, but they try. Executive chef David Burns (who works for Levy Restaurants, which handles Wrigley's concessions) always manages to come up with a few new tricks.
New this year, for example, is something called Meatball Mania ($12), which replaces last year's one-and-done Big Cheese (an overgrown garlic-cheese bread). A long skewer anchors six meatballs, two each of beef with marinara sauce, pork with ginger-soy-barbecue sauce and chicken with chile verde sauce. The meatballs aren't the super-dense variety found in the frozen-food aisle; these are so soft in texture as to be considered delicate. Don't try eating these while on the skewer, unless you're concerned that the Wrigley Field gulls aren't getting enough protein. Find these meatballs at various concourse stands.
The other addition of note is the Sloppy Jane ($8), a vegan take on the Sloppy Joe, made with tempeh, peppers and onions, doused with a molasses and brown-sugar sauce and plopped on a vegan bun. As the name implies, this sandwich defies dainty eating; fortunately, it's served in a lined basket. Available only at Sheffield Grill (in the lower right-field corner).
Sheffield Grill also offers burgers (including the ever-popular Stanburger, from Stanley's Kitchen & Tap) and, on opening weekend, a seriously good, Asian-seasoned pork and beef burger ($10.50), fragrant with ginger, cilantro, lemongrass and garlic.
Right by Sheffield Grill is the free-standing High Plains Bison cart, which serves creations made with meat from the Ricketts family's bison ranch. You can always find a bison hot dog (which is very good) here; the second offering changes with each homestand. The first week, the cart featured a cheddar bratwurst with swiss cheese ($7); the double-hit of cheese made the lean sausage taste a bit richer.
Also new are the Cholula Tater Tots ($6), a vehicle for new sponsor Cholula hot sauce. Imagine a hefty bowl of tater tots, topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions and hot sauce. Now imagine yourself not eating this. The dish succeeds on a calories-per-penny perspective, but that's about it.
Captain Morgan Club, the indoor/outdoor venue built into Wrigley (you can get in here even without a game ticket, and the club is open on nongame days, weather permitting), revamped its menu a bit, introducing a new On Deck burger ($9.95), a half-pounder with American and cheddar cheeses and "special sauce;" and a Captain's Stacked Chicken sandwich ($8.95) with pepper-jack cheese and barbecue ranch sauce. The burger is strictly run-of-the-mill, but the moist and slightly peppery chicken sandwich is a solid choice.
New sides include Stella Artois-battered onion rings ($7.95), which are worth your attention, and housemade barbecue chips with bleu cheese dip ($5.95), which are not.
And when the waitress asks if you want fries with that burger, know that fries are an extra $1.95. Y'arrgh!
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