Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Chicago, IL Edition: Billy Goat Tavern


Billy Goat TavernBilly Goat Tavern is a restaurant that gained fame through a Saturday Night Live sketch:
The Olympia Cafe was a fictional greasy spoon featured in a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch. The staff, led by John Belushi as Pete Dionasopolis, were Greeks. As various guest stars discovered, only three items on the long menu could actually be ordered successfully: the cheeseburger (pronounced "cheeburger" by Belushi), chips (pronounced "cheep"), and Pepsi. Attempts to order Coke were invariably met with the retort, "No Coke! Pepsi!" Likewise, those who ordered french fries got the response, "No fries! Cheeps!" 
According to Don Novello, who penned the first Olympia Cafe sketch, the diner was based on the Billy Goat Tavern on Lower North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, which is still operating (and part of a small chain). 
Olympia is a Greek town after which many restaurants were named. John Belushi's father owned a cafe called the "Olympia" in the 1960s. During the 1970s, there was a real-life Olympia Cafe on the Upper West Side of Manhattan which was very similar to the diner in the sketch. (Wikipedia)
Billy Goat TavernWe set off to visit the original location and get some cheeburgers. The location is like in this underground lower section of Chicago that kinda blew my mind. And, the actual restaurant is even lower, as you have to take stairs down into it.

Billy Goat TavernIt was pretty frantic in here, as they're cycling through the line very quickly and just making burgers upon burgers. I asked for a cheeseburger; he said "double"? So I said sure. I got a drink, and they handed me my sandwich. At the end of the counter was ketchup, mustard, onion and pickles. I topped mine and found an empty seat.

Billy Goat TavernIt's very crowded, and someone dropped a glass as we were eating, and the noise ricocheted throughout this basement restaurant. It just added to this sort of very busy, chaotic scene. I felt my stress level increase while waiting here.

Billy Goat TavernOK, but how was the burger? It was fine. I think if you're a huge SNL fan or super familiar with this skit, it probably has more appeal. The burger itself wasn't super notable, but I did enjoy the grilled bread and how cheese blanketed the burger (burger wasn't too large, so nice cheese-to-meat ratio). Overall, not bad.

Grade: B
Billy Goat Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato