Before traveling to Chicago earlier this month, I sent a tweet asking for suggestions on where I should chow while visiting the Windy City. I was happy to receive several responses with suggestions for casual and fine-dining: iconic Chicago restaurants (The Pump Room), celebrity chef names (Frontera Grill), wine bar restos (Bin 36) and, of course, Chicago pizza – with Malnati’s being the favorite. But one place with a quirky name kept coming up: Girl and the Goat. Intrigued by the name, I did a bit of online research: highly praised restaurant of Chef Stephanie Izard – wild-haired winner of Top Chef Season 4, immediately contacted my friend Alison who still lives in the area, and lined up a date to have dinner at Girl and the Goat in the West Loop.
There were no reservations to be had until October, but reviews noted that it was possible to snag a table or seat at the bar if you arrived by 5:30, and their website, injected with a healthy dose of wit, states that they “accept reservations but always keep tables open for walk-ins, nomads, adventurers and those who don’t like to plan :-) I was instantly infatuated. Alison and I planned to arrive at 4:30 p.m. when they open. We hadn’t even made a selection from the extensive wine, craft beer, and refreshingly unique signature cocktail list (read – not martini centric) before we were greeted by a friendly hostess who led us to a table, and one by the window no less.
The menu is divided into vegetables, fish, and meats; all small plates with ingredients sourced from the local farmers they support, which are listed at the bottom of the menu. Our server Jodi, cheerfully described the specials, got a feel for what we liked, offered suggestions and described them in detail. Each dish surprised us with layers of flavor, meticulously executed, complicated yet unpretentious – the meal was definitely the pièce de résistance of my trip to Chicago.
Sleight of Hand cocktail: Hayman’s Old Tom Gin. Apricot Eau di Vie. Lemon. Basil
The plates were paced well and are served from light to heavier fare.
Seared scallops: smoked goat. spiced cantaloupe. coconut-cucumber salad
Fried soft shell crab: sweet corn elote. chili aioli
Chickpea fritters: eggplant-tomatillo caponata. Crave Brother’s mozzarella
Sauteed skate wing: broccoli-nectarine kimchee. dandy greens. caper brown butter
Smoked goat rillette empanadas: tuna aioli. celery. tomato salad
Wood oven roasted pig face: sunny side egg. tamarind. cilantro. potato stix
Of course, you must try goat. There’s a separate mini menu of the bread, oyster, and goat specials of the day. The smoked goat rilette empanadas was a special and the earthy, smokiness of the shredded goat meat filling was reminiscent of Hawaiian kalua pig, and perfectly balanced with the crisp acidity of the tomatoes and creamy, saltiness of the tuna aioli. The Pig Face is not to be missed – like sausage and eggs x 100: sweet, savory, crispy sensation with maple gastrique and tomatillo for a herbaceous note, and has become a signature dish on their main menu.
By the time we arrived at dessert – we contemplated skipping, but had to try the pork fat doughnuts (with honey yogurt, caramelized figs, lemony eggplant and ham streusel!). The restaurant was bustling with diners of all ages who were happy to be there and not disgruntled in the least to wait to dine with the Girl and the Goat. The small plates menu with pricing ranging from $4 to $23, makes it accessible to many and quite affordable, considering the food delivers high-end quality in a down-to-earth fashion, excellent service, and convivial atmosphere. Stephanie Izard deserves all the praise : 3 stars, four stars, dubbed American’s best new restaurant by Saveur in their first restaurant review, coming her way since opening Girl and the Goat in the summer of 2010. Next time I’m in Chicago, I’m definitely returning to try more of their deliciously eclectic menu. And you need to try it yourself, if you ever find yourself in Chi-town!
809 W Randolph St.
Chicago IL, 60607 · (312) 492-6262