Even if the Cubs don’t repeat as World Series champions, baseball fans who like craft beer can look forward to Lucky Dorr, the new restaurant and beer garden opening next month just outside of Wrigley Field. Owner Matthias Merges (Yusho) got into the craft beer game last year at Old Irving Brewing Co., and he’s bringing some friends with him to create an impressive list of collaborative beers unique to his new spot. Lucky Dorr will be the only place to find special brews from Begyle, Around the Bend, Moody Tongue, Revolution, Maplewood, Off Color, Spiteful, Pipeworks, Lo Rez, Lake Effect, Illuminated Brew Works, Blue Nose, and—of course—Old Irving. He’s also working with Virtue Cider on a special offering.
The patio’s located next to the new Cubs gift shop near the corner of Waveland and Clark Street. It’s part of the Park at Wrigley plaza that includes the team’s administrative offices. Merges has a rapport with the Cubbies: he is part of Wrigley’s celebrity chef series and is also opening a cocktail lounge across the street at the under-construction Hotel Zachary at Clark and Addison.
The restaurant will be open year-long, making use of 80 outdoor seats on the plaza in front of Wrigley Field’s famous marquee. The beer garden will morph into more of a ski lodge atmosphere in the winter when crews install the seasonal ice skating rink. That will allow Lucky Dorr to serve spiked hot chocolates and glögg.
The beer specials at Lucky Dorr will rotate. It’ll have eight to 10 on draft at a time, as well as a kegged cocktail from Billy Sunday, Merges’ Logan Square cocktail bar. He said Wrigley’s events will dictate the beer, as a James Taylor or Jimmy Buffet concert may bring out a themed beer based on the musicians, for example. The Cubs’ opponents may also provide inspiration for what’s on tap.
Merges and his company, Folkart Restaurant Management, also own Yusho in Logan Square and Hyde Park, and A10 in Hyde Park. His team has been hitting the books reading about food served at baseball games through the years. Some of these snacks were discontinued because club owners wanted to save money. Lucky Dorr will bring some of that history back to fans will salami chips and other dried meats from yesteryear. They’ll also have prepackaged gourmet nuts and other snacks that fans can take inside of the stadium: “Salty, delicious food that goes well with beer,” Merges said.
Look for giant pretzels with dipping options including beer cheese and ranch and mustard. There’s no kitchen inside the space—there’s only 700 square feet inside—but Folkart’s culinary staff will make the items offsite.
One design highlight is the menu boards. It’ll use a flap display, one that’s familiar at train stations. It provides a nostalgic touch and that’s vital. Baseball fans, like no others in America, need that connection to the past. “Even in this new, shiny building, when you walk in you’re going to have a sense of history,” Merges said.
Merges credits the Ricketts family—the Cubs owners—for seizing the opportunity to bring some cred back to the area by paving the way for new construction. He believes the current state of Wrigley bars includes owners who want to gauge patrons for as much money as they can—as shown by the high covers charged last year during the World Series run. Quality food and drink has taken a backseat to profits.
“Clark Street—back in the 80s when Mia Francesca opened—was a great place to hang out,” Merges said. “There were dining options that were a little bit more authentic. But now it’s kind of turned to ‘how do we get the most money activations?’”
The tide’s changing. The arrivals of Lucky Dorr and other restaurateurs, like One Off Hospitality (Big Star), Four Corners Tavern Group (Brickhouse), and 4 Star (The Smoke Daddy), mean Wrigleyville is now “reversing to authentic, unique experiences,” Merges said.
Lucky Dorr should open the second week of July while the Cubs are on the road. Merges wants to be ready for the start of the three-game series versus St. Louis that starts on July 21. That’s followed by the Crosstown Classic versus the White Sox.