Come for the Baseball - Stay for the ... Sangria Swankier Joints Adding Variety to Wrigleyville Nightlife

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert McCoppin

News flash, Cub fans: Wrigleyville no longer lives on beer and burgers alone. The post-game pub crawl is now just as likely to involve martinis and maki rolls.

Classic establishments like Murphy's Bleachers, the Cubby Bear and Cabaret Metro still anchor the night life. But where Clark Street used to string together one no-frills joint after another, fresh alternatives have sprung up like new faces on the Cubs roster.

Now, bar and restaurant owners are catering to a crowd that expects a little more of both their baseball team and their post- game ritual.

Decors are sleek and stylish, the dining selection is more diverse, and the bar tabs are noticeably higher - especially for the playoffs, when many businesses jack up their prices.

While the area is getting more commercial, if you want to feel part of Cubs mania, Clark and Addison is still Ground Zero. The area swarms with fans on game days, and almost every bar has high- definition views of the action on a plasma TV.

The clientele also remains dedicated to drinking and socializing as much as baseball.

As a guide to this new streetscape, we sought out Sean Parnell, who, as founder of the Chicago Bar Project, reviews drinking establishments across the city and leads pub crawls for the Chicago Historical Society.

There are now so many bars in the area, Parnell noted, they're struggling to differentiate themselves with atmosphere, food and entertainment. For fans seeking a party to go with their playoffs, we offer a quick run-down of where to mix your Cubs fanaticism with a night on the town:

The sports "clubs:" Not quite a night club, but not quite a sports bar, new locales like Red Ivy (3525 N. Clark St.), Tre (3330 N. Clark St.), Moxie (3517 N. Clark St.), and Tryst (3485 N. Clark St.) combine the swankiness of a club with the TV-on-every-wall presence of a sports bar. They've sunk a ton of money into mood lighting and stylish decor, they mix specialty drinks like custom martinis and Red Bull bombs, and they attract a dressier crowd which tends to frown on T-shirts and shorts. Red Ivy is operated in part by the people from Palermo's, a South Side pizza place, so try the pie while you admire the hand-operated Wrigley-knockoff scoreboard; imbibe Tre's signature martini made with Grey Goose, Chambord and pineapple; and sample Tryst's small plates like crab cake and ahi tuna mini-burgers.

The modern sports bars: People who come to these places are serious about watching the game. Mullen's on Clark hosts a frat boy crowd enjoying the beer garden, foosball, darts and Golden Tee; The Ivy on Clark offers special events like a poker party and shows all Detroit Tigers and Red Wings games; and Merkle's offers a $5 build- your-own Bloody Mary bar and 25 cent wings on Sundays. Goose Island brews its own beers fresh and lists a kids' menu of bite-sized food.

The Irish pubs: Casey Moran's (3660 N. Clark Ave.), right across from Wrigley Field on Clark, earns points for its pub food, beer selection and beer garden, but it gets jammed with people and has a line out the door on game days. The Irish Oak (3511 N. Clark St.) ranks as the most authentic, with imported furnishings including booths with stools and benches, Irish breakfast, Irish music and Irish lasses serving beer and a well-poured, properly cooled (49 degrees Fahrenheit) Guinness. Johnny O'Hagan's (3374 N. Clark St.) also prides itself on charm and authenticity.

For the ladies: The BarCelona (3474 N. …