Oh Little Goat, Can You Live up to the Hype?

Little Goat Burrito

Little Goat’s Parathas Burrito

I’m always skeptical of hype. Most people I know are skeptical of hype. Occasionally I give in and usually get burned.

For me, it’s usually with a new movie that “you’ve gotta see” or a restaurant that “is the most amazing new restaurant”.  The last time I gave into hype regarding a restaurant, I left the place pissed off (see Integrity, In Four Acts of Food & Wine – and I still won’t name the place).

So, when a friend of mine tells me that the dinner he had at Little Goat Diner was “amaze-balls” – his words, not mine – I’m skeptical. I’ve heard many people in person and in the land of social media say how great the new restaurant is, which only made me more skeptical.

Little Goat is the new brainchild of Stephanie Izard. You’ve probably heard of her from Top Chef fame and if you’re lucky, you’ve dined at her other restaurant, Girl & the Goat.

At this time, I should disclose that I’ve been to Girl & the Goat a handful of times and have loved every one. I even went for New Year’s Eve, and had a damn good time.

Having had those experience’s at Chef Izard’s other restaurant made we scared to go to Little Goat. Why? Because in my warped head, these experiences only lend more weight to the hype.

It’s like your favorite band’s sophomore album – it almost never can live up to their debut release. And sometimes when that sophomore album drops, it makes you doubt your reasons for liking the band. I didn’t want to give up my Girl & the Goat.

When I think of enjoying a restaurant experience my list of criteria is pretty simple and goes like this (in order of importance): 1) Food 2) Service 3) Ambiance and 4) Pricing/Value.

On a Friday morning at 10am, this is how it went down at Little Goat:

Lapinette

Virtue Lapinette Cidre

Food
I was wavering between the Parathas Burrito and the Croque Monster, both falling under the Cereal Killer/Breakfast Served All Day category. With a little direction from the waitress, I ordered the Parathas Burrito which has sunny side eggs inside an Indian flatbread, topped with avocado-bean salad and a chili pepper sauce. Holy crap, did this hit the spot.

The eggs, flatbread and avocado were so rich, but were balanced out by the acidity in the salad topping as well as the chili pepper sauce. The flatbread was dense and had a great crisp to its outside edges. The detail that put a smile on my face – thinly sliced pickled peppers that were part of the salad topping. Before ordering, I was worried that I might need a side of something to fill me up, but this dish was definitely substantial enough on its own.

Little Goat’s drink menu is great too, with an amazing choice of uniquely flavored sodas (like Nehi Peach soda or Cheerwine cherry flavored soda), coffee drinks and beers. I opted for a Virtue Lapinette Cidre. I’m a big fan of Virtue’s Redstreak, but was even more excited to try something of theirs that is dryer and less sweet. I also think it’s a pretty awesome brunch drink.

Service
My server rocked, as did the guy who cleared my plate and kept my water full. I usually have a few questions about the menu and enjoy when a server can navigate the menu, speak about the food with knowledge and help point you in a direction when you’re wavering between choices. She helped me with all of those aspects and, oh yeah, she was actually a pleasant person to speak with. It kills me when people who have to interact with the public are clearly not people-persons. This was SO not the case.

Not only did she tell me all about Little Goat Bread right next door (the bakery/café), but also let me try some of their Peanut Butter Bread – Yum!  Bonus points.

I also wanted to give my busboy a high five because my water was almost always full. I know it’s weird, but if I’m sitting at a restaurant and can’t get a water refill to save my life, I instantly have issues with the place. It won’t stop me from going back, but it makes me feel like they don’t care about the customer. It’s like the difference between a hug and a handshake.

You know who also stopped by? The manager. Just to check in and make sure everything was going well. And yes, it was – I was having a kick ass morning.

Ambiance
Airy and clean. It’s brand spanking new and it shows. The place has carefully thought out bright décor and an amazing huge skylight. The space seemed very white and bright. My two favorite apects – 1) The coffee cups were large. I find small diner cups charming, but I usually gulp down coffee pretty quickly. The larger cups look great and functionally work for me. 2) The music. I found myself nodding to the sounds of Slick Rick’s Children’s Story and the Bird & The Bee’s remake of Maneater. It was comforting.

Pricing/Value
You know when I’m happy? When I get what I pay for. That’s what I got here. It seemed like most of the breakfast items that are served all day were about $12. When you’re getting high quality ingredients, that are artistically utilized, you pay a few bucks more. But you also get a meal that is way better than your average Chicago brunch spot (and frankly, many of those places charge you the same $12 for a boring, crappily prepared Mexican skillet).

Two different people canceled on me to go to Little Goat that Friday morning. Sucks for them, right?

Looking back on it now, I’m happy that happened. Why? Because I could sit at the counter of Little Goat and have a frickin’ great meal all by myself. There were no distractions, no one I had to entertain – only me, my food and some good tunes in the background.

So yes, Little Goat lived up to the hype – it’s “amaze-balls”. Think I’ll go back this week and do it all over again.

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