Word is that it’s nearly impossible to get a table at celebrity Chef Stephanie Izard’s smoking hot West Loop restaurant, Girl & the Goat. People gloat about their reservations as if they’ve secured front row seats to a sold-out U2 concert.
But with all the excitement surrounding Izard’s first venture since Top Chef made her a culinary rock star, I’ve heard surprisingly little word of mouth about the tables themselves – which are finished butcher block. Or the chairs – which are bentwood. Or the numerous other design elements that make Girl & the Goat a visual stunner.
Izard has described her Chicago restaurant, which opened last summer to rave reviews, as “rustic with a bit of badass.” I asked her to elaborate.
“It’s warm, inviting, and cozy with just a little bit of an edge,” says Izard, who has a reputation for being spirited and down to earth. “The design and the food all match my personality: kinda chill, fun, inviting, nothing over the top. I’m not over the top.
“I’m not foofy,” she says, with a hearty laugh.
Indeed, “foofy” is not a word one would use to describe Girl & the Goat, either in terms of its earthy small plate cuisine or its rustic-chic design. Izard, along with her business partners Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm, worked with designer Karen Herold of the Chicago firm 555 to turn a vast commercial building into a striking restaurant that mirrored Izard’s quirky and multi-layered personal and culinary styles.
Izard admires many of Herold’s boldly inventive design features. There’s the massive wall separating the bar and dining areas, which is covered in charred and blistered wood planks. A large rectangular cutout prevents the wall from overpowering the room and frames the beautiful views diners see from both sides. “It’s a piece of art,” Izard says.
And speaking of art, the restaurant has no conventional artwork to speak of. Instead, long beveled mirrors fill a good portion of the dining room’s wall space, while a singular standout painting rules the front of the room. The bright and bold carnival-themed piece has special significance to Izard: her friend, Chicago artist Quang Hong, created the trippy painting, which depicts a girl chasing a goat. “Izard,” you see, isn’t just the name of a top chef; it’s also a type of Pyrenees mountain goat and the inspiration for the restaurant’s novel name. (Look for the jogging beer bottles that run across the picture, as they are a wink to Izard’s known passion for the malt beverage.)
The painting provides the only color burst in what Izard describes as the restaurant’s “really brown” palette. She describes Herold’s heavy use of woods and natural tones as “purposeful” and “quirky.”
Izard, who celebrates nuance in her cooking, sees many nuances in the restaurant’s design, she says. There’s the intricate tilework that’s embedded in the wood floor near the open-view kitchen. The same tiles, she notes, pop up again on the staircase leading to the bathrooms. Topped with two long and burly plank-topped tables, the patterned floor tiles create the illusion of a beautiful area rug – even from the slightest distance.
The chef also points out the patchwork of wonderfully detailed antique fireplace gratings that embellish a wall of wood-trimmed open liquor cabinets behind the bar. Gratings also reappear downstairs in the bathrooms’ transoms and in the base of the little special seating nook at the kitchen counter.
Izard even admires the expanse of functional multi-tiered shelves that front the restaurant’s state of the art kitchen and hold its bountiful array of crockery.
“Even the shelves we keep our plates on are beautiful,” she says.
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Please join me on Wednesday when I talk to Izard about Girl & the Goat’s celebrated food and get the lowdown on the famed pig face.
The Girl & the Goat
809 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607