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Cheezborgers in the Nation's Capital?

By Erin in Food on Mar 29, 2005 5:13PM


Chicagoist's foodies are rarely surprised when they hear about restaurant expansion, especially when that restaurant is a popular brand with proven success.

But call us pessimists for wondering why anyone thinks it's a good idea for Chicago's Billy Goat Tavern & Grill to even entertain the notion of opening up a branch of this beloved Chicago institution in Washington, D.C.

What's next? Replicas of the Sears Tower in Cincinnati? Perhaps The Chicago Picasso could take it on the road. It's not that we're against a restaurant looking to go national, but Chicagoist questions whether anyone would find a uniquely Chicago attraction that attractive anywhere else but here.

The Billy Goat's cache of Mike Royko items notwithstanding, there is nothing particularly "Chicago" about the restaurant or its food, aside from the fact that it's in Chicago, and that's the rub. People want to visit it because it's a "Chicago thing," not because the cheeseburgers are all that great.

Owner Sam Sianis's son, Bill, tells Crain's that our brand of skepticism was rampant when the restaurant set up satelites around Chicagoland -- including the controversy-laden O'Hare branch of the Billy Goat, certified under the woman-owned businesses program and ostensibly owned and operated Sam Sianis' wife, though her role has been questioned.

If Chicagoist is proven wrong, and the people of Washington, D.C., and later, possibly San Diego and beyond, can't get enough of the Billy Goat, we'll eat our words. Don't get us wrong, we love the Billy Goat for what it is, but we're just sort of perplexed and wonder if this franchise idea might have been a better idea when John Belushi was first parodying the place on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s ...