Chicago, IL: Get Your Goat On at Little Goat
820 W Randolph St, Chicago IL 60607 (map); 312-888-3455; littlegoatchicago.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: If you're willing to explore, definitely try the Korean Burger with a goat patty. For traditionalists, the All American is satisfying too.
Price: Korean Burger with goat, $12; All American, $12, Wing Style Burger, $11; smoked fries, $5; onion rings and fried pickles, $7
Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard is the chef and co-owner of wildly popular Girl and the Goat, and Little Goat is her foray into good old-fashioned American diner food. Of course, her diner's got a fine-dining twist with some interesting ideas tossed in along the way, one of them being a goat meat hamburger—I mean, the place is called Little Goat. Did you expect any less?
When you order, you have three choices of patty—beef, goat, or veggie—then you pick a style. My favorite is easily the Korean Burger ($12) with, yes, the goat meat, which comes as sort of a surprise to me. The tender, griddled goat patty has a bit of funky gaminess to it, which isn't overpowering, but you can tell it's not beef. Another difference is its texture is a little softer. It's decked with kimchi, bacon, fried egg, and spicy mayo on what they call a "squish-squash" roll.
The autopsy shot reveals a thick, pub-style, medium-rare patty. The waitress said that all burgers typically come medium-well to well-done, but all the burgers we ordered came out at medium-rare, which is what I wanted anyway. It's a mess, with all the egg yolk dripping down the sides. The toasted springy orange-colored bun is buttery, much like brioche, and is sweet. The kimchi is done admirably well, though not quite like my aunt's; it's heavy on the fish sauce, and surprisingly, rather than a young kimchi, has a good bite of acid, meaning it's seen some aging. If I had to nitpick, the bacon flavor is almost too powerful for the burger. As a whole, this is definitely a burger to check out, especially if you like really strong flavors which work very well with goat meat.
The All-American Burger ($12) has the same flavor setup as a Big Mac, with American cheese, pickles, onion, lettuce, tomato, and "special sauce," which is pretty much Thousand Island, all on a sesame seed bun. The meat sports an impressive crust, meaning it's cooked on a ripping-hot flattop, with a coarser grind than the goat. The quality of the beef is solid, and as the waitress was kind enough to inform me that it's definitely never frozen. The toasted sesame seed bun is sturdy and holds up for most of the experience.
Overall, since I'm a fan of Big Macs in general, for me, this is another successful burger. On the other hand, my friend who isn't a fan of Big Macs thinks the dressing is too strong. It's really up to your personal preference.
The Wing Burger ($11) is okay in theory—we've seen buffalo wing burgers on AHT before, done with some success—but this one just doesn't work. The wing sauce just doesn't have enough vinegar kick to it, and somehow the flavor of butter puzzlingly overwhelms the entire burger, even though it's covered with frizzled onions, celery, and blue cheese. I realize butter is a component to wing sauce, but in this case, it hogs the spotlight.
The smoked fries ($5) come out in a gigantor bowl and are of the slim, skin-on, hand-cut variety. Don't let the word "smoked" get in the way—the smoke flavor is undetectable, and they turn out to be a well-executed mountain of French fries.
For another side, there's the fried pickles and onion rings ($7), which come mixed together. They're fried in a tempura-style batter and served with ranch and a curry mayo. My first bite into what I thought was an onion ring came with a bit of a surprise—the onions are pickled too. Personally, I think I'd rather eat a regular onion ring, especially when it's served on a plate with fried pickles. The batter is light and airy, but like all tempura, when it sits for too long, the crust gets soggy with oil rather quickly. Out of the two dipping sauces, I much prefer the bold-ass deep yellow curry mayo to the lighter, milder, and thinner ranch, which reminds me of raita.
Little Goat's menu is distracting, and I won't blame you for going for breakfast, sandwiches, or the "Kimchee & Bacon & Eggs & Pancakes Asian Style Breakfast Tasty Thing," (you get a pass for that name just once, Stephanie). Everything on the menu has plenty of fun thrown in. But if you're in the mood for a burger, definitely try the Korean goat burger. I'll be baaaaaaaaack (get it?). And, also, watch this video:
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.