Driving to Goldyburgers in Forest Park for lunch last week, we heard on WBEZ that McDonald’s led the Dow in 2011, up 31%.
Meanwhile, at lunchtime in Goldyburgers, there were just two tables occupied. Business was not booming, which is too bad, because this is a real place, an authentic chunk of the past that somehow seems to survive despite the fact that you can eat cheaper and faster at McDonald’s and any one of a number of other local quick service restaurants.
What Goldyburgers has going for it is atmosphere.
Now, it may not be the atmosphere you like, and Yelp puts Goldyburgers in their “dive bar” category, but it’s quite definitely the atmosphere that I like. The wooden booths, the Formica tables on metal pedestals that look like they came off a battleship, the tin ceiling, all these elements look to be original equipment, and as my wife, Carolyn, said, “You can feel that this is the kind of place that has had generations of people come through it.”
Our friend Ben Grimes told us he used to come here with his dad and play with his brother in the front room of Goldyburgers while his dad watched sports with the others in the back bar. Ben’s 33 years old now.
Mary, our server, introduced herself when we walked in, checked in on us frequently, seemed to be genuinely concerned about our happiness, and was extremely apologetic when she had to admit that the Frank’s Hot Mustard (which the menu encouraged me to ask for) hadn’t been available for years.
Mike Sullivan, the owner of Goldyburgers, just celebrated his 30th year there. The place used to be owned by the Goldstein family, but Mary figured most of them were gone by now.
We had the Goldyburger and the Friday Fish Fry, and they were both pretty much exactly as they probably always were. Not spectacular, but when eaten in the beaten down dining room, which used to be the old bar, they were probably tastier than they would have been in many other places.
Goldyburgers opened in 1926, in the middle of Prohibition, so I’m guessing the bar came after Prohibition was repealed (or was this place actually serving booze during Prohibition?). There are stories here; you can feel them.
While we were having lunch in a side booth, two guys stuck in their heads, saw the empty room, and left. That’s too bad, because this place deserves more traffic and because even when it’s seemingly deserted, there’s a lot of life at Goldyburgers. It’s a local treasure.