Welcome to the first of the Wrigleyville adult refreshment establishment reviews. Our contributor Stephen has volunteered to make his way through the neighborhood on the longest pub crawl ever attempted. During the journey he will rate establishments on ambiance, food/drink and entertainment resulting in an overall score. Each category is awarded stars — No stars = Strike Out, 1 is a single, 2 a double, 3 is a triple and 4 is a home run. Whether you enjoy, agree or object to the ratings — this will be a fun crawl through the neighborhood.
Mullen’s on Clark
Overall: Triple (***)
I consider Mullen’s the Mark Grace of Wrigleyville. It’s doesn’t hit a lot of home runs, but it does all the little things right and is one of the MVPs of the neighborhood. Located a quarter block south of Wrigley, Mullen’s on Clark is one of a four-franchise bar chain (2 others in the Chicago-area and the 4th opened outside PNC Park in Pittsburgh) that somehow retains its charms in a Wrigleyville that many believe caters solely to the Chad and Trixie crowd. Named after Jim Mullen, a Chicago Police Officer critically injured in the line of duty, it’s a sports bar that gets the basics right. It’s not glamorous or sexy, but it provides good food, good drink and good entertainment. Mullen’s opened just over a decade ago, but never seemed to take a turn as the “it” spot on the Clark Street strip. Everyone seems to know it’s there, but it doesn’t often get as crazy or busy as other less quality bars in the area.
Ambiance: Triple (***)
The crowd gets a pretty good mix of guys and ladies, but, like most sports bar, it is a more male dominant crowd. Unlike a lot other bars in the area, the crowd is a pretty laid back group that is generally more concerned about having a drink and having fun rather than worrying that they look cool or tough (aka the aforementioned Chad and Trixie crowd that frequents a place like Barleycorns). The staff is your standard Wrigleyville bar staff. Mostly attractive females working the bar, a couple guys working the door. Generally speaking, the staff is pleasant to deal with and quick to take an order. They were attentive and friendly while I was there. The bar played mostly 90’s rock music, which is always a plus in my book.
In addition, the bar also has a small outdoor beer garden in the back and a second bar upstairs. The upstairs bar is generally only open when needed for overflow crowds, like Cubs game days, but the room is also available for private parties.
Food/Drink: Triple (***)
Mullen’s has the self-proclaimed “best craft beer selection in Wrigley” and they might not be wrong. Overall, they offer about 30 different beers in bottles and 15 different beers on draft. The chalkboard beer menu suggests that they rotate some of the beers they offer, such as a recent seasonal pumpkin beer during the fall.
The food is good bar food. Mullen’s is not a gastro pub, nor does it claim to be. It’s nothing fancy, just solid bar food. Mullen’s offers various appetizers, sandwiches and pizza, but is probably best known for buffalo wings. They entered and won Wing Fest in 2009. I tried the cheesy garlic buffalo wings and they did not disappoint. The wings came out from the kitchen very hot and aromatic. The smell alone made me happy I ordered them. The seasoning was great and the wings were nicely cooked and crispy. The only negative is that they do charge .60 for any extra dipping sauce, which is not a big deal, but makes it feel like you are getting nickeled and dimed a little.
The burger was decent, but I rate it simply as average. It was on special for $4 with fries the night I tried it, which is a good deal, but I might have been upset if I paid the full price of $10 for it. They do offer the option of regular fries, Cajun fries, or tater tots with any sandwich. The Cajun fries were solid, but not spectacular. The tots were crispy, hot and perfect though.
Overall, menu prices were on average $10 for a sandwich/burger with fries, which seems standard these days. A great thing that sets Mullen’s apart in the neighborhood is that they offer a special every night of the week; including Friday and Saturday nights, which you don’t often see any more (Like every other bar in the area, specials not applicable on Cubs home game days).
Entertainment: Homerun (****)
One big draw to Mullen’s is the in-bar entertainment. Of course, the standard Golden Tee and Juke Box are there, but there is also the rare find of a foosball table. However, the star of the show for me is the three authentic dart boards on the back wall. Not many bars still have dart boards with real darts. Playing is free, but you have to leave an ID with the bartender to get the darts, so don’t forget to return them when you are done.
Mullen’s is also a good place to watch a game. They have plenty of TVs so you can watch the game from any seat in the house. Sitting at the bar offered the best view of the most TVs though, so that is a good place to camp out on game day. During the football season, Mullen’s is of course a Chicago Bears bar, but it also caters to Indianapolis Colts fans and Michigan State fans.
Overall, Mullen’s gets a TRIPLE (***) for providing a fun, entertaining environment with good food and good value.