The Billy Goat Tavern restaurant chain in Chicago is a verifiable Windy City institution. Made famous in part by a 1978 Saturday Night Live sketch featuring John Belushi, the chain was established in 1934 by a Greek immigrant named William Sianis. The name of the Billy Goat Tavern restaurants was inspired by an actual goat that fell off a truck and wandered into Sianis’ original restaurant – the then Lincoln Tavern. Sianis adopted the goat and even went as far as to grow a goatee and to take on the nickname of “Billy Goat.”
In the aforementioned Saturday Night Live sketch starring John Belushi, the fictional Olympia Café that serves as the setting was based on the Billy Goat Tavern. Also lending to the fame of the Billy Goat Tavern, among other things, were a certain curse and various newspaper articles by the local Chicago columnist, Mike Ryoko. The Billy Goat Tavern was Ryoko’s favorite after-work bar. As for the curse, it is the dreaded curse of the Billy Goat – a popular legend among Chicago Cubs fans. As the story goes, the founder of the Billy Goat Tavern was asked to leave a 1945 World Series game at Wrigley Field because his pet goat’s odor was proving bothersome to other fans. So angry was Sianis, that he declared that the Cubs “ain’t gonna win no more.” Ever since the supposed incident, the Cubs have yet to win a National League pennant. To add insult to injury, the Cubs also haven’t won a World Series in more than 100 years.
No discussion about the Billy Goat Tavern restaurants would be complete without some insight into the food and the locations. The menu for the chain is pretty straightforward. It revolves mostly around simple, meat-based items, such as hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Polish sausages, Italian beef sandwiches, salami egg and cheese sandwiches, and hot dogs. The chain serves up breakfast specials in the morning, with examples including steak and eggs, ham omelets, and French toast. Chips are the side dish of choice. As was the case in the Saturday Night Live sketch, fries are not available. As for the locations of the Billy Goat Tavern restaurants, there are seven different taverns in the city of Chicago and its suburbs. The Billy Goat Tavern Original, as the chain calls it, is centrally located at 430 N. Michigan Avenue at Lower Level. In 2005, the chain ventured outside of the Chicago area, opening a branch in Washington, D.C. at 500 New Jersey Ave.