A fair-weather fan is the worst kind of fan, my sports-obsessed big brother taught me growing up. You stick with your team through good times and bad. Probably nobody understands that sentiment better than longtime Chicago Cubs fans, who witnessed their team’s 108-year-old dry spell come to a dramatic end during last fall’s seven-game World Series.
Although the Cubs were always a popular team, Cubbie Fever is now at an all-time high, and it’s not just new fans hopping on the victory bandwagon. Just in time for spring training, plenty of restaurants and bars around the Valley are branding themselves as Cubs Hubs — the go-to places for food and drink after a long afternoon at Sloan Park in Mesa (a.k.a. Wrigleyville West). For a taste of metro Phoenix’s long-standing Cubs Hubs, though, we recommend skipping the bandwagon restaurants and otherwise obvious choices (Portillos and Lou Malnati’s, for instance) and exploring these spots instead.
Groggy’s Bar and Grill
2207 West Main Street, Mesa
Hours: Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Groggy’s Bar and Grill is less than two miles from Sloan Park at Mesa’s Riverview Park, making it a convenient and low-key spot for some pre- or post-game noshing and eating. Owners Tom and Pamela Panopoulos are natives of Chicago’s North Side, and their unassuming pub has become a destination for Cubs fans looking for a convivial and wallet-friendly spot for grub like wings, burgers, and waffle fries. Bring along your ticket stub for discounts, but even without a stub, you’re not likely to overdraft your account on affordable eats like ground beef nachos, an effusive mass of hot, crispy chips glued together with cheese and griddle-charred beef. The kitchen also makes a mean club sandwich and patty melt. (Groggy’s Mega Sampler $9.95, ground beef nachos $8.95, Groggy’s cheeseburger $7.95, patty melt $7.95)
Diamond’s Sports Grille
161 North Centennial Way, Mesa
Hours: Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to midnight
Diamond’s is a longtime Chicago stronghold in Mesa that was originally founded by legendary Cubs broadcasters Harry Caray and his partner in the booth, Steve Stone. Inside the cozy bar and grill, you’ll find tributes to Chicago plastered on the walls, and the restaurant goes all out to accommodate Cubs fans in town for spring training. The bar opens an hour early for breakfast on game days — the saucy huevos rancheros come recommended — and offers free shuttle rides to Sloan Park on home-game days. The menu is mostly standard bar fare — think oversize hamburgers, including the extra-cheesy 1003 burger, smothered with a blend of three cheeses and gently sluiced with Thousand Island dressing. You’ll also find a very credible version of the classic Chicago dog, topped with peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a sprinkling of celery salt. The extra-long happy hour here runs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., and of course, there is Old Style beer. (Chicago dog $7.75, 1003 Burger $9.25, prime rib dip $10.50, steak sandwich $10.95)
Don & Charlie’s
7501 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale
Hours: Monday to Saturday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Back in the day, Cubs players often stayed at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale. Although the team no longer has any formal ties to the city, many players and fans head to Scottsdale during spring training to take in the tourist-friendly amenities, including its sizable roster of restaurants and bars. Although you won’t accuse it of being hip and trendy, Don & Charlie’s in Old Town has long been a destination for upscale-yet-unfussy post-game dinner and drinks. Owner Don Carlson is a native North Sider, and the restaurant’s eye-popping collection of baseball memorabilia includes plenty of Cubs-related gear. Come for the ambiance, but stay for the restaurant’s winning menu of chopped liver platters, prime steaks, baby back ribs, and chicken dishes. The person at the next table might be a coach, sportswriter, or more likely, another Cubs fan. (Chopped liver platter $8.99, shrimp scampi “Chicago” style $16.99, skirt steak Chicago style $33.99, baby-back ribs [half-slab] $21.99)
Jimmy’s of Chicago
884 East Williams Field Road, #102, Gilbert
Hours: Monday to Thursday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In the southeast Valley, Jimmy’s of Chicago is well-loved for its homestyle Italian cooking and friendly, Midwestern airs. Come here for Italian beef sandwiches dripping in au jus and topped with vinegary giardiniera peppers; Chicago grinders erupting with Italian meats like capicola and salami; and, of course, Chi-Dogs made with the requisite Vienna beef dog. Pastas are homemade, including a lovely plate of feathery gnocchi swimming in vodka sauce. Plus, you’ll find Italian-American Chicago specialties like chicken Vesuvio, a garlicky dish of bone-in chicken and sautéed potato wedges. There is plenty of Chicago sports memorabilia on the walls, and an Old Style beer sign beckons from the restaurant’s exterior. (Italian beef $11.99, Chicago grinder $12.99, homemade gnocchi $12.99, chicken Vesuvio $13.59)
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Chicago Hamburger Company
3749 East Indian School Road
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sunday
It’s not exactly convenient to Sloan Park, but if you’re craving Vienna all-beef hot dogs or a gorgeously cooked bratwurst, head to Chicago Hamburger Company in Arcadia. The restaurant imports its dogs, relish, sauerkraut, pickles, and even its poppy-seed buns straight from the Windy City, and the dining room is like a small museum to Chicago history. Come on a Wednesday or Saturday, if you can, when the kitchen features an extra-juicy bratwurst cooked in onions and beer, then gently smothered in a tangle of sauerkraut. Any day is a good day for the restaurant’s signature Windy City Sliders, and the same can be said for kitchen’s signature dessert: an ultra-creamy banana shake. It’s joy itself melted into a cold Styrofoam cup. (Windy City Sliders $1.25, Italian beef $6.95, bratwurst with sauerkraut $6.25, banana shake $4.59)
Hob Nob Sports Bar and Grill
7200 West Chandler Boulevard, Chandler
Hours: Monday to Sunday 11 a.m to 2 a.m.
If your goal is to get lost in a sea of Chicago sports fans, one of your best bets outside of Sloan Park is Hob Nob Sports Bar and Grill in Chandler. The Chicago-themed restaurant and bar is friendly and unassuming, and boasts a menu of above-average pub grub. Pulled pork sliders are a good start, the basted buns stuffed with succulent heaps of meat. You’ll find traditional starters (golden-brown potato skins and extra-crispy mozzarella sticks) and harder-to-find specialties like Greek-style saganaki, a lightly grilled square of goat cheese flambéed with a little brandy and brightened with a squeeze of lemon. Of course, there are also burgers, salads, sandwiches, and a modest menu of entrees featuring very good baby-back ribs and prime rib. (Potato skins $6.95, saganaki $7.95, pulled pork sliders $7.45, baby-back ribs [half-rack] $13.45)