The other day, my wife and I decided to make a long awaited journey to Stephanie Izard's Little Goat diner.
The food, both unique and tasty, was exactly what we had hoped for from the always busy, "walk-in only" eatery. What we didnt expect was arriving to people being turned away because they were no longer accepting walkins for the day. Having called before we made the 45-minute journey, I approached the hostess stand anyway and, to no avail, explained the situation. As I walked out the door, deflated and more than a little upset, the manager followed me out. Samantha apologized for the mistake and agreed to put us on the list for a table.
I couldn't have been happier as we were seated, just a few minutes later, and ordered our food. In the meantime, Samantha sent out an order of fried pickles and onion rings on the house. At a glance, it looked like fairly pedestrian bar fare. A few bites in, I knew something was different and a few bites after that, it became clear that beneath the crispy batter were brine soaked (pickled) onions. As someone who has never been a huge fan of onion rings, I thought this was genius, giving the typically flat dish a shot in the arm. This and the curry dipping sauce changed my entire experience of onion rings for the better.
While we were still finishing the starter, our cheesy grits with shrimp, goat chili and a pork belly pancake were delivered to the table. Though the first two are fairly common dishes, neither was quite like any we'd had. The shrimp and grits dish was tomato based with a variety of ingredients including deliciously firm corn kernels that sort of popped your mouth. Interestingly, there were less grits than you would find in a typical bowl of shrimp and grits, a detail that my wife and I appreciated. In my opinion, goat is one of those meats that makes everything better and the subtly seasoned chili really showed it off - a delightful dish.
Where the chili and grits were slight flavor variations on other popular dishes, the pork belly pancake changed the bacon and pancakes game altogether. The Asian staple, scallion pancake, was topped with perfectly tender pork belly and piled high with a diced bok choy salad and ginger maple dressing. Overall, the flavors were great, each one familiar, but in a wonderful and new combination. If I were cooking the dish, I might not include so much bok choy salad. While it was very good, the slightly chewy salad really had to be eaten separately as there was a lot of it. I would have preferred to have less and eat everything together.
Overall, Stephanie Izard hit the nail on the head with her food, the staff and her wonderful manager Samantha. We actually enjoyed Little Goat more than Izard's main store Girl and the Goat, so if you ever find yourself in the west loop with a hankering for something great, give it a shot.
*A side note: If you too are a goat enthusiast, there is a place to buy goat about a block away called Nicholas Quality Meats. It is very reasonable, but they were closed by the time we left, so stopping by after breakfast is possible, brunch is pushing it and lunch is probably too late.