Wrigley Boasts New Concessions, Loses Iconic 7-Eleven

I hate waiting in lines. Whether it’s airport security, traffic, or the grocery store, I just can’t stand standing around. But as anyone who’s sat in the Wrigley Field bleachers can attest, that’s exactly what you’ve got to do in order to score the prime real estate. How, then, can one such as myself reconcile the necessary wait times? Why, alcohol, of course.

A trip to the bleachers has generally necessitated a stop at the 7-Eleven at 3554 N. Sheffield for a Big Gulp cup and whatever your drink of choice happened to be. Whether it was vodka or whiskey and a top-off of soda or just a 40oz of beer, you could take the edge off of the interminable queue for just a few dollars. You used to be able to get the cups for free, but at some point the folks at the popular convenience store got wise to the scheme. No matter, the extra $1.25 or so was well worth it.

Is there anything better than drinking fast-warming beer from a straw while standing in (on?) line in what was inevitably either direct sunlight or frigid shade? Okay, yeah, there are probably a few items I could put higher on the list. But there’s just something about the innocent illicitness of the act that made it that much more fun. You felt like you were getting away with something and being all sneaky, even though pretty much everyone else around you was doing exactly the same thing.

What I really loved, though, was introducing people to the ritual. I’ve taken several friends to Wrigley for the first time and each trip to the ballpark allowed me to see everything from a fresh perspective all over again. I always felt like I was letting them in on this little secret, pulling back the curtain on the insider experience. There’s just something about sprinting up those ramps with a bellyful of warm suds that creates lifelong bonds with your buddies.

But with the recent closure of that iconic convenience store, those days of clandestine consumption may be gone for good. Sure, you can bring your booze and patronize a different store, but it’s just not the same. Look at me, waxing nostalgic about paying for a plastic cup in order to conceal my beer. I think it’s more the loss of a tradition I shared with my boys a couple times a year than it is the actual location. Sigh.

As long as we’re on the topic of sausage parties, though, not all the news regarding food and beverage options at Wrigley is sad. That’s because ballpark denizens are going to be blessed with an upgraded encased meats selection that would make Abe Froman blush.

Legendary wiener-slinger Hot Doug’s returns to the bleachers boasting non-sandwiches called Champ Summers (spicy Polish sausage with Goose Island beer mustard and fried onions), the Joe Wallis (curried bratwurst with dijonnaise, onions and smoked gouda) and the Barry Foote (corned-beef “teuben” with Russian dressing, shredded Swiss and sauerkraut).

Those are all former Cubs players, by the way. You’d think they’d have some named after Ian Stewart, Ryan Theriot, and Matt Garza, but I suppose those characters are already phallic enough as it is.

Anyway, moving on…there will also be a new barbecue stand in the bleachers serving up a heavenly-sounding concoction of smoked brisket or pulled pork with barbecue sauce and mac and cheese in an edible bread cone called the Grand Slam BBQ Twist. Yes, please. Brisket is my spirit animal, but I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to take that down and still have room for anything else. Ah, but love always finds a way.

While patrons in actual seats won’t have access to Doug’s dogs or the GSBT, they will be blessed with offerings from a brand-new Gilbert’s Craft Sausages cart featuring all kinds of delicious creations. I’m actually salivating just thinking about the Caprese (chicken sausage, diced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella pearls and balsamic glaze), Aloha (chicken sausage, pinepple salsa, lime aioli, Cholula hot sauce and crushed potato chips) and Beef & Cheddar (smoked sausage, cheddar, mac and cheese, bacon, barbecue sauce) they’ll no doubt be selling out of every game.

Not enough? Fine, also newly available in the general concession area will be buffalo chicken waffle fries, which really don’t need much in the way of explanation. That won’t stop me from trying though: Buffalo. Chicken. Waffle. Fries. Got it? Good. The only thing I’m non-plussed about with it is the presence of blue cheese. I just can’t get behind moldy food that smells like feet. Weird, I know.

At the end of the day, better food > not being able to patronize 7-Eleven. For my money, there’s never been anything better than an afternoon or evening at Wrigley, but I love that the Cubs are taking steps to improve the overall ballpark experience. I’m sure more than a few fans will grumble that there was nothing wrong with an Old Style and a regular all-beef Hebrew National, but flying the “Wrigley is losing its charm” flag is kind of missing the point.

I mean, I’m as big a fan of the smell of stale urine and watching replays on bird-poop-covered TV’s with fuzzy, standard def feeds, but I was able to acclimate to the new environs with relative ease. I was even able to cope with the displacement of some of the traditional organ music in order to accommodate the distracting rock and hip-hop of the whole walk-up music thing.

At the end of the day, your experience at Wrigley is going to be what you make of it. If your idea of perfection is recreating your first days there, more power to you. I just enjoy having higher-end options for food and drink and seeing that the Cubs are willing to cater to those desires. Lest we forget, many of the old-school quirks that comprise the vaunted Wrigley experience were born of ownership’s spendthrift mentality.

Why improve the park, PK Wrigley reasoned, when fans will show up in droves regardless? Well, we know that’s not really true these days and the product of the field is being elevated just as surely as the one on it. Is it cheap? No, but if I didn’t want to spend the money I could stay home. I understand that rising costs are a barrier to entry for many, but that’s an unfortunate circumstance of life in general.

I don’t think too many will complain if the Cubs do indeed field a winner to go with the wieners. And if all goes according to plan, the beverage selection will eventually include champagne to wash it all down.

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