"Top Chef" winner opens Chicago restaurant

September 24, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Stephanie Izard has done a fine job of balancing her skills with her social media prowess.

Her late, lamented Scylla in Bucktown was a fine little restaurant. She closed it to try out for "Top Chef - Season Four," which she won. Since then, she's been working on her new restaurant, which everyone seems to be talking about.

It has been two years in the making, and after months of Tweeting, blogging and other social media endeavors, Stephanie Izard has finally opened the doors to Girl & the Goat, her namesake.

"Yeah my last name, 'Eye-zard,' is 'Eee-zard' in French, um, a type of mountain goat that lives in the Pyrenees Mountains," said Izard. "Girl & the Goat's just kind of playful. It makes me think of a fairy tale. With maybe a little creepiness to it."

Izard loves bold flavors in unusual combinations. Consider green beans, sauteed with shallots and cashews, enhanced with a fish sauce vinaigrette; snails are set atop melted cabbage, topped with a hearty romesco sauce and preserved lemon. Even pizzas reach new heights: black kale, cippolini onions and shredded goat meat are joined by rich ricotta cheese; like many items on the menu, its baked in a gorgeous wood-burning oven until slightly blistered.

"We don't have the whole menu as goat, 'cause some people are a little nervous to try it, but all those that do try it seem to love it," she said.

Soft-shell crab is a good alternative: plated with sweet corn and a chili aioli, plus a shave of lemon zest and fresh herbs. Chickpeas arrive cooked three different ways, offering a great punch of flavor in a tiny package. Even lamb ribs with sweet onion barbeque sauce make a fine alternative to goat, dressed with pistachios and grilled avocado on the side. One constant: in almost every dish, local produce plays a starring role.

"We are trying to celebrate farms in general, not just the farm animals. So we've got some beautiful vegetables we get from Nichols Farm, and some other farmers," she said.

Izard creates all of the desserts too, most of which have a sweet-savory balance, so don't expect a giant slab of cake or a simple scoop of ice cream.

"One of them is a frozen corn nougat. It's got a little bit of bacon and a little bit of cornbread. And a little bit of gastrique, so there's some vinegar in it. And if you get a whole bite, it's really nicely balanced," she said.

Izard also has a custom wine she's blended on her wine list, plus a great selection of beers.

They do take reservations, but you may have to go off-peak hours until things calm down. There are a few tables kept open each day for walk-ins.

Girl & The Goat
809 W. Randolph St.

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