One of my gifts from Justin this holiday season was a trip to Girl and the Goat, Stephanie Izard's restaurant in Chicago. You might remember Steph from this little television program. I've wanted to go for over a year now and Justin had to wait almost that long to secure a reservation for two. Just kidding. It was only 4 months. The menu is organized into three sections of small plates: veg, fish and meat. Plus there are daily specials centered around freshly baked bread and spreads, oysters and of course, the goat.
Our server, Andrea, coursed everything out beautifully and we never felt rushed. She was warm and personable but totally unobtrusive and didn't blink an eye when I dragged out my giant (new!) (fancy!!) (brought tears to my eyes when I undwrapped it!!!) camera to snap a shot of every course. Well done, Andrea.
Buckle up because Ima gonna gush. Here's the play by play:
I went 26 years without eating oysters and I plan on making up mightily for lost time. These were my first cooked oysters and they were perfect and hard to describe without keeping my head out of the gutter. Slippery, warm, briny... let's just say it was very good for me.
Crudo was a fresh, clean first course full of texture: rich fish, chewy pork belly, pop of caperberry, crispy croutons. Made my tongue fire on all cylinders. Speaking of tongue...
This was one of my favorites because it was so perfectly, seemingly effortlessly balanced. The duck tongues were crispy and so rich. Justin and I inhaled it and I barely remembered to snap a shot of it before we cleaned our plates. Don't freak out about the tongues, you guys. You could go to Girl and the Goat and get pork ribs, or grilled chicken or pasta with sugo and I'm sure those dishes would all be delicious but you can get pork ribs, chicken and pasta with meat sauce at the Olive Garden, too. Be brave! Be adventurous! Send up a little gratitude to the 20 ducks that no longer quack! You won't regret it. (Unless you're a vegetarian and then I'd recommend the chickpea fritters or the pan fried shishito peppers.) Cheers!
Oh, the ham fries. There are a lot of french fry variations out there in the gastropubs these days. It's really too bad that these blow all of them out of the water. Imagine the thinnest, most crispy-on-the-outside-creamy-on-the-inside french fry you've ever had. Then give it a quick bath in pork fat and sprinkle it with housemade ham salt. (Andrea told me they dehydrate the ham in the wood oven then grate it into sea salt. I think we'll be trying that out at home... ham salt for everyone!!). While you're at it, you should probably dip those hot, porky fries in cheddar beer sauce. Then pop a Lipitor (or twelve). We picked at these for the remainder of the meal and I'd recommend that you ask them to be brought out at the start of yours.
This was one of the goat specials of the night. It was Justin's favorite plate of the night and I don't blame him. I need to figure out how to cook fennel this way because it was so soft and sweet without any of that harsh anise bite it so often carries when I do try to cook it down. And kids, goat belly is the new bacon. Get some.
We tried to recommend the goat belly to the nice, young couple sitting at the next table by explaining that it was basically the same cut as bacon but you know, in a goat instead of a pig. The girl replied, "Oh, I don't eat bacon." Well, obviously, we couldn't let a comment like THAT go without a little detail. Apparently, this poor young thing eats plenty of pork, but NOT BACON because of "a religious thing." Jesus wants you to eat bacon, honey. He told me so. Besides that, it's GOAT. Jesus probably ate a lot of goat back in the day, too, by the way. But I digress...
My family was about as excited for my meal as I was. They're waiting for all the details when I see them for dinner tonight. They urged me to take pictures so they can vicariously oogle the food porn. I took a copy of all the menus to make sure I get the details right (my nerddom knows no bounds!). I couldn't go home to share my experience without having ordered this next plate. They'd never let me live it down. We ordered this for the greater good, I swear:
Allow me to reiterate in case that caption font size is too small: Wood roasted pig's face. Have no fear, this dish does not consist of Babe staring up at you. This is basically the breakfast of my dreams: slabs of pork cheek and jowl, bathed in egg yolk, punctuated by crispy potato strings and zapped through with cilantro and wine-y maple syrup. We were instructed by the runner and Andrea to chop and smear and mess the whole pretty presentation up so that you get a mishmosh of everything in one bite. This dish is absolutely a must when you visit. Pig. Face. Don't miss it.
We could've ordered oh... 4 more plates. Everything looked, sounded, smelled divine. Instead, we decided to peek at the dessert menu. The no-bacon evangelist and her boyfriend next to us recommended the chocolate-thai chili gelato with chocolate cake, peanut fluff, pomegranate and stout. Obviously, they could no longer be trusted. We chose this instead:
No regrets here. It was perfect, clean and refreshing after a very rich meal. Every bite tasted a little different depending on the balance of the components.
To sum up, Girl and the Goat is officially my favorite restaurant in Chicago (with Chuy's Chilam Balam coming in a very, very close second). I cannot recommend it highly enough. I can, however, advise that you plan FAR, FAR in advance if you'd like to go for dinner. I hear from Chicago friends that it can be easier to walk in for lunch but when we arrived for our 6:45pm reso on a Monday, the wait was 2 hours for two people. We overheard a couple ask to make a reservation for 12 and the host responded they were booked out through April. Go hungry, keep an open mind and try at least one cocktail.
If you don't get the pig face, you're dead to me.
Girl and the Goat 809 W. Randolph Street Chicago, IL 60607 (312) 492-6262