Eat here: Chicago classics: Billy Goat Tavern & Lou Malnati’s

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!

Billy Goat Tavern on Urbanspoon



Lou Malnati’s
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!


Lou Malnati's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Eat here: 5 Napkin Burger, New York City

5 Napkin Burger
2315 Broadway, New York

So we’re walking around yesterday through Central Park. Amazing place, the perfect concrete jungle sanctuary, where I could happily spend a few hours a day just sitting in there and reading or writing or practicing yoga or just being.. Really, really beautiful place.. But %#@$ it was cold!!!! Around -8 Celsius I think, with much colder gusts of wind – it eventually got to the point that my fingers were actually aching through my thinsulate gloves, like someone had just hit each tip with a hammer… How the hell do you guys just walk around so calmly like you’re used to this cold?!

Anyway, we’d been dealing with it fairly well, but it got to the point where we’d been out and waking about for 4 or 5 hours, and I was cold and hungry and finally had a decent appetite for the first time in a while. I soooo wanted a burger; the burger gods came together to help me out and put us in the vicinity of a 5 Napkin Burger location (hallelujah!), which we numbly stumbled into and slumped into a booth to defrost.

The restaurant was really nice, a full bar set up and prompt, friendly service. We both ordered the Original 5 Napkin, medium rare, and they arrived within 10 minutes.

The Original is a little concoction of a 10 oz. fresh ground beef pattie, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli on a soft white bun. It also came with a decent serving of fries, a nice addition to a burger than cost USD$16.75.

I’m stoked I ordered it medium rare; cooked to absolute perfection and made all the difference in taking it from a good burger to a great one. The gruyere and caramelised onion were perfect accompaniments, and just the right amount of aioli. Even the chips were magnificent, crunchy golden brown, well seasoned. Couldn’t fault this one bit; it was a surprisingly amazing burger (wasn’t too sure about a place that does sushi and tacos as well as burgers…), exactly what I felt like, and up there as one of the better burgers I’ve had over here!

Five Napkin Burger on Urbanspoon