Forest Park is losing three iconic businesses, Ed’s Way, Starship, and Jimmy’s Place. Thankfully, we have some mainstays that aren’t going anywhere. Among them is Goldyburgers, which has operated at 7316 Circle for close to a century.
In 1926, Barney and Joe Goldstein first served a burger that became famous. The Goldsteins lived in a house behind the pub. When Prohibition was repealed, they tore the house down and replaced it with a bar. It was a lively place with bands and dancing.
After a 55-year run, the Goldsteins put the place up for sale. Mike and Terry Sullivan, purchased the pub in 1981. The Goldsteins taught them the secret to their burger — high quality, freshly ground beef. Mike Sullivan also kept the Goldstein business model — cash only to keep down costs.
Sullivan installed booths but also wanted outdoor seating for his patrons. At the rear of the property, Max Goldstein had operated a gas station. Sullivan removed the remnants of the station and opened Forest Park’s first beer garden.
The village wouldn’t allow food to be served in the garden, until he pointed out Parky’s outdoor eating area. Then they wouldn’t allow customers to drink alcohol in the garden. So he operated a “Root Beer Garden,” providing patrons with free root beer. Finally, the village relented and the beer garden became a popular spot for watching sports.
Goldyburgers faces stiff competition from other sports bars and burger joints. Some are chains with million-dollar advertising budgets. Others are what Sullivan calls “brass and glass” chains, like Bennigans, with their fake Irish pub ambience.
Goldy’s is the real deal. It’s the kind of neighborhood saloon that is becoming extinct. It’s not on the beaten path of Madison Street, so Sullivan put a map on the back of his business card showing Goldyburgers’ out-of-the-way location.
Loyal customers flock there and Sullivan has been fortunate to have long-term employees. An influx of Irish immigrants in the early ’80s meant Sullivan could always find bartenders with a brogue. Today, Una tends bar, along with other stalwarts, like Jimmy and Jean. Artie has been making burgers and homemade chili for a quarter-century. Now Sullivan’s kids, Nick and Bailey are helping to keep the place going.
Goldyburgers keeps other local businesses going, like Empowering Gardens, by hosting fundraisers. It has also hosted countless fundraisers for families. This Friday, the pub is hosting the 50th Reunion of the OPRF class of 1968. Sullivan was a member of the class, along with Ellie Goldstein, daughter of one of the pub’s original owners.
Hosting 200+ members of the class would be a tight fit for Goldy’s. Scarcity of space is one the challenges the pub faces. The other is rising overhead. Sullivan was apprehensive about installing video gambling machines. He didn’t want to turn the place into Vegas, so he dimmed the flashing lights and lowered the volume of his four machines. The revenue helps with overhead and he testifies that the machines have not been a nuisance.
I have powerful memories of Goldyburgers from long before it had video gambling. When our kids were young, we’d create a cul-de-sac with our strollers to keep them confined. St. Patrick’s Day was a riot, with the Dooley Brothers playing and Irish dancers in the aisles. The burgers tasted like the kind we cooked in our kitchen. The Guinness was cold and the beer lines clean.
Sullivan understands people may forget about a local institution like Goldy’s, or take it for granted. If we don’t support our long-term businesses, though, all we’ll have are memories of the places that make Forest Park unique.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com