Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: Just under three years ago, you would have found me constantly refreshing OpenTable.com, waiting for the restaurant page to first become available so that I could make a reservation for the night of my birthday at Girl & the Goat, the much-anticipated restaurant by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard (in case she isn’t a household name for you already) that was finally going to open. That dinner remains one of my all-time favorites in Chicago: experiencing all her outlandishly flavorful food for the first time, sipping surprise birthday champagne, and getting to chat with Chef Steph herself at the end of the meal. So could future visits live up to that first one? My answer this weekend was a resounding yes.
You know your meal is off to a great start when you’re spreading coffee butter onto warm bread and drizzling blueberry vinaigrette on top. And then you bite into a squash blossom rangoon, a fleeting seasonal jewel that’s stuffed with creamy crab and fried in airy tempura batter. And then you’re chowing down on what you immediately know are among the best green bean and cauliflower dishes in existence, each with layers of salty and spicy and sweet, and then savory empanadas filled with the tender goat meat that’s incorporated into enough dishes to merit its own menu section. And then the salmon, which you ordered partially because the server told you the fish was flown in from New Zealand and partially because you can’t believe that salmon could really work with strawberry and beef and peanut and yogurt, could it? But of course it does, all of the distinct components tangled together in the best way. And then there’s the chicken. You’ve come to expect at this point that it will be unlike any chicken dish you’ve had before, especially since the server explained it would be brined to order, glazed with maple-y goodness, and baked in the wood-fire oven. And indeed, you can’t stop talking about how good this chicken is, not to mention the soft, buttery naan and remarkable ramp goddess dressing that come with it. You’ll order dessert without question.
I think you get the point here. The service is outstanding, the atmosphere feels special yet free from pretension, and all the little details come together for ultimate consistency. So set a date 6–8 weeks in advance, make a reservation, and get ready for a meal to remember.
The details: Girl & the Goat, 809 W Randolph St., Chicago