Since 1990, Yak-zies on Clark has been a staple drinking establishment in the Wrigleyville Clark-Addison-Sheffield sports bar corridor. The Clark location is younger and larger than its older brother Yak-zies on Diversey (once closed but now re-opened) and is a good place if you want to get a beer before or after the Cubs game or catch some other sporting event on TV. If you want a late night drinking den, check out the Diversey venue. Both serve up pretty good pub grub and are Chicago classics.
Yak-zies is the last sports bar on this particular block of Clark. While Tuscany and Fuel have replaced Hamm's and the Wrigleyville Tap, respectively, Yak-zies hangs on as an old-school sports bar / neighborhood joint in spite of fierce competition that includes Murphy's Bleachers, Sports Corner, Harry Carry's Tavern, Bernie's, Cubby Bear, Sluggers, and Mullen's, just to name a few. Yak-zies is quite visible from the street by its long yellow and black awning, as well as the bright orange Yak-zies sign promoting buffalo chicken wings, "peeza," and a rising sun. Walk in through the glass door and you will see classic Yak-zies decor: exposed brick, polished wooden tables, sports memorabilia and newspaper clippings adorning the walls, video poker, a sign counting down time left to Cubs opening day (to the second), an ATM, sidewalk windows that open out, 15 televisions, four big screens, and plenty of "tang" sauce.
Through a door in the south wall of the saloon, you'll find a spacious beer garden in two parts. The main beer garden is located on street level and is separated from Cubs fans by a wrought iron fence. This area gets packed before and after Cubs games in summertime, and provides canopied warmth and a game of pool to winter patrons. Murals of Chicago sports compliment the beer ads, signed Matt Singletary and Scottie Pippin jerseys, and green plastic tables and chairs. The back bar, with its sliding glass window, ensures the beer flows freely back there. The second part of the beer garden is located on an upper deck, is somewhat smaller and is fenced in with wood. It was in the street-level beer garden that I violated my own personal no-drinking-before-12:00- noon rule for the second time in my life before a Cubs game. Like the first time, I went beyond mere intoxication to a whole new level of drunkenness that including drinking on a rooftop with five Australians, falling asleep in a cab ride to the annual Lincoln Avenue street fair, and leaving not less than 20 messages on a friend's voicemail after his cell phone inexplicably cut out. Never again.
After years without Budweiser, Yak-zies serves 12 beers on tap including Bud Light and KJ's (not so) Famous Ale, and 11 more in bottles. Overall, the food is quite good, but the buffalo wings are a tad overrated. Yak-zies does use the original buffalo wing recipe from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, where they were invented, and the wings are good. However, Yak-zies only offers a few sauces, the sauce is spread thinly, and the "hot" sauce wasn't very hot (I'll have to try the "Oh my gosh" sauce next time). These wings are nowhere near as good as bw-3's, but are much better than the fatty, greasy wings you'll find at Hooter's. On the other hand, Yak-zies excels with their chicken sandwiches, which hold the largest chicken breasts I have ever run across. The toasted ravioli is also good, and the salads are sure to satisfy even an immense appetite. Their parsley-crusted "peeza" is not only good, but so good as Yak-zie's has started a side business, Yak-zie's Pizza Foodservice, Inc., which sells these pies to other bars like Higgins' Tavern. And for the financially challenged, free popcorn is available as well as drinks (at the water fountain, that is).
Service at Yak-zies almost always leaves something to be desired. I have often had to wait, and have had to put up with attitude from the waitresses. One of my friends describes an afternoon at Yak-zies as his official "worst beer garden moment." In his words: "On the evening of the Cub-Giants play-in game on October 1, 1998, a friend and I asked the waitress if we could hold two tables for our group. She consulted with management and assured us it wouldn't be a problem. As game time grew near, the waitress informed us that we would have to leave because they needed the tables. Our friend and I reminded her of her promise and that management said it was alright to reserve the tables until the group arrived. The waitress reiterated that we needed to leave immediately. At that point, we asked to see the manager personally. An extremely bellicose, aloof individual approached the table and said, 'You need to leave now.' I promised him that we were regulars and that we would never darken their doorstep again if they would make us leave. He smugly shrugged of the threat and said, 'Whatever.' I've never been back and I never will." Hopefully, you're experience will be different.
© Copyright 2008 by Jonathan Lurie. All rights reserved. More of Jonathan Lurie's photographs can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/lurie
The crowd consists mainly of rowdy sports fans as well as low-key locals that dig the food and like to watch games there with friends. It is the type of place where if you wore a green sweatshirt, baseball hat, and black track pants, there will be someone else in the crowd dressed exactly like you. Sports teams supported include the Cubs (duh) and other Chicago teams minus the White Sox. On Cubs opening day, WXRT annually hosts a few local bands along with Lin Bremer and Terri Hemmert to kick things off right. College teams supported include Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Northwestern, and Ohio State. Once when I was there, they had a promotion by Crown Royal and were giving away free shots in red shot glasses that lit up after you downed one. They even had "interactive bass fishing" in the beer garden. How can you top that? (read: facetiously)
I recommend Yak-zies when the Cubs are out of town or during the winter. Yak-zies is a great place to catch a big game on TV, just don't fall asleep at your table. The original owner, Ken Miller, passed away in 2007 and the place is now run by his son-in-law, Joe Spagnoli. For more information, check out the Yak-zies website. If you are interested in the history of Yak-zies, check out my Yak-zies on Diversey page. There you go, boss.
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