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Grilled wings can still hit it out of the park

November 18, 2018

It was ahead of its time back in the days when it was easily the city’s best sports bar.

Wrigley Field Bar and Grill in the Georgetown North shopping center was the place to be on Saturdays and Sundays to watch football in the fall, and its chicken wings were about as famous as a wing could get in a city of this size.

But as time has passed, the number of sports bars has exploded, but not much has changed at Wrigley Field.

The wings still deserve a nod for their greatness.

Fried and sauced, then grilled to give them a little something extra, that style of wing is very popular in the Summit City with good reason and many places emulate the method. And the ones I had recently were pretty darn good.

I like mine with extra sauce as the exterior dries up a bit during the grilling, and they did that properly for me. The wings were plump, decent-sized and well executed ... when I ordered them from the menu.

If you happen to be at the bar Friday during the regular Weekend Starter Party, those wings will be offered on the buffet, but they pale in comparison, so you may want to order them a la carte. The buffet wings were much smaller and, of course, dried up quite a bit sitting in the steam tray.

The buffet is about the best you can expect for $10.99. There is fried fish that is good : crispy if not a little greasy : if you get it as soon as it comes out of the kitchen and a decent salad bar with many extras like pepperoni, pepperoncini, many vegetables and spinach, along with iceberg lettuce.

Steer clear of the salty, processed, pre-made soups, the cooked-to-death green beans and the fast-food style mashed potatoes and gravy.

Except for the wings and a decent artichoke and spinach dip appetizer, all of the food from the menu was as mediocre as the buffet.

The build-your-own burger was the saddest statement of Wrigley Field’s failure to keep up with its peers.

In a time when burgers are all the rage, the one I had was pretty forgettable in terms of size and quality, but it did have a decent amount of bleu cheese on it and the bacon was excellent.

Given the salad bar was respectable, I expected the Big Salad, which I had with ham and turkey, to be much better than it was.

It was made with just iceberg lettuce and had only cucumbers, red onion, tomatoes and from-the-bag croutons, along with the thinly sliced meat, which was the main issue. The pressed, processed meat was very salty and kind of slimy.

That salad was still way better than the dreadful little dish that was given to me as part of my rib-eye dinner. It had only iceberg lettuce, a few cherry tomatoes, red onions and cheese.

But it was even better than the steak, which was so fatty and gristly it had big holes in the middle as if the 11 members of the Notre Dame defense showing on one of the dozens of TVs took their cleats to it before it got to my plate.

The baked potato was good, however, and the garlic-cheese toast did not offend.

The pizza did kind of offend me.

A sports bar that offers pizza should be able to make a decent one, but I have literally had better pizzas at gas stations. It had one of those puffy, soft, pre-made crusts that had zero flavor or texture and the cheese was rubbery.

The breadsticks were a little better thanks to their toppings of Parmesan and herbs.

I will also say Wrigley Field’s Big Cheese Quesadilla was decent. I added chicken to mine and it was pretty straightforward with a little shredded lettuce and tomatoes piled on the side and a cup of OK salsa.

Really none of the food was downright bad, but most of it was simply not worth ordering because so many places do the same thing so much better.

And nearly every other sports bar does a better job when it comes to service.

Wrigley Field was packed on the nights I visited and probably is anytime there is a game on. But both times it was severely understaffed. You are left on your own to find a table and when you do, you will likely be left on your own for a good 20 minutes before one of the overwhelmed servers gets to you.

Being so busy and poorly staffed meant the first table I was able to secure had not been cleaned properly after it was cleared, so I had to wait to have all of the crumbs and sweat rings from glasses wiped away before I could settle in.

I was also disgusted when I peered up at one of the TVs and noticed the ceiling tiles at Wrigley Field, most of which were covered with stains.

The table I found was also near the side door that leads to the canopied smoking hut, so I got to enjoy a cold draft and smoke wafting in every few minutes. When a better table opened up, I moved, but then was forced to enjoy the chemical scents wafting over from the guy at the table next to me who was allowed to vape away throughout my meal.

The back room, which is newer and has some coin-op games added to enforce the family-friendly aspect of the family room, is a much better place to sit if you can secure a spot there.

I will not be securing a spot there anytime soon, however.

It just isn’t worth it to fight the crowd and deal with the slow service, even for those wings.

Restaurant: Wrigley Field Bar & Grill

Address: 6527 E. State Blvd.

Phone: 485-1038

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Wings (9.95 for 12), quesadilla (4.50), pizza (14-inch, one-topping 5.50; turkey and ham $1.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.

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