Best of both worlds: bourbon (barrel aged) beer.

“In the 70s and early 80s, Wrigleyville was a shithole. As much of a shithole as anywhere else, anyway,” my companion told me as we headed out to Sweet Baby Ray’s Smokehouse, the new city outpost of the suburban chain.

We’d picked a rainy weekday night when the Cubs were on the road, and we were off to an auspicious beginning, with ample parking and a dearth of drunken dudes. Still, we wondered why Sweet Baby Ray’s had chosen this of all neighborhoods to settle in. It may not be a shithole these days, and obviously there are tourists and ticket holders to cater to, but what happens in the winter? Will a chain draw the rest of us, particularly with independents Wrigley BBQ and the kosher Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed nearby?

The motto here is “Smokehouse, Bourbon & Beer,” which sounds promising enough. Upon entering, you’re greeted by the bartender, a “Wall of Bourbon,” and multiple ribbons and trophies attesting to the prowess of the team manning the restaurant’s Southern Pride smoker. They might as well have added “Sports Bar” to that tag line—the front is dominated by bar stools and hightops, and there are nine TVs inside, one on the patio, and one in the men’s room (never miss a moment!)