THE LOOP — The first beer ordered at the new Lake Street Billy Goat Tavern was neither a light, nor a dark — it was a Budweiser.
Purists might balk at the franchise's shiny new outpost, with its sparkling dark wood bar, exposed brick accent walls, a sleek slate-tiled floor and an arsenal of wall-mounted flat-screen TVs.
The new 85-seat restaurant quietly switched on its neon "open" sign around 10 a.m. Wednesday, and business was "steady, especially considering we haven't announced anything, just opened the doors," said owner Bill Sianis, son of the famous Chicago eatery's founder, Sam Sianis.
The restaurant at 60 E. Lake St. is the seventh Chicago location of the beloved local brand, which has such a following that fans rushed the restaurant Wednesday to get a first look.
Tim Glassmeyer, 59, a consultant who works from home near the Loop, said he hurried to the Lake Street location when he heard it opened Wednesday morning.
The Loop tavern's first day of lunch service was "terrific, absolutely terrific," Glassmeyer said. "Me and my buddy were the first ones to use the bar. I just found out it was open — I was like, oh my God! We have to see it."
Glassmeyer said he's a longtime fan of the brand, and has visited most of the Chicago locations. But the Lake Street tavern "is my new favorite," he said. "The shininess, and the newness is part of it."
Originally slated to open in October, Sianis said construction problems during the kitchen build-out, specifically with the grill's exhaust hood, forced the team to push back the launch date.
Sianis said in the fall that the new location hoped to capitalize on business from nearby developments in the works, including a planned 515-foot tower with 432 residential units and nearly 25,000 square feet of retail space at Lake Street and Michigan Avenue that's set to open in March 2016.
"We saw it's an area that's being developed. We have apartments, hotels around us, businesses, so we felt it would be a good spot," he said.
The high-end decor isn't the only thing that sets the Lake Street Billy Goat Tavern apart from its famous predecessors. The new restaurant also features a salad bar for the lunch crowd and an extensive craft beer selection on tap, including Revolution Brewing's Anti-Hero IPA, Blue Moon, Sam Adams Lager, Stella Artois and Green Line Pale Ale.
But don't worry — there was nary a french fry in sight.
Starting Thursday, the restaurant will open at 6 a.m. with breakfast service and run until "midnight at least," Sianis said. The tavern's licensed to stay open until 2 a.m., but Sianis said it would gauge how late to stay open based on interest.
A grand opening will be scheduled sometime after Jan. 1, Sianis said.