Before her Season 4 win of "Top Chef," only uber-foodies had ever heard the name Stephanie Izard. Since then, Izard’s fellow Chicagoans have been anxiously awaiting a chance to taste her contemporary, original cuisine. Aside from the lucky few who attended one of her monthly Wandering Goat dinners, that chance finally came with the opening of her West Loop restaurant, Girl & the Goat.
The goat theme runs rampant here, with cute caricatures appearing on the walls, the napkin rings and the servers’ shirts, which feature sayings like "caution, goat x-ing" and "please don't feed the goats, but beer is fine" on the back. Goats also make an appearance on the menu in the form of smoked goat pizza, goat-infused fat bread and goat cheese bavaroise, a potted dessert with a layer of brown sugar cake, blueberries, whipped goat cheese and crispy oats. The rest of the seasonally changing menu is equally creative and lighthearted, with each of the sharable dishes falling under vegetables, fish or meat. Some highlights on the opening menu include crispy pig face, crisp skate wing with grilled calamari, and sauteed green beans with aioli and toasted cashews.
In addition to the main menu, a few smaller dishes are available too, including a selection of house-made breads with flavored butters and chutneys, oysters three ways and meats like chicken wings and sausages. The drink menu is anchored by craft brews from Three Floyds, Allagash and others, and the wine selection includes one blended by Izard herself.
Despite the chef's fame and the hype surrounding her restaurant, Girl & the Goat is truly approachable and not at all stuffy. The friendly, knowledgeable servers suggest ordering two plates per person, none of which are more than $20. While some of the dishes may be new territory for many — like escargot and goatballs, beef tongue and the aforementioned pig face — Izard prepares them in a way that will put even picky eaters at ease. What the heck is frozen corn nougat? You’ll just have to try it to find out.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Erica Walkup