A patio in summer is a beautiful thing. Chicagoans are so desperate to be outside on the few days a year when the weather is perfect that we'll wedge ourselves into the chairs that certain restaurants cram between the sidewalk and the street—and consider ourselves lucky to have the privilege. Then there are the real patios, set back from the street, with enough room to move around. Logan Square already has its fair share of good ones, but at 6,000 square feet, the patio at Park & Field—a "vintage sports club" that opened last winter on Fullerton between Kimball and Central Park—is one of the biggest in the city. It boasts 200 seats, two bocce courts, a large fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs, a camper that serves as a bar on the weekends, and it plays host to occasional movie screenings.
Indoors, the place looks like a strange mash-up of a vintage gymnasium, a fancy hotel lobby, and a sports bar: chandeliers and leather couches, televisions, old tennis rackets, even a pommel horse. The mostly midwestern beer list is extensive, and there are also a dozen wines by the glass and nearly as many cocktails. The patio drinks menu is abbreviated, cutting the number of offerings in each category approximately in half (oddly, no prices are listed, but most cocktails are around $10 and glasses of wine are $8). Crucially, though, another category is introduced: the frozen slushy drink. There are frozen versions of rosé, a Moscow Mule, and a "spicy" paloma. The last sounded interesting but tasted like a generic margarita, without a hint of grapefruit and barely any spice. Worse, it was frozen so hard and the straw so narrow that drinking it was a struggle. The Moscow Mule was of a better consistency but similarly bland—sweet, with no evidence of the bite of ginger beer.
Two other drinks veered in completely opposite directions. A too-sweet watermelon margarita tasted more like a Jolly Rancher than fresh fruit. The Grass on the Field (gin, elderflower liqueur, lemongrass syrup, and lime juice) was herbal and savory, by far the most interesting of the bunch. (Perhaps I expected too much from a menu where one of the four cocktails is a vodka and Red Bull with sangria.)
The food we ordered was similarly hit-or-miss. I've always thought that there's no such thing as bad mac 'n' cheese, but what we tried came close. Gummy and undersalted, with no evidence of the advertised poblano and chipotle peppers, the dish tasted like it came from a box. The bruschetta sampler turned out to be DIY: several generous slices of garlicky toasted ciabatta with tiny cups of fresh mozzarella, halved cherry tomatoes, and roasted mushrooms—not nearly enough for all the toast. For $10, you're mostly getting bread.
Surprisingly for a menu that's mostly upscale bar food, the baby beet salad turned out to be the dish I'm most likely to order again. Pistachios, house-made ricotta, and orange segments provided welcome contrasts of flavor and texture, and there was just enough lemon-poppy-seed dressing to add a citrusy note without overpowering the other ingredients. Braised chicken thighs were pretty good too, with crisp skin and moist meat—but like so much else on the menu, they were underseasoned.
Overall, the food at Park & Field isn't particularly good. Neither are the cocktails. And yet . . . I'll be back. One reason is the excellent service: our waitress was friendly and efficient, our food and drinks arrived quickly, and one minor mix-up over a drink order was immediately corrected. But mostly, the patio is just that nice. v