photo: anna knoTt

Shortly after opening, Girl & the Goat already had a full house. Almost three years later, the restaurant is still drawing crowds—because it's still improving.

Girl & the Goat (809 W. Randolph St., 312-492-6262). Contemporary American.

  ½ (very good to excellent)

$$ ($30–$39 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)

Almost three years after it debuted to a lot of hype—nicely summarized in a 2010 Chicago review by Jeff Ruby— chef Stephanie Izard’s bold, loud, and perpetually crowded small-plate hotspot is still one of the toughest reservations in town. The surprise? It’s still improving.

Izard shows a unique talent for infusing unexpected sweetness into the heartiest of dishes, lacing sweet bacon relish over a tempura-style trout and popping tiny gooseberries into a meaty sugo pappardelle. Goat dishes—try the amazing goat shank special—remain a fun if often greasy staple, but it’s Izard’s take on seafood, such as whitefish in a goat chowder with apple gremolata, that conjures up fond memories of her previous spot, Scylla. Personable servers, who know their way around the exhaustive beer list and smart by-the-glass wine offerings, help make the trip worth the traffic. 

Dishes We Liked: kohlrabi salad ($8); pan-roasted whitefish in goat chowder ($13); wood-fired Walter’s Chicken ($23); roasted cauliflower, pickled peppers, pine nuts, and mint ($11); goat shank, Brussels sprouts, and apple mostarda (market price); pumpkin pie gelato with spiced cake, spiced pecans, blackberries, Thai whipped cream, and milk stout ($8)

New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Girl & the Goat increased its rating from two to two and a half stars in the June issue, on newsstands now.