Girl and The Goat is one of the most talked about restaurants in Chicago. Back in 2008, when Top Chef was set in Chicago, I watched nearly every episode and found myself cheering for Stephanie Izard, who eventually won the title of Season 4’s Top Chef. Last summer, she opened her highly acclaimed restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop, and I’ve been hearing buzz about it ever since.
Believe it or not, Mike and I made our reservation nearly 3 months in advance and the best time-slot I could get was 5:15pm on a Monday night. That’s how popular this restaurant is! However, for those who don’t like to plan ahead, there are two large communal tables that can’t be reserved and are for walk-ups only. When we arrived at 5:15, there were still plenty of seats open for walk-ups, although the place was hopping.
The dim lighting, fun wait-staff, and the soundtrack (including throwbacks like No Doubt and Beastie Boys, along with Feist and other current songs) really gave the place a great vibe. As soon as I walked in, I forgot about work and went into night-on-the-town mode. (note to vegetarians: the smell of meat also hit me right as I walked in the door, but don’t worry, they’ll take care of you!)
Girl & The Goat is a small-plates style restaurant, which I loved since it gave me the opportunity to try quite a few things. In addition to a number of meat, fish, and (yes) goat dishes, every day the restaurant has 10 vegetable dishes to choose from, although not all of the vegetable dishes are vegetarian.
My absolute favorite thing about Girl & The Goat was the fantastic service. When I told my server, Brennan, that I was a vegetarian, he pulled a pen from his pocket and right on the spot marked up the menu to make my ordering easier. The “X”s are items that can’t be made vegetarian, the underlined items are ingredients that can be left off to vegetarian-ize a dish.
I opted to select only items that I could order “as-is”, so that I could experience the true flavors that were intended. I ordered 3 vegetable dishes and a bread. Mike ordered a goat dish and a seafood dish and had some of my vegetables and half the bread.
In reading through the menu, I also noticed that there were very few vegan dishes. I asked our server if they can accommodate vegans, and he said that in fact they do! For vegans or anyone with dietary needs, he said they will talk to you to get an idea of your likes & dislikes and how many courses you would like, and the chef will put together a meal especially for you. If I go again, I might just take them up on this!
Now, I invite you to pull up a chair, and join us for a seriously yummy meal:
Starting with Drinks
I couldn’t try any of their fantastic sounding cocktails because I had a 4-hour drive to make after dinner – A last minute business trip to Cedar Rapids came up, but I didn’t want to change my reservation and wait another 2 months!
Mike opted for a glass of beer, and later in the meal a glass of wine. For both drinks the waitstaff gave excellent recommendations and were very knowledgeable.
Bring on the Bread!
Mmm… we started off with the Pan Capone, a focaccia-like bread. It was crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside with delicious bits of sun-dried tomato and garlic on top. The smoky sun-dried tomato butter and bright yogurt-chive dip were absolutely delicious, although it made for a very sinful starter, considering how much oil was already in the bread.
Next up was the Kohlrabi Salad with fennel, evalon (a hard goat cheese), toasted almonds, blueberries and ginger. It was good, but nothing to write home about. The dressing and vegetables were creamy and mild, so despite the interesting ingredients, it tasted very familiar.
The Best Jalapeno Poppers EVER!
Next up was our order of Pan-fried Shishito Peppers with Parmesan, Sesame, and Miso. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I ordered this, so I was very surprised when I took my first bite. The peppers were sweet with a slight kick, and somehow the miso and sesame combined with Parmesan to make an exponentially big flavor (cheese to the third power)! Although they were inside out and very gourmet, these were Jalapeno Poppers at their finest.
Chickpea Fritters with romesco, hazelnut hummus, sesame, and goat feta rounded out the meal. I was expecting an upscale Falafel – but I was wrong! These Chickpea Fritters were actually modeled off of “Panelle”, an Italian dish of chickpea flour, water, and Parmesan, prepared similar to Polenta. They had a mild flavor and a texture like mashed potatoes. They were accented well with a smoky sweet tomato sauce, crunchy chickpeas, and green chickpeas.
I live for Desserts
Despite being completely full, I simply had to order dessert. Mike and I opted to try the Bittersweet Chocolate dessert, mainly because Mike was intrigued by the Shiitake Gelato it was paired with. Although it didn’t look like much, it turns out that this dessert was the Best Chocolate Cake I’ve EVER Had. In fact, I’m not even sure if I have the vocabulary to describe it.
The texture of the cake was so complex – soft and powdery and crunchy all at the same time. If you’ve ever had Carvel Ice-cream Cake, this tasted like those chocolate-crunchies were baked inside. The tart drizzle of toffee cream fraiche put this dish over the top.
And that Shiitake Gelato? It really did taste like mushrooms to me, but somehow it worked really well with the rest of the dish.
In summary, Girl and the Goat had delicious food, amazing service, and a super fun atmosphere. It made for a great date, and would be even more fun with a group of friends.
However, the food was extremely rich (vegetarian comfort food!), so as much as I enjoyed it, this won’t be a place that I will treat myself to very often.
What HOT restaurant do you most want to try?
What’s the best meal out you’ve had this year?