While I was writing yesterday’s post on the Homewood Suites we stayed at in Chicago over Christmas, I mentioned the Billy Goat Tavern, which got me thinking about the feed we had there. It also got me thinking about one of the other classic Chicago institution we ate at, Lou Malnati’s. So once I finished writing that post, I decided to stay at my laptop and write this one, too – makes me smile just thinking about these places!
When husband and I started researching our stay in Chicago, other than the classic Chicago hot dogs, two other things kept popping up on the “must eat” lists – the
cheeseburgers cheezborgers at the Billy Goat Tavern, and the deep dish pizzas as Lou Malnati’s. They’re both city institutions, stalwarts of the Chicago food scene, and have been around for a long time for a reason. Let’s visit the Billy Goat first…
Billy Goat Tavern
Beneath the Streets of 430 N Michigan Ave, Chicago
The Billy Goat Tavern has a long, rich history in Chicago, and has been servicing the city since opening back in the 1930’s by Greek immigrant innkeeper William “Billy Goat” Sianis. The Tavern became well known for two reasons:
1. The Billy Goat Curse: Read all about it here, but basically Bill Sianis went to watch the Cubs play in the World Series with his companion, pet goat and tavern mascot Murphy, but Cubs owner PK Wrigley wouldn’t allow Murphy to enter, on the basis that he was, well, a goat. . Legend has it that the outraged and indignant Bill declared on his way out “the Cubs ain’t gonna win no more!” And that was it – they were cursed.
2. The SNL skit: “Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger!! No fries – CHEEPS! No Pepsi – COKE!” ‘Nuff said. Watch it here.
There’s only one thing to order here. The cheeseburger (USD$2.85). Preferably a double (USD$4.55). A triple if you’re really keen (USD$5.85).
It’s not the BEST burger in the city (that honour goes to Au Cheval), but it was bloody good. Just remember to go to the condiment station before you tuck into the burger, otherwise it can be a little dry (ketchup and mustard FTW). Oh, and for fellow Australian – when they say chips, they mean CHIPS. Like, plain, chicken or salt & vinegar potato chips in an aluminium bag. Just a heads up!
805 S State St Chicago
When most people think of Chicago food, after they think of the hot dog, the deep dish pizza is usually the next thing they picture. There are no shortage of deep dish pizza places in the city, but we chose Lou Malnati’s – it seemed to be up there every time we Googled “best pizza in Chicago” and it was also highly recommended by a friend who’d visited before. It’s a family business, started in the 1940s by one of the city’s numerous Italian immigrants. So what makes them stand out in a city full of pizza? It’s quality. All of their pizzas are handmade from scratch using the family recipe that’s been handed down over the generations. The ingredients are specially selected to compliment each other, and they even use the same small dairy for cheese that supplied Lou when he first started. No wonder this place was so popular.
So, we went. The line was out the door. Doesn’t sound so bad, except that it was around -15°C (or 5F), and the wait was gonna be around 30 minutes. After a few impatient (smart?) parties bailed ahead of us, we found a corner to wait it out inside; we also found out you could place your order while you waited for your table, which would cut your waiting for food time in half – happy days!
We ordered the Malnati Chicago Classic – sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce. That’s the thing with classic Italian – it doesn’t need to be complex. You don’t need 20 ingredients for a good dish. You only need a few good quality ones to create magic. And that’s what this was. Perfect, flaky, buttery crust filled with fantastic sausage, sweet tomato sauce and pizza perfect mozzarella. Believe the hype and wait out the line – worth it!