Fans of Bravo’s Top Chef show know Stephanie Izard as the winner of season four of the reality show/cooking competition, while many Chicagoans have long known her as a talented local chef. For the past few months, Stephanie’s been working on her brand new restaurant concept, Girl and the Goat, and in July, it finally opened (receiving over 3000 reservation calls on the first day).
Since then, there’s been nothing but praise for Izard’s affordable, seasonally-rotating, locally-sourced menu of Mediterranean-influenced small plates that are perfect for sharing. Of course, I was still skeptical when I snagged a last minute reservation (Girl and the Goat has a policy of keeping some tables open for last-minute reservations and even walk-ins) for a Sunday night. Was it all hype? Could the food possibly as good as everyone says?
The menu changes frequently, but always contains a daily bread and a few “animal” options like goat tacos or a whipped pork fat with biscuits. There’s also vegetable, fish, and meat sections, with 10 dishes to choose from in each category. Most dishes are $8-12, with a few higher and lower options. Our server recommended we order 2-3 dishes per person; we ordered in stages, two at a time, eventually ordering a very filling total of seven dished split between 3 people. With three cocktails at $10-12 each, one shared dessert, and a $34 bottle of wine, our bill was a very reasonable $160 (plus tip) for a party of three.
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But it’s all about the food, right? And the food – well, it was splendid. The bread served with coffee butter and blueberry compote was an excellent starter, as was the whipped pork fat (which tasted like bacon butter) with fluffy biscuits. The tender skirt steak and lemon-garlic prawns were both excellent as well. But the real winner (despite the unappetizing name) was the pork face. According to our server, the pork face is one of the most tender and delicious parts of the pig, yet many people don’t use it, so Girl and the Goat is able to get it quite cheaply from a local farmer. The meat was fall-apart tender and juicy…and the dish in no way resembled any part of a pig’s face.
Decor in the space is minimalist, with a few cheeky references to the restaurant’s name. Even the attentive staff wear shirts that say things like “goats gone wild” on the back. Unpretentious and unfussy, the food is excellent without trying to hard, just like the staff.
After our meal, as we shuffled out blissfully stuffed, we stopped by the kitchen window to thank Stephanie for a great meal. Though the restaurant was still packed, she took a few minutes to chat before diving back into the fray, plating dishes that looked equally as delicious as ours. Yes, Girl and the Goat is one of most hyped new restaurants in Chicago, but it actually lives up to its promise – delivering quality food with a focus on seasonal and locally-produced ingredients, in a fun, relaxed setting.