Recently Aaron got a job right near my office so now he and I and Andrew can go out to lunch regularly. Last time we went to Fox & Obel Cafe. This time we decided to jump on the other end of the spectrum and visit the Billy Goat.
The Billy Goat, specifically the one located under Michigan Avenue, is a true Chicago landmark. I don’t know how the tourists even find this place since it’s just a staircase on Michigan going underground. When I first moved to Chicago I thought it was the subway or something.
The Billy Goat is the place that was famously spoofed on SNL in the 70′s with the “Cheezborger! Cheezborger! No fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!” bit. Except it’s not a bit. It’s still going on every day down there.
I’d been to the Billy Goat one other time when Jake was in town, but it was Andrew and Aaron’s first visit. When we walked in we stood the top of the steps trying to take it all in and the guys immediately started yelling at us to step down. They also told us not to look at the menu and just to order the double. I tried to order a single cheeseburger, but of course I was reprimended and told to get the double so I did.
The dining room of the Billy Goat is old and dingy, filled with old memorabilia – newspapers and photos and things – all authentic. I have no idea how they’re going to expand to other cities and successfully reproduce the atmosphere in there. On one wall there was a goat mural with a rainbow mural leading us to believe we were seating not in the smoking section, but the gay section. .. which is cool. Billy Goat is gay friendly!
The crowd inside is a mix between obvious tourists and locals grabbing a bite on their lunch break. There’s a full bar but I’ve never heard of anyone grabbing an after-work drink there. No idea who goes to the bar, though I did see they have a specialty drink called The Horny Goat that seemed interesting. The food is adequate.. nothing spectactular, but then the food isn’t really the reason people come to the restaurant. Btw, if you get your order to stay you don’t even get a plate. You just have to carry your burger to the condiment station and then to your table on one of those flimsy sheets of deli paper. Would it kill them to buy a stack of paper plates?
The story is that William Sianis, a Greek immigrant, bought the Lincoln Tavern in 1934. It was located near what’s now the United Center and mostly catered to sports fans. Sianis became known as the “Billy Goat” and named his bar the Billy Goat Tavern when a goat fell off a truck driving by the bar and wandered inside. Sianis then adopted the goat. In 1945 Sianis was forbidden by the Chicago Cubs to bring his goat into Wrigley Field during a 1945 World Series game. Sianis then cursed the field and said that the Cubs would never again win a championship.. a curse that’s held true!