Billy Goat Tavern: Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger!

"Welcome to the Billy Goat!"

“Welcome to the Billy Goat!”

Way back in the 1970’s, inside Studio 8H at 30 Rockerfeller Center in New York City, a larger than life comedian named John Belushi uttered one bizzare, yet memorable catchphrase:

“Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger!  No Pepsi, Coke!  No Fries, Chips!”

That was the greasy spoon Greek, Pete Dionasopolis uttering one of the most memorable catchphrases from Saturday Night Live’s first big, recurring sketches, the Olympia Diner.  As various guest stars discovered, there were only three items on the long menu that could actually be ordered successfully: a cheeseburger (pronounced “Cheezborger” by Belushi), chips (pronounced “Cheep!”), and a Pepsi.  Anyone who wanted to order a coke met with the sharp retort, “No Coke!  Pepsi!”  Anyone who wanted fries got the response, “No fries! Chips!”  If fans wanted to step into the make-believe Olympia Diner, they could easily do it.  All they had to do was go to Chicago.

Situated underneath Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s “Miracle Mile”, is one of the most famous bars in America, the Billy Goat Tavern.   It was this little bar/restaurant that was the inspiration for the Olympia on SNL.  SNL writer, Don Novello, who pitched the Olympia sketch, was a regular at the Billy Goat, along with SNL veteran and comedy legend, Bill Murray.  Despite Belushi’s performance and a Chicago native, he himself never set foot in the Billy Goat.  Sketch or not, this is a landmark in Chicago.

First opened in 1934 by William Sianis, the original location was on Madison Avenue, near the old Chicago Stadium.  He opened it up for $205 on a bounced check (the proceeds from his first week in business paid off the check).  During the 1944 Republican National Convention in Chicago, he posted a sign on the tavern which said “No Republicans Allowed!”, which only encouraged more Republicans to flock to the tavern demanding to be served, which in turn, boosted business.  In 1964, it moved to its current location under Michigan Avenue, made possible by Chicago’s network of multilevel streets.  Being situated between the offices of the Chicago Tribune and the old Chicago Sun-Times building led to the tavern’s being mentioned in any number of newspaper columns, particularly those of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and Chicago native, Mike Royko.

"Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger!"

“Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger!”

While I can’t guarantee you’ll run into former Mayor Daly or Bill Murray, I can, however, guarantee you that you’ll enjoy some of the best burgers this side of Lake Michigan!  Step inside, and you’ll see a menu that looks eerily familiar from SNL.  You’ll notice, however, that the menu features far more items than the Olympia.  The most noticeable change is that the menu features not Pepsi, but Coke; the drink orders are in reverse here.  For the sake of ambiance, order some fries and a Pepsi, and you may get an earful of “No Fries, Chips!” or “No Pepsi, Coke!”

"Would You Like Pickles With That?!"

“Would You Like Pickles With That?!”

"Take a seat  inside the Billy Goat!"

“Take a seat inside the Billy Goat!”

The burgers here are delicious!  The recommended item is the double, which features two hot patties with melted cheese.  The burgers come served on a kaiser roll, but the magic continues at the fixins bar, where you can dress your burger up with either ketchup, mustard, pickles, relish, whole onions, chopped onions, salt, or pepper.  Any restaurant that allows someone to dress their burger up with as many pickles as they want, gets my vote for best burger!  Belly up to the little tables, or the bar, and watch your favorite Windy City team while you dine on some awesome burgers!  Up late and feeling a little tipsy?  Why not sober up with a burger, and maybe a little bit of the hair of the dog that bit you?  The walls inside are decked out with hundreds of portraits of past customers, famous celebrities from Chicago, star athletes, politicians, and of course, the Chicago Cubs.  And since SNL helped make the Billy Goat famous, keep an eye out for several articles paying tribute to the Olympia and the late John Belushi.

"No Fries, Chips!"

“No Fries, Chips!”

There is, however, a dark side to this glistening tavern filled with burgers and beer.  It was this tavern that gave Chicago the Curse of the Billy Goat.  The Chicago Cubs have not been in the World Series since 1945, and many Cubs fans can agree on the fact that it is the fault of owner William Sianis and his infamous pet goat.  Sianis brought a pet goat, a tavern mascot, to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, a home game at Wrigley Field against the Detroit Tigers.  Despite having paid-for box seat tickets, Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley allegedly ejected Sianis and his four-legged companion due to the latter’s odor.  Supposedly, Sianis placed a curse on the team that they would not win another pennant or play in a World Series again, at least until he and his goat could get back into Wrigley Field.  Since then, the Cubs have not won a pennant.  Whether it’s Black Cats crossing Ron Santo’s path, blowing a massive lead over the San Diego Padres in 1984, or the infamous catch by Steve Bartman in 2003, the Cubs find new ways to add a chapter to their ever-growing book of epic losses.  If there is one things that the Cubs can learn from the 2004 Boston Red Sox or the 2005 Chicago White Sox, its that no team can lose forever, goat or no goat!  Take that, Curse of the Bambino!

"Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger!  No Pepsi... Coke!"

“Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger! No Pepsi… Coke!”

Billy Goat Tavern
430 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL
(312) 222-1525

Take the CTA Red Line to Grand station, and walk towards Michigan Av., heading underneath the street.


About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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One Response to Billy Goat Tavern: Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger!

  1. Alisoun Brewster says:

    Jared–Ahhh–so good–I’ve never been there but I certainly am going to go when I get back to Chicago–“no fries–chips please”

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