Stephanie Izard talks about The Little Goat

News broke this morning that Stephanie Izard and her partners will open The Little Goat, a diner/bar/bakery. It won't be a "twist" on a diner, Izard told...

Photograph: MARINA MAKROPOULOS
Marina Makropoulos / Photographer Girl & the Goat owner Stephanie Izard (center) serves a whole goat leg to diners at her new restaurant on Randolph Street in Chicago on Sunday August 8, 2010.

News broke this morning that Stephanie Izard and her partners will open The Little Goat, a diner/bar/bakery. It won't be a "twist" on a diner, Izard told me over the phone. Just elevated. "I love getting a good club sandwich all double-deckered up. I'm not going to put fancy stuff on it. It's just going to be great because it's house-baked bread and house-made bacon and house-roasted turkey. So [we'll be] taking some of the classic stuff that you see and making it fresh and making it awesome."

Izard discusses more about her new project—and a few other things—below.

Describe Little Goat in your own words.
Ever since we first opened we've been looking to open another space. We've just found that at Girl and the Goat, with doing our bread program and other things, there's just not a lot of space to do everything that we want to do. So we started looking for a space months ago. And we're finally just about to fianlize plans of which space it's gong to be. We just went to New York on a trip to check out a bunch of diners, because we thought it'd be a fun thing to focus on. Growing up on the East Coast, we used to go to diners all the time—after you get out fro the bar, or in the mornings and on wekeeneds. So we thought we'd do a diner. Also, people always come into Girl & The Goat and ask if we're going to do brunch, are we going to do lunch. And because this place is so chaotic and stuff we didn't ever feel like we could do it here. So we thought it'd be nice to open a place where we could do breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Any diners in New York stand out to you?
A place that I thought was the coolest was Marlow & Sons, in Brooklyn. The Little Goat's going to be more than just a diner—it's going to encompass a few different things. I've been trying to get Rob Katz, Kevin Boehm and I all on the same page and get our vision together. So just seeing things the way they had it [at Marlow & Sons], where they had it divided into separate sections—there's a little shop to buy packaged items, then you go back and there's a bar inside, and you go next door and there's a diner, and you go down the street and there's a butcher shop. The way they have it divided up into different sections is what we want to do with The Little Goat.

Marlow & Sons doesn't actually look like a diner...
Oh our place will. We're not going to copy anything that's already out there. I would describe [our place] as giving a shout-out to a classic diner look, but still having it in our own style. You gotta have a diner counter.

When chefs open second projects now, they tend to do something downscale—grahamwich, diners. Why not go upscale?
I think what's happened over the past few years is that people have realized that more casual places just tend to be busier. People want to be able to come in all the time. I guess I've just gotten away from wanting to do a super fancy place where people come once every three months for a special occasion. I want a place where people can come whenever they want.

Are you planning to offer diner prices?
Yes.

Are you concerned that it will be hard to get the pricing right and yet still use the ingredients you want?
Yeah, it's definitely something you have to be very strategic about. The best way to do that is using whole animals. If we get in a whole animal, we can use some parts of it at Girl & The Goat, and then we can use the scraps to make an awesome chili at Little Goat. So it can actually help us balance out the costs at both places, which is just another benefit of having a second place.

I know you don't have a menu yet, but let's talk about breakfast—what types of dishes do you hope to do?
Biscuits and gravy. We'll definitely have—I feel like all diner/breakfasty places have their own take on their egg thing, whether it's a frittata or a "skillet sensation." I'm not sure what direction we'll take it but we'll definitely have our own take on egg dishes. I know on Super Bowl Sunday [when Girl & The Goat served brunch], instead of straight up pancakes we did crumpets with a bacon-and-orange maple syrup. So nothing super fancy. You know, traditional breakfast fare.

Waffles?
I don't know...it depends...

You don't sound excited about that. French toast?
French toast, yeah. What I'm excited about is that we're going to move our bread production over there, so if we do French toast it will be with our house-baked bread. And all the sandwiches we'll have will be with our house-baked bread. We can have different breads created specifically for each sandwich, which will be fun.

Honestly the info on this all got out way before I wanted it to, so I don't have a full menu yet.

Are you going to be open late?
What we're hoping to do is use some of the space to have a separate bar that will have it's own entrance. So that part will be open late night and will have snacks and stuff. Just a cool bar. The kind of place I want to hang out—pretty chill.

What's your interest in cocktails? Are you happy to have somebody else develop them? Or are you going to get your hands dirty like Grant is, or like Jared Van Camp at Old Town Social, where all the cocktails are coming out of the kitchen?
I like to do it as a collaboration. I definitely like it to keep it more behind the bar [than in the kitchen.]

How much time are you spending at Girl & The Goat now?
Let's see...probably about 75 or 80 hours a week.

So...how are you going to do another place? Work 160 hours a week?
I'll just run back and forth.

Do you ever see yourself three, four years down the line—maybe you'll have three or four places then—do you ever see yourself anointing a chef de cuisine at Girl & The Goat?
Depending on how many places you have you eventually have to get to that point. A chef just has to grow to a point where they can give 100% trust to other people. And I'm almost there [with my sous chefs]. It's just that I like being hands-on. It'll be difficult to ever walk away. I figure starting with another place right nearby, where I can run back and forth, is a good start...

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