Hype and publicity are often double-edged swords, though I’m sure the restaurants on the receiving end of it soak it up and bathe in it. For me, while I love the media build-up for soon-to-open restaurants, I know that in order to dine there once open, I will really need to be at the top of my game, making a reservation the very minute the phone lines go live.
Such was the case with the Girl and the Goat (GATG). Chicagoans have been waiting for two years, ever since Stephanie Izard won the reality TV honor of Top Chef, for our hometown pride to put that prize money to good use and provide us with the opportunity to feast on her creations. Two years. Two years of media coverage, Wandering Goat preview dinners, and blog, Facebook, and Twitter updates.
So when GATG finally opened in July, you know I was on the phone instantly – making reservations for a Wednesday night a month in advance. The real danger for a restaurateur who receives bucket loads of media hype is living up to it, so even though I was cannot-contain-myself excited to honor our reservation, I was also a little bit nervous and hoped we would not disappoint our out-of-town dinner guests. And, did we?
The short answer is no, we did not disappoint – and neither did Ms. Izard. The long answer is: see below.
The breads at GATG have received a fair amount of attention – some hate that it’s not free, others simply praise their glory. At $4-5, I didn’t mind shelling out some dough for a warm, airy bread served with liver butter and a fruity jam-like spread. The spreads change often but always seem to be interesting.
Best dish of the night, hands down. Pan fried shishito peppers with parmesan, sesame seeds, and miso. Smoky, mild, flavorful – a vegetable dish that stands up to the heavy-hitter meat dishes.
Another star veggie dish. Green beans, still crisp, served with a fish sauce vinaigrette.
Roasted cauliflower, as we all probably know by now, is the very best way to cook an otherwise dull veg. Served with pickled peppers, pine nuts, and mint? Truly an unexpected revelation.
Oh, goat balls. Served with a bright red sauce and escargot, Ms. Izard had us convinced, at least for a minute, that we were eating those goat balls. After the first bite, though, which tasted more like a sausage, we realized we were eating goat meatballs, as in goat meat formed into balls. Deceivingly delicious.
Soft crab shell with fresh summer corn. Good, but I’m not writing home about it. Those shishito peppers apparently stole the show.
Seared summer flounder. Crisp on the outside, flaky and buttery on the inside.
Seared skirt steak that was, while tasty, a bit unmemorable. I mean, when you’re eating things called goat balls, a measly steak just doesn’t seem to stand out. The beets are rather pretty though, aren’t they?
Finally, perhaps the most creative part of the menu, the sweet-meats-savory desserts. Deep fried potato doughnuts served with… candied eggplant? Eh? Just trust me on this one.
So there you have it. Now that you’ve seen the pictures, try to get a reservation in say, three months. Don’t be discouraged – it will be worth it.
Girl and the Goat
809 W Randolph St, Chicago IL, 60607 · (312) 492-6262