“An upscale sports lounge and restaurant in the heart of Wrigleyville”
Red Ivy is more than just one of the most popular Wrigleyville haunts, for both post-game Cub fans and North Side nightcrawlers. Since December 2005, Red Ivy has become a trendy bar option along Clark, with its intriguingly architected interior and upscale menu of pub grub, though it doesn’t quite cop the “hipper-than-thou” attitude of Moxie or Tryst, just down the block. While one can appreciate that Red Ivy is one of the best, larger spaces in the area, one also has to realize that such good does not come without sacrifice: the ultimate demise of Cubbie Doggs, a classic Chicago hot dog stand whose beef sandwiches (and their crack-like addictive quality), have since passed into gastronomical folklore.
Red Ivy is located just south of Wrigley Field, on Clark, in-between Goose Island Wrigleyville and Mullen’s to the north and Moxie to the south. Red Ivy is named for the color of ivy on the walls of Wrigley Field when they are most seldom seen: in October. The bar is housed within a single-story building of red brick that matches the rusted metal and red-lettered sign above the door, back-lit in Cubbie red. During peak hours (weekends and after Cub games), you’ll often find a line queued up to get in behind the inevitable velvet rope, though it’s not as bad as that which forms across the street at Moe’s Cantina and John Barleycorn’s Wrigleyville. Step up and you’ll be carded by a bounder in a suit.
If you successfully pass the ID shakedown, you’ll enter a large, organically-shaped room. In front of you is the restaurant area on a wooden landing up a step and behind a wooden railing. A plethora of wooden cocktail tables with high-backed wooden barstools stretches from the middle of the space over to garage-like windows that open out onto Clark in Summer, making it a primo spot for taking in the debauchery known as Clark Street foot traffic. A nicely stone-tiled aisle separates the restaurant area from a 50-foot mahogany bar that curves along the wall in a southeasterly direction. Behind the bar is a replica Wrigley Field scoreboard, and the bartenders post the scores, though only the final rather than inning by inning like the original.
As you would guess, Red Ivy offers dozens of flatpanels throughout, fed by seven satellite feeds, but they also take it up a notch: you’ll find big games projected on the curving white walls at the front and rear of the room that also serve as big screens accommodating 120″ broadcasts, in addition to holding up the white, track-lit ceiling, along with stately wooden columns. In addition to the friendly attendant at night, the mensroom at Red Ivy, located to the right of a large, arc-shaped DJ stand, offers flatpanel televisions above the urinals, behind Plexiglas and framed in plastic ivy. Why miss a half inning just to relieve yourself of the 20 beers you drank?
Additional rooms and two bars can be found in the back of Red Ivy, which are often rented out for private parties and separated from the main room by swanky red curtains. I once attended a surprise 40th birthday party in the back room on the left, which is located down a few steps and offers a banquette running along the north wall and below photos of early Wrigley Field days. They also have a medium-sized bar along the south wall, and two large booths at the west end. For $30, we partook in an all-you-can drink session that ran three hours and came with surprisingly good thin crust pizza (loaded with cheese) and bruschetta. Drinks could only be ordered one at a time, which was a bit annoying and very corporate as it creates bottlenecks at the bar, especially as your bartender has to enter every order on the register’s touchscreen.
Speaking of food, Red Ivy offers a menu specializing in pizza (deep dish and stuffed in addition to the aforementioned thin crust), as well as the usual array of appetizers, salads and sandwiches, as well as fried calamari and lobster ravioli, all of which is a bit more pricey than what you’ll find elsewhere in the neighborhood at $10+ per item. Seating is first come, first serve and table service is average on a good day.
What they don’t offer at Red Ivy is the “Beef” once purveyed at Red Ivy’s predecessor, Cubbie Doggs. For years, my friends dragged me to this dive of a hot dog stand after a long night of drinking, claiming that the Italian beef sandwiches were the best to be found on the planet. Personally, my favorite beef sandwich can be found at Flips in Glen Ellyn, but I digress… If anyone happens to know how Cubbie Doggs made their beefs so good, or if you actually have the recipe, please let me know as said friends are in the process of going through an exceedingly painful withdrawal.
The attractively decorated space, upscale pub grub and environment, and Thursday night broadcasts of Grey’s Anatomy attracts the ladies, while the lads, dressed anywhere from jeans and white gym shoes to loungewear, descend upon Red Ivy for the sports and food. The result is that curious Chicago hybrid: the upscale sports bar lounge. Sopo, eat your heart out! When the games are over, the loud Top 40 dance party begins. Bring your earplugs unless you love rocking out to Fergie rather than actually participating in a conversation.
Red Ivy, and its 6,000 square-foot environs, offers everything you could want in a Wrigleyville bar. Though Red Ivy gets very popular, you won’t feel as packed in as you would at just about everywhere else in the area, and an army of servers ensures that your level of social lubrication is high. The concept of Red Ivy was born out of a partnership between Premium Themes, Inc. and Palermo’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria – a far cry from the neighborhood taverns of old… Palermo’s has been slinging pies for over 40 years in the South Suburbs, so you can’t go wrong with that option at Red Ivy. For more information, check out the Red Ivy website. Go Cubbies… It’s gonna happen?