It’s Opening Day for Chicago’s baseball teams and that furnishes local bars and restaurants with opportunities to get creative with their offerings.
The Chicago Cubs season opener takes place today versus the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox have a primetime appointment in Texas versus the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros and old friend Jose Abreu. The Sox don’t play at home at Guaranteed Rate Field until Monday, April 3 versus the San Francisco Giants.
The Cubs have already made waves with the announcement that Small Cheval is taking over vacant restaurant space across from Wrigley Field once occupied by former manager Joe Maddon’s restaurant. Maddon’s Post, a collaboration with Levy, closed in December 2019. With two floors, this is the largest location of Small Cheval, a spinoff of West Loop’s Au Cheval — home of one of Chicago’s most popular burgers. The burgers are supposedly griddled differently, but to most tastebuds, they’re more or less the same. Folks wait hours for the burger. Too bad former Cubs manager Lee Eliya can’t comment on this development for Cubs fans.
Small Cheval burgers will also be available inside Wrigley in the bleachers. Those are the Budweiser Bleachers, to be clear. Bud has also unveiled special limited-edition Cubs-branded cans. That might make Sox fans a little salty. Last year, Sox Park switched to Molson Coors as its official beer sponsor. That effectively ended the production of Goose Island’s White Sox Golden Ale which came in jet-black collectible cans. Goose, a local brand that once had a brewpub a few blocks away from Wrigley, is owned by the same multinational as Budweiser.
But baseball’s not just about beer and encased meats. Gaijin, a Japanese restaurant in West Loop known for savory pancakes called okonomiyaki, is selling Cubs- and White Sox-themed shave ice. The kitchen staff will sell kakigori in two configurations. North Side baseball fans can order Cubby-Kuma with Cracker Jack ice cream, birthday cake syrup, red velvet cookies, and chocolate coffee beans. Southpaw, inspired by the team’s mascot, is the choice for South Siders: mint chip ice cream, frosted mint syrup, Oreo sandwich cookie crumble, chocolate coffee beans, and a cocoa Sox cookie cap. Gaijin changes its kakigori flavors seasonally. Hopefully, both teams won’t be eliminated by the time the baseball themes are swapped out.
These cost $17 each. Some may scoff at that price for a frozen dessert, but Gaijin chef and owner Paul Virant explains: “Water is pretty inexpensive, yes, but there’s a lot of other factors and components that go into it,” Virant tells Eater. “Special buckets to create the ice molds, an expensive machine imported from Japan, homemade ice creams, syrups, garnishes, cookies, staff to produce it, etcetera.”