Deep Fried Chicago: Little Goat Diner
Little Goat Diner is not exactly the type of place that will play in Peoria. "What do you mean," I can just hear my family back home saying, "it costs $12.00 for a club sandwich? And you have to buy the fries separately?" Given the breadth and depth of the menu, Little Goat is decidedly a diner, albeit a chef-driven one. And with Stephanie Izard at the helm, you're guaranteed the dishes will feature her signature ingredient combination creativity and unhindered fearlessness in the face of calories. And love the concept or hate it, the menu's fried output mostly works.
The Fried Chicken Caesar Salad ($9.00) is an old fashioned, romaine forward salad that feels like it's missing something... until you bite into a creamy, tempura battered fried anchovy and everything comes together. The hard fried chicken is breaded in a shake-and-bake style and while flavorful, I submit that a swap of moist thigh meat for breast would be a marked improvement.
There is no conceivable reason for Tempura Mashed Potatoes ($5.00) to exist. But one bite in to these crunchy-creamy starch pillows, and I'm so glad they do: this is what those fast food hash brown slabs are aspiring to. Not to be outdone, the Asian BBQ pooling below tastes like Arby's Sauce with a kick, while the dribbling of ranch dressing packs a tang that hits on the back end.
This beast is a sandwich? Ok, I'll play along. With components like hummus, roasted red pepper, and tzatziki, the Fried Pickle Sammich ($10.00) tastes familiarly gyro- or schwarma-ish. Korean pickled veggies lend a fermented effervescence, while the creamy, pucker-y goat cheese is the perfect foil to the rich fried pickles and onion. The crunchy, buttery naan holds up surprisingly well to the heavy components above, and a squeeze of the impressively spicy house hot sauce elevates the dish to late night drunken gyro territory (which is a good thing). Just be prepared to break out the knife and fork unless you're dining solo, isolated in a corner.
Apparently reformatted since the last time we checked in, the Choco Taco ($7.00) is a vision of sundae beauty. And just like the best sundaes, each bite reveals something new about the dish. Sour cream ice cream forms the base, with quick hardening chocolate sauce, goats milk caramel, candied pepitas, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce dipped tortilla chips completing the ensemble. The ice cream itself lends the dish a tangy sweetness that I found off-putting, and to be honest, I liked just about every other component better. The star, though, are the crunchy, salty tortilla chips, which are worth divvying up carefully to ensure a bit in each bite.
The fried output at Little Goat Diner, while expertly crafted and delicious, is richness piled upon richness. And unlike the exuberant high I felt post my all-fried dinner across the street, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little woozy after this one. But as long as you limit your fried choice to one item and pair it with something sensible, like Fat Elvis Waffles, you should leave feeling fine, lilt in your step still intact.