Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Billy Goat Tavern

Jerry Stratton, January 25, 1997

Billy Goat Tavern sign

Look for the sign leading into the earth. (More specifically to 430 N. Michigan Avenue, Lower Level.)

The Billy Goat Tavern in downtown Chicago is a little bit of friendly in a cold, wet, and windy city. I was in town for SIGUCCS, the computer user services convention and found the Billy Goat about two blocks from my hotel. In the dingy area in the old city underground. Chicago seems to have, when they ran out of space, simply built roads on top of the older businesses. The businesses remain underground on the old roads and never see the sky. If you can find stairs leading above ground it’s shopping mall city.

As you walk in the restaurant is on the left, the bar is on the right, and the grill is smack dab in the middle. Don’t look around for the menu. They serve burgers and dogs and maybe some eggs and if you want something on the side grab a bag of chips. I loved it. I had a hell of a time explaining how I ate on five to seven dollars a day to the bean counters back in San Diego.

It is very easy to relax in this bar. I brought a rough draft of my book and spent every night here reading and revising. And knocking back American swill on tap. They have a small variety of bottled beers and one and a half beers on tap: Schlitz. And Schlitz Dark. And it was a hell of a lot cheaper than the “blues bars” a few blocks away.

December 4, 2002—I just got back from Michigan, and in my exceedingly long layover in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, found a Billy Goat Tavern on United Airline’s Concourse C. No beer on tap and the prices are a bit more expensive, but it’s still probably the best-priced hamburgers in the airport. They do have fries now, at least at the airport. And you still get to put your own toppings on. If you find yourself in O’Hare and you don’t have time to head into Chicago (the subway’s pretty fast, just take the Blue Line to the Red Line, get off at Grand, and walk to Hubbard and Rush), look for the Billy Goat “Tavern” (you have to sit in the common area) for a little touch of downtown Chicago.

Try
Make your own burgers. While hardly an innovation you get to put your toppings on your burger or dog yourself.
Be Wary Of
Tourists. This is the tavern made famous by Chicago gonzos Mike Royko and John Belushi. A tour bus stopped by once while I was there and I felt like I was back on Saturday Night Live. Instead of “chips no fries” it was “Do you have microbrews?—No, we have Beck’s. Do you have any stouts?—No, we have Schlitz Dark.”
Should you go?
If you remember small town American bars fondly, you’ll love it. If you can’t live without your Murphy’s and your fish tacos, stear clear. Me, I want to move to Chicago just so I can eat greasy burgers piled high with onions every night.
Last Visited
June, 2012
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