Saturday, October 12, 2013

Little Goat Diner

What is your next step after opening and running a highly successful restaurant that pushes the boundaries using relatively common dishes and varying them by changing flavor of texture?  If you're Stephanie Izard, Executive Chef of Girl & the Goat, Winner of Top Chef, Season 4, and the 2013 Winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Great Lakes, you decide to open a diner.  While the food at a diner is generally simpler than that served at a fine dining restaurant, I would think that this may be even more difficult in some aspects.  The menu in a typical diner will be larger than that in a typical fine dining restaurant.  They are open longer and the entire menu is frequently available for the entire time that it is open.  A meal typically moves faster in a diner than in a fine dining restaurant.  All of these are on top of the fact that the menu at all diners are pretty typical, so much so, that you could call several items archetypes.  You may run into a problem with the clientele if you vary a standard diner dish too much.  While the dishes served here were spins on diner classics, they retain their essences.  Located on Randolph Street across the street from it's big sister, the Little Goat Diner (and adjoining bakery, Little Goat Bread) is a large space with a high ceiling and a skylight.  While it's look is dineresque, it is very definitely not a greasy spoon.  It does have some vintage wallpaper on the back wall but for the most part, the walls and counter are white.  The room is divided by two half-walls with a row of booths outside of each.  There are some two tops on the inside of the half-wall and a large communal table under the skylight in the middle of the room.  There is also a row of booths beside the wallpapered back wall and side window, and a row of tables at the front.  The counter runs from front to back along the side of the room opposite the side window behind which is the server station and the narrow kitchen.  The expediter has a very cool computerized tablet system mounted on the wall to keep track of orders.  With the large skylight, I am sure that in the daytime, the lighting in the dining room is bright enough but at night the lighting in the dining room is fairly dim except at the counter where I sat.  The extra light comes from the well-lighted kitchen.  The regular lighting is provided by dim hanging lights.  

There were several directions I could have gone for dinner.  I was not really interested in breakfast for dinner and while there were several things on the supper menu that sounded good, there were also some very good sounding burgers and sammiches so that is how I went.  I ordered a Tonkatsu Sandwich.  While a Tonkatsu sounds unlike anything you might find at a diner, it wasn't that much of a stretch from something standard you might find at a diner.  It was actually a Breaded Pork Cutlet with Asian BBQ Sauce, House Mayo, and Shredded Cabbage on White Bread.  It was Served with some pickled vegetables, Carrots, Onions, a Radish slice, and Hot Peppers on the side.  While I did eat the pickled vegetables on the side, they might have gone quite well on the sandwich.  I am generally not a fan of plain white bread but I do understand the logic of using it as this is what a diner might use.  The breading on the cutlet was crisp and held the juiciness of the pork which was also pretty tender.  The Asian BBQ Sauce was soy based so was fairly salty.  It also had a slight bite and some sweetness at the end.  The mayo took the edge off the salt and spice of the BBQ sauce and the cabbage provided a little crispness and slight vegetable flavor.  As a side for my sandwich, I ordered some Smoked Fries (which came a la carte).  I did think that the price for the fries was a little high, until I saw the order.  It was enormous.  The fries came in (and overflowed) what was essentially a cereal bowl.  The fries were crispy, salty, and like their name implied, had a smoky flavor on top of the good potato flavor that came from the potatoes.  I will frequently use ketchup on my fries and I did try some on these but I only used a little ketchup because they really didn't need it.

When you think of dessert at a diner, three things come to mind: pies, shakes, and sundaes.  The Little Goat had selections on their dessert menu that covered all three.  The dessert menu was also where the most creativity was found.  On the menu (among other things) was a Cookie Pie, a Smoked Pork and Toffee Crunch Shake, and a Cheez-It Sundae.  I was torn, but I finally decided to go with the Cheez-It Sundae.  This was built around a scoop of Peanut Butter Ice Cream surrounded by two scoops of Strawberry Ice Cream.  This was then topped with Caramel Sauce, Whipped Cream, and a large number of Chocolate-Covered Cheez-Its.  A Maraschino Cherry Cherry topped everything else off.  Without the Cheez-Its, this sundae wasn't too bad.  The ice cream and caramel were creamy, sweet, and flavorful and who doesn't like whipped cream with a cherry on top.  The chocolate-covered Cheez-Its added crunch, chocolate (what's not to like so far?) and a sweet-salty flavor along with the slightly cheesy flavor that Cheez-Its provides.

The Little Goat is loud but the staff is friendly and prompt and they do a good job of putting an interesting spin on standard diner fare while still maintaining the essence of diner food.  As the menu is huge, it will take several trips to explore the menu more thoroughly.

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