On the Road: Girl & the Goat Review
My wife and I love “Top Chef.” As big time lovers of food and dining out, it’s our favorite reality show to watch together. Most of the contestants are from the coasts…NYC, Boston, LA, and San Francisco (although one of our very own, Megan Ketover from Orchids at Palm Court (http://wp.me/p3jVIR-50) was on “Top Chef: Just Desserts.”). However, Chicago has been the one Midwestern city with contestants, and even had a winner: Stephanie Izard. She won Season 4, and was the first and only female winner until Season 10. Her first restaurant, Girl & the Goat (http://www.girlandthegoat.com/), opened to very positive reviews, and it made us very excited to try it out.
Our initial visit was over President’s Day weekend in 2013. Because we went on a holiday weekend (really, any weekend is tough), we could not get a reservation. So, we decided to just show up at 4:30pm when they open to try our luck. Being that no one under 70 years old likes to eat at 4:30 pm (to be fair, it’s 5:30 Cincinnati time, so that’s not as bad), we got in pretty quick ahead of the 6:00 pm reservations. We had a fantastic experience. Great ambiance, great service, great food. Unfortunately, I was not writing this food blog at the time, so I did not take pictures or document my experience.
Fortunately for us all, we decided to make another trip to Chicago the weekend before Christmas in 2013. We did the same drill…arrive at 4:30 and get seated before the 6:00 reservations. The building itself is nothing special. A bit outside of the main Downtown area, there are no other hot spots that we noticed (the bar near it is not very good at all). However, that ceases to matter once you walk in. The interior is very warm, with lots of wood and high ceilings. There is a bar on the left, and the kitchen is pretty open in the back of the restaurant. We got seated at one of the social tables, where 7 people including us were seated. None of our dining neighbors were very social, unfortunately (yes, Chicago does seem to lack the Midwestern friendliness of other cities in this part of the country). Even more unfortunately, the server was not all that friendly or descriptive either. Our first server back in February was not only friendly, but described the food and had a plan on when to bring the dishes out. This guy had none of that, and just sort of brought things out in the order we ordered them. Too bad, he really should have been better with food of this caliber.
There is a craft drink menu and of course wine and beer. Unfortunately, there are only a small handful of draft beers, which was disappointing, and the bottled beers were $7-$9 each. Too bad, good draft beer pairs well with this kind of food. We ordered the Goat Blue! focaccia bread (with fig butter and fennel-onion jam) and goat
empanadas (marinated sheep feta, picked golden beets, tzatziki) to start. The bread was a bit less warm than I had hoped, but was still very good, and the butter and jam were great. The empanadas were excellent. The feta and tzatziki complimented the empanadas very well, and the goat meat was fantastic.
The entrée menu is separated into 3 main parts: vegetables, fish, and meats. They are small plates meant to be shared. We ordered the Squash Wontons (with mushroom ragout), Sugo (pappardelle, rosemary, cape gooseberries), and lamb ribs (with marcona almond chopped salad and yogurt jus). The wontons were great…well cooked, the squash was the perfect consistency, and the mushrooms were fantastic as well. The Sugo (which generally means “sauce” in Italian) was probably the best of the three entrées. The tomato based sauce consisted of a blend of goat, beef, and pork. It covered very well cooked pappardelle pasta, and the added gooseberries added sweetness to the dish that made it work very well. The lamb ribs were very well cooked, and the rub on them was amazing. However, they were just too fatty for me to really thoroughly enjoy. I spent more time picking fat off of my meat than actually eating it. Plus, by the time I took the meat from the fat, there wasn’t really all that much meat anyway. That said, what was there was delicious. While I’ve eaten a lot of lamb in my life, I’ve never eaten lamb ribs, so I’m not sure if it’s a dish typically this fatty.
Overall, this is a great restaurant. However, I’d definitely say that our first visit was more enjoyable than our second visit. Great service makes for a much better experience, and our server was way better the first go-round. I’d like to think that the service is typically more like the first experience than the second, but perhaps we’ll have to go a third time to find out. Either way, the food was top notch on both visits. I’d highly recommend it if you are in Chicago.