Deep down under Michigan Avenue and its stores, is a burger joint. But this isn’t just any burger joint, it is a place where Chicago journalists debated over brewskis the issues of the day, it is a place where tourists can grab a snack, and most of all , it is place that has been immortalized in pop culture, ..it is the Billy Goat Tavern.
To see it from the outside, it looks like any beer joint. Walk inside and you are surrounded by almost seventy years of Chicago history. But that isn’t the main attraction here. People have come from all over the world to eat the food . They have also come to hear the famous cry. “Cheezborgher!” Actually, the Billy Goat has two stories, one involving a goat and the other involving a skit made famous on late night television.
Buying the former Lincoln Tavern, William Bill Sianis opened the Billy Goat Tavern. Originally located near United Center, it was a place where sports fans could enjoy food and a game. But here is where Sianis, became a legend. In 1945, he bought two tickets for the World Series, one for him and one for his goat. Ushers wouldn’t let in the goat, so Sianis cursed the Cubs by exclaiming that as long as the goat couldn’t come in, the Cubs would never take the Series. It rings true to this day. (When they finally do win, it will be the end of time LOL)
The other legend to come out of the Billy Goat is that the Chicago establishment will forever be immortalized thanks to a writer in the early days of “Saturday Night Live” Don Novello, was a copywriter for an ad agency here in town. Looking for a funny skit, he remembered the cooks and owner of the Billy Goat. He wrote the skit where the cooks scream “Cheezborgher, cheezborgher, cheeps, ” The late John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, and Bill Murray appeared in the skit. Murray returns to this day to enjoy the food and atmosphere.
As a fan of the early days of SNL, I was excited to try the food. I love a good burger, and for the simplicity of it, the double cheese was the one to try. It was beefy and juicy, a joy to eat. Whatever you put on it, however fancy you make it , it is still a burger. At Billy Goat, the burger is the star. Add to it a bag of chips and either a beer or Coke. (No Pepsi, Coke!) Now you have a meal. Even with all of its notoriety, the world famous double cheese costs no more than a burger at McDonalds. And it tastes better!!
Of course, we couldn’t leave the Billy Goat with out a souvenir from the gift shop. Paul Sianis generously provided us with a t shirt that I will treasure. Maybe Ackroyd or Murray will get to see it some day. The Billy Goat has eight locations in the city and elsewhere. From Navy Pier, Merchandise Mart, and Terminal One at O Hare, you can always satisfy that craving for a cheezborgher. For authentic Chicago, you can’t do better than this.