The Regular: Goldberg’s Here

When the world is your office.

February 21, 2019 ● 2 min read


As told to Cassandra Landry | Illustration by Roman Muradov

To be a regular is to live somewhere between the lines: Not quite behind-the-scenes, but not quite in the audience, either. People become regulars for all sorts of reasons (convenience, a vibe, sheer overpowering magnetism) and winning that status among the staff comes with a certain pride.

For the industry, regulars are like family—both the treasured cousin and the distant relative who’s a little batty—and we can’t imagine a life without them. It’s in that spirit that we bring you this new column, which digs into industry memories that are then kicked over to illustrator Roman Muradov to create portraits so we can get to know them too.

Jesse Badger might be the executive chef of Chicago’s West Town Bakery & Diner and Homestead on the Roof, but before that, he was a jack-of-all-trades at a well-known Louisville watering hole, Ramsi’s Café on the World. He worked the floor, tended bar, and managed for a spell. Through it all, a nomadic self-employed IT guy known as Goldberg was a constant fixture. “I’ve worked in a lot of places with open kitchens since then, where you effectively are waiting on the people at the chef’s counter,” Badger says, “but working in the dining room, you get a lot more time to get to know your regulars.” Here’s what Badger remembers of Goldberg. —CL


He was tall, in his 40s or 50s maybe, with a big gut, big round jolly face, and he wore suspenders and pleated dress slacks.

He was always super nice to everybody, but his signature thing was to start at this bakery down the street in the afternoon, where he’d sit at the biggest table, plug in his laptop—and it wasn’t near the wall, so he would run the cord across the aisles—and spread out every print periodical and magazine over the entire table. He’d drink a cup of coffee for six hours or so, and when that place would close and they kicked him out, he’d go to another coffee shop down the street and do the same thing until they closed. I had friends who were baristas at that spot, and they’d call me and tell me Goldberg was on his way. We had a pretty solid late-night following at Ramsi’s, so we wouldn’t close until 1 am or so on weeknights. Five times a week, he’d show up 30 minutes before we closed and run this whole routine. He didn’t drink alcohol, so he’d usually get a Jamaican chicken sandwich or something at the very last possible second the kitchen would let him order, and drink tea.

This was back in the early days of MySpace and Facebook, and he would always somehow find out about restaurant industry parties and show up. Everybody knew him; he had some pretty hilarious dance moves. One New Year’s Eve, it was dead, because everybody was out at parties. I was tending bar, and at midnight, we decided to open a nice bottle of Champagne. Goldberg is asleep at his table in the middle of the empty dining room, with all his stuff spread out. We pop the cork, and it shoots up, ricochets off the table, and hits him square in the chest. He wakes up, and we’re all like, Happy New Year!