It's hard to believe that one of the best Thai restaurants in all of Chicago resides on a quiet street less than a half a mile north of Wrigley Field. Not that I'm complaining. Sure, Tod Mun Pla ($6.50), a fried ground fish and chili paste mixture, may not be your traditional game day snack, but it translates surprisingly well. The crisp hunks come with a killer dipping sauce, which manages to be tart, funky, and spicy. Chicken tenders never looked so tame. Of course, just about every other dish on the "secret menu"—make sure to ask for it—is worth ordering.
Lucky's Sandwich Co.
Let's forget about the ridiculous contest for a minute. You know, this one. Instead, let's focus on how solidly built these sandwiches truly are. That's especially true of the Turkey & Cheese sandwich ($7.50), featuring thick cut bread piled high with turkey, lettuce, and fresh-cut fries. Sure, eating three wins you an award, but one is more than enough to satisfy most people's hunger.
Murphy's Red Hots
As I explained last week, few hot dog stands in Chicago are as welcoming and warm as Murphy's Red Hots, making it an ideal stop before or after the game. It's the kind of place where glove-toting little leaguers can order a plain hot dog, while the adults devour a juicy Usinger's bratwurst with extra onions and mustard. Everyone wins.
Though located only a block or so northwest of Wrigley, Uncommon Ground feels a world away. Calm and charming, it's the perfect respite from the crowded pubs and wall-to-wall TVs. (There wasn't a single TV in the room I sat in.) Plus, you can order honest-to-goodness vegetables here, like the fresh greens that showed up in the winter salad ($7).
The Chicago Diner
On one hand, there is absolutely no meat available. None. That might doom the Chicago Diner for many, especially those planning to down a few beers at the game. But on the other hand, this is a diner, and it serves the kind of greasy food that would pair rather nicely with that frosty can of Old Style. May I suggest the radical reuben ($10.50), a reworking of the classic sandwich? Sure, there is no corned beef involved, but your stomach probably won't care.
Rockit Burger Bar
It's too early to judge whether Rockit Burger Bar, which replaced Rockit Bar & Grill's Wrigleyville location last month, will be a success or not. But there's no doubt that if the food looks anything like it did at the press event, the menu easily trumps the offerings at all of the faux-Irish pubs huddled nearby. Add to that a good beer selection, some truly tasty onion rings, and a location directly across the street from Wrigley, and it's hard to imagine that this place will ever stand empty on game day.
Byron's Hot Dog Haus
You better believe that Byron's and its distinctive version of the Chicago dog would make the list. Just make sure to go for the jumbo, as the regular dog gets kind of lost in the toppings. And if you think that even the jumbo is too small, perhaps you're ready for the Dogzilla, a half pound behemoth. I wish you luck with that one.
According to our resident pizza blogger, Daniel Zemans, "there is no stadium in the world that comes close to matching Wrigley Field in terms of proximity to a diversity of high quality pizza." Bold claim. Sadly, most of those are located outside our self imposed one mile radius. Luckily, Pizza Rustica still makes the cut. This Roman-style pizzeria serves square pies, which Zemans describes as "light, crispy and full of flavor thanks to the generous amount of olive oil."
Al's #1 Italian Beef
First, this is the franchise version of Al's #1, not the original located on Taylor Street. Second, that's okay. As we found out on a recent survey of the scene, the franchises still dish out a totally solid Italian beef. Not the best in the city, but better than any of the options nearby. If that doesn't win you over, then the natural casing Vienna Beef hot dogs should help.
Toon's Bar & Grill
Toon's Bar & Grill is an unapologetic sports bar, but it's one that legitimately cares about the food. The menu may look vaguely similar to all the other pubs in the area, but the classic are kicked out with skill. In fact, its chicken wings came in fourth in our list of the best buffalo wings in the city.
Windy City Gyros
When it comes to gyros in Chicago, it's all about how the restaurant works the spit. Since most places use the same cone of Kronos meat, the best ones set themselves apart by cooking the meat until it's deeply caramelized and brown. If my last visit was any indication, Windy City Gyros belongs in that group, because the gyros I received were some of the crispiest I've ever spotted. Sure, the whole package is an absolute mess, and that tomato looks awful lonely, but if you're going to attempt to make this, you might as well do it right.
...And There's More!
Goose Island Clybourn has a more adventurous (and delicious) menu, but it's hard to fault the above average pub grub at Goose Island Wrigleyville. Plus, you can't go wrong with the beer choices. Another great option is Hearty, which is run by Next Food Network Star winner's, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh. I could go on. But what other places am I missing? Let me know!