Yesterday morning I awoke feeling very nostalgic. For what? Well, I was not exactly sure. So, I jumped out of bed and headed to the gym to try and sweat out the answer. Good decision! By my 2nd set of repetitions on the tricep machine, I realized that the root of my sentimentality was the incomparable cooking of Top Chef winner, Stephanie Izard. I could not get home soon enough to shower and change clothes! Giddy as a little girl, I boarded the CTA Green Line and headed toward Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood so I could have lunch at Little Goat Diner. I couldn’t believe I had not made it there yet. It was time, given how much I love Chef Izard’s food.
Little Goat Diner is located just 1 block south and 2 blocks east of the CTA Green Line “Morgan” ‘L’ stop, at the corner of Randolph and Green streets. It is also a spinoff of Ms. Izard’s other great restaurant I love, Girl & The Goat, which is on the other side of Randolph St.
I have had the great pleasure of watching Stephanie Izard’s star rise high, since she opened her first restaurant, Scylla, in Chicago back in 2006. Scylla was one of my absolute favorite restaurants anywhere. So, it was a bittersweet time when Chef Izard closed its doors in 2008 around the time she competed on Bravo’s Top Chef which she won…deservedly so!
Chicago has many great and award-winning chefs but no one comes close to mastering textures and balance of flavors like Stephanie Izard. Her skills at Little Goat Diner, her 2-year old venture, are as sharp today as when I first tasted her fresh seafood and Italian menu at Scylla 8 years ago. Here is how my lunch at Little Goat Diner went down:
Since I arrived at the very height of lunchtime and Little Goat Diner is always hoppin’, I sat at the counter. This turned out to be a really fun and communal choice. First of all, I could see directly into the kitchen where Chef Izard was working the line alongside of her accomplished staff. I also had a front row seat to all of the many decadent and colorful menu items which came flying of out the kitchen. I took copious mental notes of what soon would be my future meals at Little Goat Diner 🙂
Being the soup-obsessed person that I am, I ordered the soup du jour which was a rich and hearty blend of butternut squash, cream, scallions and toasty, crunchy peptitas.
The butternut squash had been glazed in white wine which, along with the cream, enhanced the tangy and incredibly bright flavor of this soup. I can only describe it as “autumn in a bowl.” I hope Chef Izard keeps this one in rotation throughout the season!
Next up, I ordered the fish tostadas. Rebecca, my friendly server, suggested this as being one of her favorite choices on the sandwich side of the menu. I also thought it might be significantly less filling than most of the other hugely generous menu options passing by my head (HA!). One really needs to come to this place with a ravenous appetite or else be prepared to leave with food for the next day or two.
These particular fish tostadas are my new answer to flying to Mexico when I don’t have the time or the money. Crisp whitefish, shallot aioli, chick pea ‘n onion salad, harissa vinaigrette and a totally kickass dollop of the most perfect lime-laden avocado/guacamole I have ever tasted sat upon 3 crispy tostadas. Wow! Chef Izard scores high points yet again for mastering textures and balance of flavors.
I devoured my tasty lunch, paid my bill and headed into the adjoining Little Goat Bakery to sample an apricot muffin. What can I say about that muffin? It was freakin’ delicious!!!
Little Goat Diner is open every day beginning at 7am. The bakery opens at 6am. It is a comfortable and friendly place to enjoy hearty, thoughtfully prepared food by one of the best chefs around.
I have not seen so many happy faces in one place since I visited Disney World during the bicentennial in 1976! So, I highly recommend that you make it one of your culinary stops when dining in Chicago day or night.
Little Goat Diner is located at 820 W. Randolph St.. For more information, visit www.littlegoatchicago.com.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Green or Pink Lines to Little Goat Diner. Save gas money. Avoid traffic and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!