To call Stephanie Izard a celebrity chef is an understatement. The Chicago native behind some of the Midwest’s most popular restaurants is what we’d call a culinary powerhouse, the first woman to ever take the Top Chef title, an Iron Chef and James Beard Award winner, an entrepreneur with her own retail line, and a celebrated cookbook author. Whew. What’s more, she can add “L.A. restaurateur” to her growing list of titles and accolades, because next summer, she’s opening a restaurant here.
Girl & the Goat, her flagship with Boka Restaurant Group, is headed to the Arts District, as first reported in Food & Wine. Izard estimates we’ll see the family-style restaurant touch down in July or August 2019, taking root in a bright and airy space in the sprawling At Mateo development project. We caught up with Izard to learn just what to expect when one of Chicago’s brightest heads west, and how the L.A. outpost of Girl & the Goat will differentiate itself from its Midwestern forerunner.
The older sibling to the Chinese-inspired Duck Duck Goat and the charming Little Goat Diner, Girl & the Goat is where family-style, wood-fired fare reigns, where shareable dishes are organized under fish, vegetables, meats, breads, desserts and goat—because, come on, it’s even in the name. Angelenos can expect the same sort of format: sharing through globally-inspired plates of ponzu-drizzled oysters; Jamaican puffed rice, peas and scallops in curry; confit goat belly with bourbon butter and lobster; and squash blossom rangoon. Just like the West Loop originator, L.A.’s Girl & the Goat will include a full bar, a wood-fired oven and a wood-fired grill.
The Arts District outpost will launch dinner-only, if just to start. Due to the Arts District’s residential appeal, Izard says that L.A.’s Girl & the Goat might eventually launch brunch programming—“since we love our brunch at Little Goat”—but time will tell.
While a few of Chicago’s star plates will make their way to us, such as the roasted pig face, Izard expects a heavier focus on vegetables and seasonality—it is California, after all. “I kind of see it being Girl & the Goat-style food, but a little bit lighter, a little bit brighter,” she says, “almost like you feel a little bit more of the sunshine in the menu.”
And, as L.A. is only receiving one of the three Goat restaurants, Izard says she may pull some of her favorite dishes and aspects from her other two concepts. "We can create new rules for the Goat restaurant [in L.A.]," Izard says, "because it’s just one instead of three in the same neighborhood."
The beverage program
Chicago’s Girl & the Goat pickles fruits and vegetables, and the pickling brines often make their way into the restaurant’s cocktails to brighten up the drinks. While Izard expect’s L.A.’s cocktail menu will differ—she foresees hiring on a local beverage lead—the chef-partner hopes they’ll maintain a fun angle. From a wine standpoint, heading west means showcasing this coast’s vintners. The Midwest’s restaurant tends to focus on international labels, but Izard foresees a more local spotlight here—and the same goes for the craft beer selection. In the coming months, she and her team will be trekking out to California, Oregon and Washington to scout product, as well as to work on their own: The restaurant already partners with Walla Walla’s Saviah Cellars winery to make a house red, and as Girl & the Goat expands to L.A., they might also create a white.
Izard’s West Coast outpost is roughly the same size as Chicago’s, which seats around 120. She’s hoping guests will get the same bustling, energetic feeling as soon as they enter and see the bar, the open kitchen and the wood-burning oven. “I love an open kitchen,” she says. “All of my kitchens are open, because I think it makes the cooks happier to be able to see the the food that they’re putting all this effort into, and then also, when I’m at work and expediting, people can still come by and say hi… When you walk in you’ll be able to see all the cooks doing their thing, which just adds to the energy of the place.”
When it comes to design, the paths diverge: The Girl & the Goat in Chicago is on the darker side, with a burnt-wood wall, low lighting and traditionally masculine features; in L.A., Izard thinks of her space as sunshiny—mostly due to large windows in three of the restaurant’s four walls. The chef is hoping to instill what she calls more of a feminine feel in her latest, and to add more greenery. That natural light won’t just be found indoors; L.A.’s restaurant will feature a large patio area.
“What I get excited about in L.A. is that you can be outside almost all year,” Izard says, “which is so polar-opposite from here in Chicago. There’s probably like 45 days where people want to sit outside.”
How they’re making it work
Though L.A.’s restaurant is still a year out, Izard’s already training her Chicago staff to become stronger on their own, though she adds that they’ve always been sustainable without her presence. She’ll be relocating to L.A. for at least three months prior to the Arts District opening, then remaining in L.A. for at least one month after the launch. From there, she expects she’ll be splitting time with a grueling travel schedule of spending one week per month in Los Angeles, and the other three in Chicago.
“I’ve always done my own menu for Girl & the Goat in Chicago, and as of right now, I don’t really see that changing,” Izard says. “And thanks to technology, if I’m working on something in Chicago, I can check on things visually in L.A. It’s not going to be the type of thing where I open it up and peace out. That’s not my style.”
Eventually, she says, she’d like to launch an exchange program between the two, allowing cooks from Chicago to spend time with the group’s newest member of the family. After enough time, the team may even see fit to open another Goat concept here.
“I see L.A. as being a very welcoming town for great food, and the more I’ve been eating out there and seeing how great the restaurants are, I think it could be a good fit,” Izard says. “But we kind of want to get our feet wet and see how it goes, and then, who knows?”
The Girl & the Goat is set to open launch summer 2019, in the At Mateo complex at the corner of Mateo and Palmetto Streets.