GIRL & THE GOAT
ADDRESS: 809 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607
When my friends and I decided at the beginning of the year that we wanted to make Chicago the destination for our 10-year high school reunion gathering, one thing that I wanted to arrange was a nice meal to help conclude our weekend trip. For those of you that know me, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the cooking reality show Top Chef. So naturally, one of the first places that I looked into was Girl & The Goat, the restaurant of Top Chef Chicago winner Stephanie Izard.
I sent the restaurant’s menu around to my friends and everyone gave a thumbs up. That promptly began my hawking on OpenTable to work on locking us down a reservation. It took a little bit of patience, but about three months prior to the date of the meal, the reservation times open up in their system and I was able to snag one for us.
Fast forward now to our final night of the trip, and we were stepping off our Lyft coming in from downtown following an afternoon spent walking around the Art Institute of Chicago. The inside of the restaurant was very spacious, with the dining area divided up into three “segments” by decorative walls, including one that housed a topiary of the goat used as the restaurant’s logo. The bar was situated on the left wall of the restaurant and the open kitchen spanned the entire length of the back of the restaurant. You definitely got the earthy vibe of the décor as well, with a lot of wood elements and plants used throughout the restaurant.
Although it wasn’t too busy when we first arrived, the crowd picked up pretty quickly not too long after we got there. With how busy the place was, I feel like a reservation is almost a “must,” so definitely plan ahead. After we sat down, then came the hard part of deciding what we wanted to eat from the 30+ dishes that Girl & The Goat had on the menu. All of their dishes are served family-style with smaller portions, which also allowed you to order a larger variety of dishes to sample. Our waiter recommended 1 – 2 dishes per person, so between the five of us, we decided to go for 8 dishes initially, and seeing if we wanted more afterwards.
During our meal, I peeked towards the back of the restaurant into the open kitchen, seeing if Chef Izard was working that night. But then I realized that our visit coincided with the same weekend the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen was happening, which more than likely meant she was out of town.
First dish on the table ended up being the olive focaccia, served with two choices of accompaniments: olive oil with lime zest or a chipotle butter spread. The bread itself had a nice crust on the outside, with a soft, fluffy texture on the inside that was great for dipping into the lime zest oil. On paper, the lime zest oil sounded really interesting, but after tasting it, I understood why it worked. The savory flavor from the bread blended well with the slightly sweet and tangy flavor of the lime, accompanied by the earthiness of the olive oil itself. Certainly a great way to kick off the meal.
Next out came a trio of dishes: the sockeye salmon, soft shell “crab cake,” and roasted cauliflower. Each dish had its individual flavor profiles, but I think that my favorite out of that round was the sockeye salmon, with the soft shell “crab cake” taking runner-up. The sockeye salmon was a chilled dish, comprising of cubed sockeye salmon (think poke bowl), asparagus, avocados, and strawberries, tied together with some sort of chili sesame vinaigrette. Everything in the bowl just harmonized well together, ranging from the savory, spicy, and sweet flavors to the textural contrast between the fish, avocado, and asparagus. It was an overall complete dish that was light and refreshing.
The soft shell “crab cake” definitely had more of an elegant presentation, with the tempura fried soft shell crab pieces piled high on top of a corn “cake” at the base. It was plated with a soy glaze and tangy mayo finish, with some blackberry and red pepper garnishes on top as well. I’m a big sucker for good soft shell crab, and I thought the tempura fried method was a great way to go. That crunchy texture mixed in with the soft, fluffy corn cake really helped to balance things out, and before we knew it, the entire plate was polished off.
The next dish that came out of the kitchen was something that I was not expecting to try coming into the meal: braised beef tongue. My friend Julie said she had tried it before at another restaurant and had liked it; the rest of the table was feeling adventurous enough that we decided to go all-in on giving the beef tongue a shot as well. The tongue was sliced into thinner pieces, each probably about an eighth of an inch thick, and served with a variety of vegetables and some salsa verde. Being that it was my first time trying the beef tongue, I was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful it was. The braise on it was executed well, making each slice nice and tender, with no chewy sensation to it. The salsa verde also helped to give a nice splash of acid to the deep savory flavors cooked into the beef tongue.
It was then time for our final trio of dishes: the wood grilled broccoli, sautéed green beans, and grilled pork belly. I’ll be honest — being a carnivore at heart, the dish that got me the most excited was the grilled pork belly. Thin sliced pieces of pork belly that were served with sautéed bok choy, bean sprouts, and marinated cherries, this dish was also executed very well, with the nice balance of savory and tangy flavors amongst all the components of the dish. I also appreciated that the slices of pork belly were all relatively tender, some having a nice crisp on the outer edge as well.
Reflecting back on the meal, I think the one thing that I am impressed with was how balanced overall I felt the meal was, with the credit going to our waiter. We gave him a list of the eight dishes we wanted to order and he was able to craft and group those items together into the “courses” coming out of the kitchen. Despite the fact that it was a lot of food we ordered, I felt like it was just the right amount for the five of us.
Prior to the trip, I had set my expectations of the restaurant relatively high, with my friends praising the place with high marks based on their own experiences. This visit not only met those expectations but also exceeded them, with the phenomenal food, stellar service, and relaxed atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed every single dish that we ordered and was very glad that we could conclude a fun-filled reunion weekend with such a delicious meal. I certainly look forward to the next time I can stop by again to sample even more dishes off the menu.
Let’s now take a look at the Girl & the Goat Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
And finally, here are my rankings for Girl & the Goat:
Food: 5 / 5
Every dish that we had during the meal was absolutely excellent, with creative flavor combinations and fresh ingredients. Even though the portion sizes of each plate are smaller, it provides you with the opportunity to sample more things off the diverse menu.
Atmosphere: 5 / 5
The wood elements used in the majority of the restaurant’s décor really helped to foster a relaxed environment, giving me a bit of a homestead vibe. The topiary of the restaurant’s logo as well as the placement of plants elsewhere in the restaurant also helped to brighten things up amidst the earthy tones.
Service: 5 / 5
The waitstaff was on-point the entire night, expeditiously whisking away used dishes and laser-attentive to when you needed refills for your drink. I want to say that we probably had someone come over to refill our waters at the table every two minutes or so. As I also mentioned above, the balance and pacing of our entire meal was also really well executed.
Price: 5 / 5
The overall $ amount on the meal was well worth it, going towards the excellent food, superb service, and great atmosphere. City prices or not, I would gladly pay them again for another great dining experience.