Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger. No Pepsi…..Coke. No Fries….Chips. If you’re a fan of classic Saturday Night Live. You’ve seen the skit. The Billy Goat Tavern is a real place and the owner of the tavern is the one who put the infamous curse on the Chicago Cubs.
J and I were walking down Michigan Avenue looking for something to eat. When she was in college, she interned at WMAQ which is on Michigan near the Chicago river. The Billy Goat is a popular hangout for reporters in the area as WMAQ (NBC), the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and WGN Radio all have their offices in the area. It’s been eight years or so and she was having a hard time remembering exactly where the tavern was. As we walked north on Michigan Avenue, she saw the sign telling us to go down a flight of stairs. The Billy Goat Tavern is actually under Michigan Avenue. You have to go down a flight of stairs where you come to a subterranean street similar to Lower Wacker Drive on the other side of the river.
It was just after lunch when J and I walked in. The tavern is a popular tourist destination as well as a place loved by the locals. When you walk in a street level, you have to go down another short flight of stairs where you run into the giant horseshoe order counter. When we walked in, we were told to go to the front to order so we did. I had never been there so didn’t know what was going on. We got to the order taker and she barked, “What you want? Double Cheezborger?” I did, J didn’t and was quick enough to let the counter person know. She yelled back the order to the cook who was working a flat top right next to her. After the burgers were ordered, “You want cheeps?” Of course we wanted chips. I got BBQ, J got plain. Next question. “Drinks” J said two Pepsi’s. Whoops. “No Pepsi….Coke!” Ok, two Cokes. She rang up our meal which came to $14 and handed us our chips. At the same time, two burgers were thrown on the counter on wax paper. The cook told me he had a double and a single and pointed out the fixin bar next to the counter. The order taker yelled that the drinks were coming, so J grabbed her burger and went to put on some ketchup. I grabbed the drinks, chips, and my burger and joined her even though I didn’t want anything.
There are tables throughout the space, but they were all full. There’s also a bar that runs along one side of the space and that’s where we found space. Not sure if we were supposed to eat there or not, but the bartender never said anything and even asked to make sure we were ok with drinks.
The burgers are nothing special. They’re thin patties on a large bun. The experience is really why you go to the Billy Goat. The servers are entertaining and it’s just a part of Chicago history you need to experience. J doesn’t normally eat hamburgers, but these are the thin ones that she likes. My burger was good, but nothing I’m going to crave. Would I go back to the Billy Goat? Absolutely and I’d tell everyone who was visiting to Chicago to look for it. It’s not a gourmet meal. Hell, it’s not even great bar food, but you’ll never experience anything like it anywhere else in the country.