DISCLAIMER: No cows were harmed in the writing of this blog. The same can’t be said for snails, goats, ducks, pigs, scallops, crabs, lobsters and rubber monkeys however.
There’s culinary comradery in Chicago. On day one, I hit Grahamwich and then hopped the transit up to Metropolis to experience the coffee Graham Elliot serves in his establishment. The same thing exists along West Randolph St. In addition to a few award winning restaurants, there are a number of pubs, cafes and diners lining the street…and many of them stick together. I read an article with Stephanie Izard’s favorite joints which included the Haymarket pub. In addition to their own brews and restaurant, they have worked with the Girl and the Goat to create a few unique pours using rhubarb and other local staples. I figured in was a good idea to stop in for a pint..or two…or three….before settling in for dinner at the Goat a couple of hours later.
It’s a good size brewpub with a good size selection and an affinity for sock monkeys. They not only serve their own pints but have a number of guest drafts from a number of small breweries across the USA. The selection changes often but there will be something for every palate. Better yet, they have 4 ounce tasters available for all beer for as little as $1.50 each. Finally, the staff were EXTREMELY friendly and knowledgeable. Our barkeep was clear and recommended the right beer for the right person:
From Haymarket’s own creations, we tried the following:
Oscar’s Pardon Dry-Hopped Belgian Pale Ale
Speakerswagon Pilsner- Heavy Pilsner
Buckledown Brewing Fiddlesticks Belgian I.P.A.
Haymarket Ombibulous Double IPA
Mash Made In Heaven
Mathias Imperial IPA
The range was from light and citrusy wheat (Rubber Monkey) to the hardcore Mathias IPA and everything in between. I was partial to the Buckledown, an IPA with a tasty twist. It tasted like a spicy wheat beer on steroids. The Oscar’s was a safe choice for those with less hoppy ambition.
After running the local taps, I asked for bartender for some suggestions from the guest taps. He seemed to light up with a slightly devious smile when I just said “Bring me three of your favorites”.
He answered with the following trio:
Revolution Crystal Hero IPA
Lakefront 25th Anniversary Series #01 – Imperial Stout
The selections were brilliant. Each was a lesson in aggressive yet satisfying beer variety. The Crystal IPA had juicy fruit flavours to counter the traditional hoppiness. The Allagash was a high alcohol beer which bathed in barrels of JIm Beam bourbon for a couple of months. Finally, the Lakefront Imperial Stout from Milwaukee was the highlight of the night, It had double digit ABV, a strong stout flavour which was laced with vanilla flavour.
Whether used as a holding tank while waiting for the Girl and the Goat (hell…why not visit a monkey before you go see a goat) or a stand alone place for a casual dinner , I wouldn’t hesitate to come back if in Chicago again. Although I didn’t try the food, those around me seemed to enjoy it. The menu is filled with pub favorites such as burgers, sandwiches and pizza. A word of advice..trust the barkeep. Open your mind to new flavours and take advantage of the 4 oz samples to test new horizons. Just don’t drive…even 4oz beer catch up to you quickly, especially when some of them approach 10% ABV. Just a word of advice,,,if the monkeys start talking you should probably stop.
After the purple pig earlier in the day, I had already experienced an array of carnivorous treats yet I had a long awaited reservation at the Girl and the Goat which I made 4 months prior. Even since Stephanie Izard’s infectious smile hit Top Chef a few years back, she has received accolades for her Chicago restaurants, most recently winning the James Beard award for best chef in the great lake region. Having dined at the Little Goat Diner across the street a few days before, I was looking forward to utter (or maybe udder?) gluttony in this trendy small plate eatery. I checked in an hour before to make sure the time shift on my Microsoft outlook didn’t mess up my timing. They assured me that my reservation for eight was intact, although they need to know immediately if even one person cancelled so they could make the necessary rearrangements. Hard core!
Luckily all eight showed and we were seated at a large table with a great view of the kitchen (at least those of us facing the kitchen). Even though it was Sunday, it had the vibe of a Friday night (Stephanie normally takes Sunday off so if you stalk celebrity chefs you may want to consider another night). The air was filled with a mix of music and the drone of the many voices that populated the other tables. The menus were handed out and we were given the airline small plate speech, informing us that the V meant vegetable, the F meant fish and the M meant meat and that 2 to three dishes per person would suffice. There was a decent array of beer (eg. three floyds) and a few mainstream wines. We were talked into a eccentric white which I cannot remember the exact name of but according to the receipt it was a smoky Arbois (I think was a Chardonnay mixed with another grape). It was a bit reminiscent of a Gruner. Given it’s unique taste, it caused some controversy at the table but I thought it had enough complexity and range to pair well the spectrum of dishes I ate during the evening. Speaking of food, choosing an array of plates among 8 people when there are over 25 dishes available is a daunting task, so we agreed on one each and doubling it to ensure enough for the entire table.
There are countless reviews of countless dishes, so I’m doing to try my best to rank the dishes from best to worst. That being said, the whole experience was among the best I’ve had this year.
1. Escargot Ravioli– Yes, the lowly snail vaults to the top of the protein pyramid with this stellar dish infusing tender pasta fused with delicate Asain flavours.
2. Goat Belly Confit with Lobster and Crab– This dish moved me from goat reluctance to goat indulgence in one bite. Nothing about mixing goat belly and seafood makes sense until you eat it. I could lick the plate,
3. Duck tongues– Do chickens have lips? Who cares because ducks have tongues and they are delicious…snacky and potato chip addictive. Betcha can’t eat just one.
4. Wood oven roasted pig face– Sounds odd, tastes delicious. Like bacon and eggs for cool people…or people who think they’re cool.
5. Crispy Baked Ham Shank– You could have served this with mustard, relish and ketchup and it still would have been mind blowing. That said, the naan,kimchi and sauces elevated this from Sunday roast to trendy feast. Ripping it apart makes you feel like a T-Rex for just a bit.
6. Ham Fries- Shoestring fries sprinkled with smoky and salty intensity. Could double as porcine crack.
7. Strawberry Parfait– Just a beautiful and well orchestrated dish. All flavours and textures combined to produce a symphony of mandible magnificence.
8. Green Beans– A lesson in what I try to do at home when I make Asian inspired green beans. Simply prepared with fish sauce and cashews.
9. Diver Scallops– Perfectly cooked. I enjoyed them but I wasn’t “shell-shocked” over the flavours.
10. Beet Salad– Much better than most of the normal offerings which simply throw a few beets on a plate, add some goat cheese and call it a salad.
11. Goat Cheese Bavarois– Table majority ruled on this one. Since I’m not a goat cheese fan, I’ll give this dish credit for tasting pretty good.
12. Goat Empanadas– I relished the belly but not the empanandas. That said, I’m not an empananda fan for the most part. Plus, I think 16 bucks for a snack food is a little steep.
In the last few years, the goat has gone from a can chewing vagrant to a star, due to both a hilarious cameo on the parody of Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” and due to the focus as a protein mainstay on the menus of James Beard award winning chef Stephanie Izard. It’s a bit ironic you can stare at that cute goat rotating atop the Little Goat diner across the street and devour almost every part of one at the same time. Although It sounds a bit morbid, there’s solace in the fact that Stephanie respects the animal (and quite frankly every ingredient she touches).
The environment is hip and loud, the service is professional and smart and the menu is diverse and would make Animal Farm’s Napoleon drop to his knees. I’d recommend a reservation well in advance and try and bring a bigger group to experience as much of the menu as possible. Listen to the waitstaff and take a chance, especially on the goat dishes and any odd wines recommended by the knowledgeable staff (if anything it will be a discussion point). So will duck tongues….