Billy Goat Tavern was my absolute favorite place we went to in Chicago. You know a place has really made an impression on you when you keep wanting to go back. Matt and I were only there for three days, but I made sure I went twice. I even bought a tshirt. Ha.
Oddly enough, we didn't even really know about Billy Goat and we literally just "stumbled upon" it. We had just finished an architectural boat tour around the city, and were looking to get a quick drink when Matt saw this sign:
This obviously piqued our interest so we started the descension into the underworld of Chicago. So cool!
We walked in and were greeted by this sign.
Totally bustling. Totally retro. Totally underground.
We took a seat at the fully stocked bar, with all the brown stuff lined up in the front row. Already likin' the place. Dusty black and white photos hung on the walls.
Nick, our bartender, was RAD. We started talking to him, and mentioned he had worked there for 21 years. Whoa. That's when Matt and I started to suspect that maybe this place was a big deal???
Jim Beam Old Fashioned.
I started getting hungry, and wanted a snack before dinner. What's good here?, we asked Nick. He started on about their "famous cheeseburger." But make sure to get a double patty, he recommended-- the single one is just not enough. Yessir.
So off I headed to the ordering counter.
Menu was super old, drawn on a long, single piece of white plastic. It looked like they hadn't changed the pricing since the 80s.
Two super thin patties and cheese on a roll. I added raw onions, mustard and ketchup.
This was OUT OF CONTROL goodness. So simple! No frills! GOODNESS. I had asked for fries, but they didn't have any. I got bbq chips.
Matt's a breakfast sandwich conosseiur so he went to order one for himself. Just bacon, egg, on a toasted roll. Add ketchup.
Bfast sandwich porn.
We spent over an hour here, it was so awesome!!!! It just had this really great old-school Chicago vibe-- friendly bartender, great drinks, easy menu. Really, what more do you need in life? Billy Goat has the basics, all done really well.
There was this super old goat's head that hung from above the bar-- it was so dark I couldn't get a good picture of it, but it really added to the super JANK quality of the place. Umamimart loves JANKY. Check out this painting on one of the doors!
Alright, so it turns out that Billy Goat Tavern is actually a really big deal. I'll let you read about it on their website for a full recap of their long history, but basically, they've been around since 1934, when a Greek immigrant, William "Billy Goat" Sianis, opened it and named it after he acquired a pet goat. Legend has it that Bill put a curse on the Cubs in 1945, when he and his pet goat were denied entrance into the World Series game. HA! The Cubs have never made it to the World Series since.
More importantly, Billy Goat was immortalized in the 1978 Saturday Night Live skit with John Belushi, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. HILARIOUS.
The phrase, Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger. No Pepsi. Coke is all over the place in the Tavern. We wondered where it came from when we were there, and that's where it comes from.
Anyway, so Matt and I had NO IDEA of any of this when we walked into Billy Goat-- the curse, the SNL skit, its long, rich history. Life can be so serendipitous.
I'm a dork and was totally determined to go back once more before we left. We were crunched for time on our last day, but I ducked in and got a few burgers to go so we could eat back in our hotel room while we packed. Matt was in charge of getting the beers.
L'ultima Cena. (Last Supper)
We are so classy.
There are many locations in Chicago, but you MUST go to this one! It's been here since 1964, and it's where, I assume, the Second City gang hung out, which inspired the skit. It's a really special place!
BILLY GOAT TAVERN
430 N Michigan Avenue
Alright gang, this concludes THE CHICAGO TEN. God, what an awesome trip! Many thanks to Matt K. for being a superb traveling and eating buddy. We always have good times, great laughs. He gets to choose the city for our next annual meetup so stay tuned in 2011!
Top photo by Matt K.