The Billy Goat is authentic Chicago

That's when you walk down into the Goat and have a beer and realize all your brothers and sisters are down there, too, drinking beer and eating the pickle slices off wax paper and telling stories.

I haven't been hitting it much in recent years. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. for the radio gig and coming home past 8 p.m. after the newspaper column is done can absolutely ruin your drinking life.

But I've known Sam Sianis and his family since I was a 19-year-old copy boy for the Chicago Tribune. For years when I wrote a Monday column, I'd write it on Sunday mornings there, at a quiet table, when smoking wasn't illegal.

I've been to his children's weddings. Sam and his wife were at my father's funeral. So on Thursday, I stopped to see an old friend.

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We sat in the back, against a portrait of the Goat — the one that cried like some baseball icon when the Cubs fell out of yet another pennant race — and talked about what worried me.

Will the Billy Goat ever go upscale?

"No," said Sam. "If I move, I'm gonna be the same way. The walls are gonna be the same, The bar's gonna be the same. The tables are gonna be the same. The chairs are gonna be the same. I'll bring everything with me."

The grill was spitting behind us, grill men flipping the famous cheeseburgers, the perfume of sizzling meat on hot steel.

What about the special aroma? Sam said he'd find a way to bring that too.

And fancy beers? Beer with floating chunks of fruit?

"No," Sam said, rejecting the fruit idea. "Same beer."

You're not gonna have a beer that you put an orange in?

"No," said Sam. "I don't do that."

What about beer that you put honey in?

"No," he said, thinking I meant floating some honeydew melon. "Honeydew? No."

Lemon? Sometimes they put lemon in the fancy beer.

"Now if he wants to have a lemon, give him a slice," Sam said. "Let him do it himself."

Let's hope Sam and his sons can do this themselves. But they might need help.

So I ask you, not for me, not for memory, but for all those young people looking for what's real about downtown Chicago.

I've written it in the modern tongue, that language of thumbs on the keypad of a smartphone. It means what it says:


Twitter @John_Kass