Last week was not a great one for me. It was kind of a series of unfortunate events, I wasn’t feeling like myself at all, I worked a ton; it just wasn’t a good one for me. Whenever I feel myself in the middle of a crappy week like that (thankfully they don’t happen often), I vow to carry out the rest of the bad week in bad form and then leave it behind. Let the past be the past, no need to rehash it or let it linger. Move on.
So that’s what I did on Monday. It was a new day, a new week, a holiday even! Last week, I had sort of stumbled upon a reservation at Girl & the Goat at a normal dinner hour (anything between 6 & 8 PM is usually pretty impossible) for Monday, and I snagged it up without even thinking twice. So I gave myself something to look forward to and it was the perfect way to wash out last week.
*I tried my hardest to make this post sound nothing like a Yelp review because I detest Yelp, buuuut it kind of came out like a Yelp review. Ugh. This is the first food post I’m doing, though, so practice makes perfect(ly not like Yelp reviews).
I’ve been wanting to go to Girl & the Goat for years now. For those less familiar, it’s the highly celebrated restaurant of Top Chef season 4 winner Stephanie Izard, who seems like the coolest chick on the planet. Last year, she opened the slightly more affordable, far more casual Little Goat Diner, which I have been to a few times and loved. But it’s just across the street from Girl & the Goat, so I always end up staring longingly through the window.
I tried painstakingly to describe the restaurant’s atmosphere, but failed miserably time and time again. Seriously, this blog has been a draft since Monday night. So if you want to see what the restaurant looks like, Google it. I apologize.
I took it all in when we arrived, but immediately zeroed in on the food as soon as we sat down. Our server didn’t really have to do much because I researched the place so thoroughly, but he turned out to be a great ally in the ordering and coursing process.
The first thing we tried was the grilled baby octopus with beans, pistachios, guanciale, and lemon vinaigrette. I was uneasy about ordering octopus because I’ve never had it any way other than calamari, but it was so good, so good, so good. The tentacles kind of (really) freaked me out, but I got past it because it was delicious. So many different flavors and textures complimenting each other perfectly. Being able to see the steam coming off the hot food was also a sight for sore eyes because, for some reason, all food I’ve had in Chicago seems to come to the table luke-warm. Maybe because this whole city is so damn cold all the time.
I had been planning on ordering the octopus from the get go, but it also came highly recommended by our server, who Tyler and I both immediately trusted with our lives from that point forward because THIS DISH, YOU GUYS. It’s crazy good.
Our next course came perfectly timed after the first, green beans with fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews along with goat empanadas. I had originally tried to order the ham frites because they’re finished with ham dust (?!) and come with a side of cheddar beer sauce, aaaand that just sounds like a really good time to me.
The server strongly recommended against the fries, though, and instead pointed us to the goat empanadas. I let him convince me because he’s far more educated on this subject than I, and I was feeling adventurous, so why not try goat? It’s bound to be good at a place with goat in the name.
It was. The empanada shell was cooked perfectly, with a little bit of crisp but not too much crunch. It was presented beautifully with colorful radishes, grilled blueberries, asparagus salad, and miso-harissa aioli. I had a bite without any of the extra stuff first, just the empanada itself, and it was delicious. But everything else that came along with it added a light and refreshing counter to the warmer, heavier flavors of the empanada. It was a nice first experience with goat!
Anyone who knows me knows that I am wildly passionate about any kind of sweets or desserts, but I also really do like vegetables! I swear. I had read great things about the green beans here, so I was excited to try them. They came to the table piping hot, drizzled with fish sauce. Though we both loved everything almost equally, Tyler picked the green beans as his favorite dish of the night.
The last dinner plate is the one I was most skeptical about, but maybe also most excited about–wood oven roasted pig face with a sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine maple, and potato stix. When I read “pig face,” I obviously first imagined an actual pig’s face served on a platter and that terrified me. I have one too many hillbilly neighbors who have roasted whole pigs on a spit IN THE DRIVEWAY, so I’ve seen too much. It was delicious, though…(sorry, vegetarians). Luckily, upon a little research, I found out that I was wrong in my thinking and that the meat just looks like and shredded meat. Plus it’s hidden under a sunny side egg, anyway.
I’m glad our server coursed this plate last because it was my favorite one of the night (besides dessert). I had no idea where to begin in terms of actually eating the dish, but thankfully the food runner told us how to do it when he dropped it at the table. He suggested that we break the egg and just mash it all up together to get a little bit of everything in each forkful. The pork was salty, the maple added a sweetness, the potato stix brought the crunch. (I’m salivating while writing this.) I’ve never even heard of a dish similar to this one, which is exactly why I was so excited to eat here in the first place.
After all of this, I knew the dessert menu was coming. It’s the moment I look forward to most in every meal. I’m down for all kinds of dessert (except cheese plates. Don’t even get me started on cheese for dessert) but I knew that I wouldn’t find any typical desserts on this menu. Our server said the miso-butterscotch budino is “the best dessert I’ve ever had,” so how could I turn it down after that strong of an endorsement?
It came out very quickly, which is good for Tyler because I don’t do well when I wait for dessert. I honestly don’t know what to say about this other than it really is the best dessert I’ve ever had. It’s a miso-butterscotch budino with bacon toffee, glazed pineapple, and candied cashews. Have mercy. The candied cashews alone would have delighted me, but there was so much more. The whipped cream tasted so fresh and homemade, there was a butter cake in the middle of the whole thing that was to die for, and the budino itself was so rich. The only bad bite I had was one that had too much bacon flavor in it, but I quickly moved past that.
Girl & The Goat was the best dining experience I have ever had, all aspects considered. The food was perfection, our server was great (and honest, which I appreciate), and the decor and atmosphere were just right. I really enjoyed the fact that the service and food were of the highest quality, yet the restaurant had not an ounce of pretention. I’m a weird person and I don’t do very well in fancy, upscale situations so it was incredibly refreshing to have great, five-star food without the snobbery that usually comes along with it. I’ll be back as soon as my bank account recovers.
Shout out to Tyler for taking all of the photos because every time I take a photo with intention, it goes awry.