One of the most difficult reservations to get in Chicago is at Girl and the Goat, a trendy bustling restaurant in the West Loop area of Chicago. Chef Stephanie Izard, the first female ever to win Top Chef, opened Girl and the Goat in 2010 with business partners from BOKA restaurant group.
Chef Izard and the restaurant have since received numerous awards, including James Beard Award for Best Chef Great Lakes (2013), James Beard Nomination for Best New Restaurant (2011), and Food and Wine Magazine's Best New Chef (2010).
I am so thankful that my friends are excellent planners, because they had the foresight to reserve a table for a party of six at Girl and the Goat three weeks before our planned trip.
As soon as I stepped into the restaurant, I could totally see why. Even at 9PM on a Sunday evening, the place was packed.
The menu is split into three sections, "V" for vegetables, "F" for fish (really, seafood), and "M" for meat (land animals). Most of the dishes are on the smaller side, meant for small plate style sharing. There are a couple larger "main course" type dishes, but in general, the idea is to share several dishes, ordering about 2-3 dishes per person depending on the size of the dishes. Our table of six ordered twelve dishes across the menu plus three desserts, which was just about right.
"V" for Vegetables
Kohrabi Salad ($10) came with fennel, Evalon (a semi-firm goat's milk cheese from LaClare Farms right outside Milwaukee), blueberries, and toasted almonds. I remember loving the flavor of the creamy dressing, which reminded me a bit of tahini, miso, or some sort of nut paste. The salad was both sweet and salty, and nicely balanced.
Roasted Beets ($10) came tossed with green beans, white anchovy, avocado creme fraiche, and bread crumbs.
Wood Grilled Broccoli ($13) was nicely charred and came with a smokey bleu cheese and spiced "crispies".
An order of Sweet Corn Pierogies ($16) came with four individual deep fried pierogies with grape melon relish and a charred scallion creme sauce.
"F" for Fish
Hamachi Crudo ($16) with crisp pork belly, chili aioli, and caperberries was tasty but difficult to share among six people.
We really enjoyed the Grilled Baby Octopus ($17), which came with guanciale, fava beans, pea tips, and pistachios tossed in a lemon vinaigrette.
Soft Shell 'Chili Crab" ($18) came in a flavorful broth with sweet corn elotes (grilled Mexican corn on the cob).
"M" for Meat
Bucatini ($16) with milk braised pork shoulder and pickled cape gooseberries was solid, though I personally found the cape gooseberries to be a bit odd in the savory pasta.
Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face ($19) came topped with a sunny side egg and served with a tamarind, cilantro, and red wine-maple sauce along with crispy potato "stix".
The Crisp Braised Pork Shank was quite a generous portion, and came with buttermilk dressing, stone fruit kimchi, and naan (Indian bread) on the side.
The dessert menu includes a rotating selection of creative desserts and local Midwest cheese from Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, and Wisconsin. They also serve a ice variety coffee from Dark Matter Coffee and tea from Rare Tea Cellars.
I enjoyed the Olive Oil Cake & Gelato ($9), which consisted of a slice of olive oil cake served with limoncello gelato, raspberries, pistachio crumbs, and strips of candied lemon.
My favorite was probably the Berries & Cream, a fun plate composed of Chateau d'Orignac gelee, lime, and frozen buttermilk meringue pieces. The blueberries had crystallized sugar on the outside, making them look frozen even though they were not.
A nostalgic "take me back to my childhood" - type dessert, the Caramel Corn & Malt Balls came with popcorn caramel and vanilla malt gelato topped with chocolate magic shell (so fun!).
General Thoughts - Girl and the Goat Chicago
The food is creative at the Girl and the Goat. Chef Izard likes mixing up opposing flavors, like sweet and savory or charred and tart. I like how she incorporates textural variety into a lot of the dishes - some rice crispies or breadcrumbs to add crunch, for example.
She also mixes together influences from all around the world. The menu includes examples of Korean kim chi, Indian naan, Singaporean chili crab, Eastern European pierogies, Japanese hamachi, and Italian bucatini.
Chef Izard is not afraid to push the envelope. Sometimes it's brilliant, other times it doesn't work for everybody.
Bryan didn't love the food. He doesn't like sweet flavors, and there were plenty of dishes here that incorporated either some element of fruit or sweetness.
There are also several goat dishes, which is not for everyone (there are plenty of non-goat dishes from which to choose).
All in all, I enjoyed the food at the restaurant. There were definitely some fun dishes. In general, I enjoyed the earlier dishes more than the larger format, meat dishes.
Is it worth the hype? Not sure. It might not be my top choice restaurant, but it's worth checking out.
Girl and the Goat Chicago
809 W Randolph St,
Chicago, IL 60607