Most transplants to Chicago find themselves at a Cubs game before they make it to a Sox game, but why? While there's the allure—or threat, depending on your preferences—of a night out in Wrigleyville to draw you to the North Side, the area around U.S. Cellular has its own pre- and post-game scene (plus better beer inside the stadium). Here, our picks for the three essential Sox bars in Bridgeport, just in time for a home series this weekend. And before you cry foul, Cubbies, your essential bars will be coming soon.
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3258 S. Princeton 312-842-0769
Looks like: A wood-walled sports bar with a smattering of framed black-and-white photos
Smells like: Burgers cooking
Sounds like: An inoffensive alternative rock soundtrack under loud group conversations
Cork & Kerry at the Park opened four years ago in the former Jimbo's Lounge space, which was practically Sox fans' Holy Land. So yeah, big shoes to fill. Luckily, Cork & Kerry knows the South Side, having operated an iconic Beverly bar of the same name for decades. This Bridgeport location just blocks from The Cell now serves as a fairly roomy meeting place for baseball fans before, during and after a game. On a recent visit, I spotted groups of 20-somethings quickly finishing pints alongside a family of four in Red Sox gear eating burgers before the game. Surprisingly, the Wrong Sox weren't heckled or even teased (maybe it was the kids?). Beers are fine—I had a Goose Island Green Line pale ale and a New Belgium Snapshot wheat on my last visit—as were the tater tots I snacked on. The main draw is that the bar can accommodate crowds, even during peak pre-game hours. If you can embrace crowds and a bartender wearing a "Beauty is always a light switch away" slogan T-shirt, this is the spot to bring your whole crew.
3714 S. Halsted St. 773-376-6332
Looks like: A windowless, brick-faced square with an Art Deco neon sign
Smells like: Nothing, unless you drift toward the kitchen, where a brown-sauce-and-beef aroma lingers
Sounds like: Intermittent, cough-inducing belly laughs and a bartender joking with regulars
You can't fake the charms of age. Schaller's, which opened in 1881, knows this better than any other bar. Claiming double Chicago cred as an enthusiastic Sox bar as well as a storied hangout for once-upon-a-time politicians and union bosses, it's practically out of a movie. The bar's older regulars seem to sit on the same barstools they've warmed since before you were born, but you'll catch young people here when the Sox are in town. Though your eyes likely will be glued to the TVs, try to pry them away during commercial breaks to take in a Chicago history lesson: the black-and-white wedding photo behind the bar, the Schaller Way honorary street sign on the wall, the menus boasting a $9.75 prime butt sandwich (which includes coleslaw and fries, and comes highly recommended by my bartender). Some iconic bars of this age are skeptical of newcomers, skittish around young people and just generally less than hospitable to those they deem neighborhood tourists. Not here. I grabbed a barstool and was greeted with a hearty "What'llitbe, darlin'? Love your haircut."
238 W. 33rd St. 312-225-7333
Looks like: A sports bar with high-top tables and a summertime sidewalk patio
Smells like: Frying food
Sounds like: Unremarkable music and bartenders' commentary about the Sox game
Turtle's is a catch-all. Maybe it's not a destination you'd travel out of your way for, but when you have a group of friends—some of whom only drink Miller Lite, others who want a craft beer and only half who want to eat—you need a post-game bar that pleases everyone. Turtle's seems to do that. Watching a recent game from the barstools, I was in the company of a pair of 30-something dudes in Sox hats, a family digging into $5 Monday burger specials and my very animated bartender. "Are they challenging that play?" he shouted to a server as he cracked open a beer bottle. He glanced at the TV over his shoulder. "[Bleep]ing right they're challenging it!" Though the TVs' sound wasn't on, I felt like I had my own personal commentator spewing anecdotes and conjecture. And if you're a die-hard Sox fan, that should make you feel right at home.