A Short History of Billy Goats
Cheezborger! Cheezborger! No fries, Cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke.
By Megan McKinney
It’s amazing how little we know about one of the most famous places in Chicago. People you’ve never heard of in tiny, little towns all over America still spew out Cheezborger! Cheezborger! years after we lost John Belushi. Maybe the name of the place was Cafe Olympia on Saturday Night Live, but it was a tribute to our own Billy Goat Tavern. There they were with Belushi–Bill Murray, Dan Aykoryd and the rest of the cast. You can still find it yourself on YouTube.
And if you thought there was only one Billy Goat Tavern, grubby and hidden—way down under the stately Wrigley Building—you would be wrong. There are eight. Furthermore, this chain is older than you are.
In 1934, William “Billy Goat” Sianis, a Greek immigrant, bought a place called the Lincoln Tavern on West Madison Street near the Chicago Stadium and named it for himself. The price was $205; if that sounds rock bottom, it wasn’t cheap enough for Sianis. His check bounced.
More great PR in the many Billy Goat’s newspaper columns by the late Mike Royko.
In fact, if you have a bar or tavern and want great coverage, open it near newspaper offices. See below an image of the Palette Bar in a story we have coming up on the late Riccardo’s, once at 437 North Rush Street. Each one of the individuals whose backs we see is playing hooky from the Chicago Tribune on a long-ago afternoon.
Author photo: Robert F. Carl