The Billy Goat Tavern, Chicago

While in Chicago over the weekend for the U2 concert, we found ourselves in need of a good breakfast the morning after. Not being very familiar with the city, we headed for the main thoroughfare, Michigan Avenue and after a half hour of fruitless searching for a good feed, we asked for recommendations from a local tour guide.

What he suggested to us could never have been found by accident and was well off the beaten track, but what a find! We were directed down the steps outside the beautiful Chicago Tribune Building to the lower street level below.

There, across the street and hidden away in the darkness was the front of a bar so dingy and uninviting looking that we almost retreated back up the stairs for safety…Luckily we didn’t, because we were in front of the Billy Goat Tavern, a Chicago legend.

The tavern is known for its involvement in the Curse of the Billy Goat (also known as the “Cubs Curse”). Owner Sianis brought a pet goat, a tavern mascot, to Game 4 of the 1945 Baseball World Series, a home game at Wrigley Field in Chicago against the Detroit Tigers. Despite paid-for box seat tickets, Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley allegedly ejected Sianis and goat 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.

The curse still remains and the bar is adorned with newspaper clippings citing the curse and photos of the goat and it’s descendants!

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(click to enlarge)

What I loved about the place was that at 10am in the morning, there was a mixture of locals drinking beer, a few breakfasts being served (all sandwiches, cash only, no pepsi, only coke!) and one guy cooking, serving and cleaning up.

It reminded me that despite the millions you can spend opening and marketing a ne bar or club, nothing will replace character and history that a bar has. I’m sure the Billy Goat Tavern has rarely spent much money on advertising, relying instead on their character, quality food and drink and the story that surrounds the bar.

I’d love to see more bars like it, so if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

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5 thoughts on “The Billy Goat Tavern, Chicago

  1. What’s not to love about The Billy Goat?! You feel like you’re visiting some secret club; a sub-terrainian restaurant below the Chicago bridges is just very cool. The staff was lovingly spoofed for years (accurately) on SNL. And the chee-burgers are exactly what you’d expect from such a colorful place.

  2. Great story. I was at a convention in Nashville many years ago and was weary of the country music overdose I was getting. A few friends and I jumped into a cab and I actually gave the cab driver a hard time about Nashville being the so called “music capital.”…he smiled and asked what kind of music i wanted to hear and i said some blues. He said he would bring me to the best place I had ever been- he did! The Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar in Nashville had some of the best character and best bands I have ever seen in a club. The age-old ‘ask the cab driver’ worked! And it was not on the main drag at all- we would have never found it on our own!

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