For those of you who don't know the story you can find it here and here. And for those of you who don't understand what makes this place so important to fans of the Chicago Cubs, you might want to bone up on your history. Now personally, I don't believe in "the Curse of the Billy Goat", or simply the Curse, as the Chicago and national media have termed it. If there is any curse on the Cubs, it stems from the last time they won the Fall Classic, in 1908. In my mind, if there is a curse it is certainly centered around the events of that year's pennant race and especially the event known as Merkle's Boner.
Moving on from that, despite the fact that I don't believe in "the Curse of the Billy Goat", I still feel the need to pay homage to this classic American neighborhood tavern. The original Billy Goat, called the Billy Goat Inn, no longer exists. But, much of the atmosphere of the original was transferred to it's new location at lower Michigan and Hubbard streets. When this version of the Billy Goat was opened there was no lower or upper Michigan Ave. This soon changed though, and eventually the Billy Goat saw upper Michigan Ave. built right over it, shielding it from sunlight forever. This adds to the mystique of the place. It would be an easy thing to do to spend a couple of days in the Billy Goat and never know when it was night or day.
The Billy Goat was (I say was because it has become somewhat of a tourist trap) the quintessential neighborhood tavern. It was a haven for policemen, politicians, and especially newspapermen. It's walls are crowded with the names and pictures of these journalists as well as singers, actors, and a few presidents. But none of these people held the Billy Goat closer to their hearts than Chicago newspaper columnist, Mike Royko. He wasn't the only one who fell in love with this place. John Belushi and Bill Murray also frequented the tavern. They even turned Sam Sianis, nephew of the original owner, into a caricature for a skit on Saturday Night Live.
Anyone who has respect for the tradition of the neighborhood tavern should visit this place. Other than the history there's nothing really special about it. The burgers are nothing fancy (get a double because they're pretty thin) and the beers aren't especially cheap ($3 for a Schlitz on draft). But what the Billy Goat lacks in thrift, it makes up for in hospitality. As soon as you walk in you feel like you taking part in history, even if only for short time.
The Billy Goat now is much different than it was 20, even 10 years ago. It's more of a tourist spot now. I spent an hour in there and the place was a revolving door of families and groups coming and going in 15 minute increments. Not to say though, that if you were to venture in on cold January night in the middle of the week, you wouldn't be able to find an old timer in there to tell you about the good old days. The days when Royko sat in the Wise Guys Corner and argued anything, when Sam Sianis would test his strength by lifting bar stools with his teeth, when a goat sat at the bar next to you and drank beer, when bars were second homes and not soulless nightclubs. Cheers to the neighborhood tavern and cheers to the Billy Goat.
And one more thing... Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger, no fries chip, no Pepsi Coke!