You cannot say that you have truly experienced Chicago dining until you have eaten at Girl and the Goat. I thought I was a Chicago food extroadinaire, and was starting to get pretty high on my horse, until one fateful evening, I visited Girl and the Goat and life as I knew it was never the same.
This globally-inspired, family style eatery is everything you never knew your tastebuds needed until now. Reservations are hard to come by, so your best bet is a weeknight. By some stroke of luck, I happened to be scrolling through the reservation page aimlessly one day (one of my favorite pastimes) and noticed a miraculous 7:30 Thursday night opening just a couple weeks out. The dining gods were smiling down on me from above! Without thinking twice, I booked a table for four before the reservation filled, noting to figure out my dining party later.
My sister, brother, and his fiancé were the chosen few who were lucky enough to fill my table. #BLESSED. (Just kidding!) The waiter recommended 2 small plates per person in the dining party, and one plate is perfectly split between 4 people. Coincidence? I’m going with fate. SO. After much debate and deliberation, we narrowed it down to our top 7 agreed-upon dishes and asked the waiter to bring us whichever key dish we missed to fill plate #8. The waiter picks the order in which the dishes arrive to the table, by the way, so don’t freak out about getting appetizer-style dishes last or anything. Trust me, they got this.
Starting us off strong was the johnny applecheese bread. The delicious blend of chili cheddar butter and apple butter was the perfect symphony of fall flavors on warm bread to get us off and running. The butters are served separate, but personally, I recommend combining them together for upmost satisfaction.
Next in the lineup was the duck tongue (waiter’s choice). Served with tuna and black bean poke, crispy wontons and piri piri, I was INCREDIBLY jazzed about this dish. I had gone to bat for this one in the early debate stages, but it had inevitably gotten cut in later rounds, so I was overjoyed that this was the dish the waiter chose for us to fill our order. SCORE.
Moving right along, out came the chickpea fritters. I’ll admit, I suggested the chickpea fritters based on a friend’s recommendation, but had some serious reservations about it. How exciting could a chickpea really be? The answer is VERY exciting. Served warm with harvest chat, masala yogurt, and sheep’s feta, this was easily one of my favorite dishes of the entire night. (Which is really saying something, because they were all pretty unreal.) I highly recommend this dish to any and all veggie-lovers, carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, really any vores…. you’ll like it. I’m that confident.
Following veggies with bolder, spicier veggies, next up was the pan fried shishito peppers. With crusted parmesan a plenty, sesame and miso, these little guys had us coming back for more and more!
Now we’re playing with fire. Next up was the wood fired shrimp, which was so inviting, we couldn’t even wait long enough to snap a picture before diving in. The delicious pairing of pork and peanut ragout and cucumber salad was light and refreshing with a savory and crave-worthy flavor only found at Girl and the Goat.
I assumed goat was their specialty, but they proved exceptional at more than just goat, conquering two back to back seafood dishes with ease. Following the shrimp came calamari bruschetta. Warm, oiled calamari served atop a clam baguette, with a goat milk ricotta spread and topped with goat bacon (yes, you read that right) and slivers of green apples, this calamari hit it out of the park.
Next came the goat empanadas. If I can instill any small nugget of information in your mind today, it is that when you go to Girl and the Goat, YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST ORDER THE GOAT EMPANADAS. Paired in a harmonious bite with miso blue cheese aioli and squash apple slaw, this is absolutely an eating experience you will never have again in YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. (Scare factor: 100.) These empanadas are worth moving back to Chicago for, and I’m not even remotely kidding right now.
Breaking up the heavier dishes was the sautéed green beans coming in clutch. Tossed with fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews, this was a great vegetable ‘palate cleanser’ until the next heart-stopping dish came our way.
And then it came our way. The wood oven roasted pig face landed in front of us before we knew what hit us. If you had told me a couple years ago that I’d be eating pig face, I probably would have fainted right then and there. But alas, here I stand, eater of pig face and advocator of goat empanadas. A new woman. The pig face is seasoned with tamarind, cilantro, red-wine maple, atop a small bed of potato stix and topped with a sunny side egg. Per recommendation, we mixed it all up into a hash-type plate before scooping out the goods. It was so delicious and quite possibly the most tender meat I’ve ever taken a bite of. So there’s that.
Last but certainly not least, we rounded out the meal with dessert. The deconstructed approach to apple fritters made me reevaluate every fritter I’ve ever eaten (which is quite a few- I love fritters). It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal and secured my thinking that I will DEFINITELY be back for more. Chicago, you have outdone yourself again.
PS – If you want more of the goods you see above, check out Little Goat Diner across the street or Duck Duck Goat around the corner. Both are also run by the esteemed chef Stephanie Izard. If you see her, thank her from me. Or rather, from all of Chicago.