- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

The Billy Goat Tavern, a Chicago institution made famous by the late comedic actor John Belushi’s “Cheezborger, Cheezborger” sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” is setting up shop in the nation’s capital.

It’s the first foray outside Chicago for the restaurant, also known for a curse that some say has kept the Cubs out of the World Series for 60 years and counting.

Bill Sianis, the son of the current owner, Sam Sianis, and grandnephew of the tavern’s founder, William “Billy Goat” Sianis, said he and his dad have long wondered if the tavern could make it outside its hometown.

Given the Goat’s popularity among tourists who never tire of asking for fries in the hopes of hearing “No fries, cheeps!”, Sam and Bill Sianis thought Washington, with its steady stream of out-of-towners, would make it a perfect spot to give it a try.

“They say nobody in Washington, D.C., is from Washington, D.C.,” Bill Sianis said. A lot of people from Illinois who work on Capitol Hill have been asking when the Billy Goat was coming to town, he added.

“They all want something that feels like home,” he said.

The newest restaurant, located at 500 New Jersey Ave. NW, will seat 70 to 75 patrons inside, with additional seating expected for the adjoining outdoor patio. The D.C. location is about 1,600 square feet, Bill Sianis said.

The Sianises said they hope to open in the next week or so. Whether the new Goat reminds anyone of Chicago remains to be seen.

For starters, unlike the dark, cavernous dive underneath Michigan Avenue — the most famous of the seven Billy Goats around Chicago — this Billy Goat has windows. And the bar isn’t chipped Formica like its namesake, but polished cement.

It may even sell, of all things, fries. Sam Sianis said the decision on that hasn’t been made, but pointed out that of all the Billy Goats in Chicago, only the most famous one is a “cheeps” (chips) only establishment.

That may disappoint some patrons who have memorized the “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which John Belushi, his thick Greek accent sounding a lot like Sam’s, would scold, “No fries, cheeps!” while serving up “cheezborgers” and only “cheezborgers.”

And when asked if the D.C. location would showcase a real goat on-site, which has been featured from time-to-time in the Chicago restaurant, Bill Sianis said “we’ll see.”

Staff writer Marguerite Higgins contributed to this report.

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