Girl & the Goat

809 W Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60607(312) 492-6262girlandthegoat.com

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As you may have guessed, I love the name. It’s got a critter in it and alliteration. What more could you want? Good service? Check. Hip décor? Check squared. Great cocktails? Check-a-palooza. Great food? Well, depends on what you get, and I tried a lot.

It’s all small plates, so it’s a bit hard to distinguish between the appetizers and the entrees, but whatever you want to call them, be sure to get the warm marinated olives. They are tops. Never had better. Not even in Europe.

Another kickass dish are the green beans in fish sauce vinaigrette with cashews. It stole the show away from the cauliflower dish that so many others rave about. Sure it has pickled peppers (assumingly picked by Peter Piper), pine nuts and mint, but if you’ve ever eaten the cauliflower at Ilili or Tamarind in NYC, or Cleo in LA, this cauliflower is a mere apprentice in the shadow of their mastery. Whereas those green beans are Ultimate worthy. Trust me.

After that I’d go with the sweet corn pierogies with green goddess and rhubarb chimichurri (pictured). Or the pig face served with a sunny side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine, maple and potato stix. So good and definitely the better way to go versus the goat shank.

But buyer beware, because not everything is worth your hard-earning coin. I say skip the shishito peppers. If you’ve had one, you’ve had them all, and there are so many other original dishes to be had.

The grilled baby octopus is decent with its guanciale (cured pork), fava beans, pea tips, pistachios and lemon vinaigrette, but not at the level of those winners I mention above. Same goes for the broccoli with smoky bleu cheese, the roasted beets with avocado crème fraiche and the kohlrabi slaw with fennel, toasted almonds and blueberries.

And finally, for dessert, the tres leche was the best of the bunch for me, with rhubarb, pink peppercorn and strawberry sorbet. It’s not so great that I would recommend force feeding it down your gullet if you’re already stuffed with everything else, but if you’ve still got room for jello, then go for it!

3 teeth

El Parador Café

325 E 34th St. New York, NY 10016(212) 679-6812elparadorcafe.com

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I have a warm and fuzzy place in my heart for El Parador. Not just because it’s the oldest Mexican restaurant in the city. Nor because I had my engagement party here. And not just because my best friend had their rehearsal dinner there either. Not even  because they have some seriously kick-ass margaritas- but mostly because of that last one. These are not just your boring old citrus based margaritas, however, we’re talkin’ frozen tamarind margaritas. And the crazy thing is, I’m not even a frozen margarita kinda guy. I’m rocks/salt all the way! Well, not all the way, I suppose, since I dig on these, but you get my point, they’re good enough to make you a convert.

The other thing I love about this place is the service. It’s always extremely warm and friendly and the owner is almost always there, making sure you’re happy and taken care of, which is key. But at the end of the day, we all know these are “nice-to-haves” and that the only thing that truly matters are the foodstuffs. Well, The Inn (English translation for El Parador) has no problema in that department either. But I don’t recommend going here for your typical cheap Mexican fix. First, because Parador is anything but cheap. And second, because Parador is a bit more of a class act, serving up a mean mole, a succulent ceviche and a plentiful paella. In fact, most everything falls somewhere between good and excellent and the misses are scarce.

Due to its age, it is a touch old-school to be fair, but old-school in an authentic, charming way. Granted some might find the cuisine to be a touch dated compared to the likes of more inventive places such as The Black Ant, ABC Cocina and Cosme, but there’s also something to be said for respecting tradition. Tradition! Tradition! (To be sung like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof).

So head on over to El Parador and pay your respects to a culinary trailblazer. You owe to yourself. And, should you need a great place to throw a party, I do highly recommend the private room downstairs.

4 teeth

The Ultimate Cauliflower

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Tamarind – New York, NY

It’s actually not on the menu, but if you ask them to make it, make it they shall. Along with your day. And I mean that in the Dirty Harry-est way possible. Apparently it’s more of a street food favorite in India, fried up in a ketchup-based sauce of all things. So damn yummy you’ll wish you were reincarnated as a cow so you could come back here and enjoy four portions of it as a time with all of your stomachs.

Ilili – New York, NY

If you’ve read my Ultimate Brussels Sprouts post, than this will seem a tad redundant. It’s the identical dish, just seasonally modified when sprouts are out of season. It’s every bit as crazy delicious though. Made the exact same way, sauteed in a dream-inducing mixture of fig jam, mint yogurt, chopped walnuts, sherry vinegar and grapes. It’s the best thing to happen to the albino broccoli since cheese.

Little Kebab Station

31 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-7000http://littlekababstation.com

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This place is like the Indian, Westchester version of Zabar’s. It started out as this tiny little four table restaurant and has since expanded into a spice market and now a creperie. But this review is primarily only for the Indian restaurant, which in my opinion serves up the best Indian in Westchester.

The decor, while expanded, still feels small and intimate, the prices are very reasonable and the service is so nice you’ll think they are smoking the saffron. But most importantly back to the food. It is so good, I can only think of one place in NYC that I think is significantly better- Tamarind, which is my favorite Indian in the entire country, if not the world. So, that’s pretty high praise. I’ve even been to India, and this rivals many of the meals I had in Mumbai.

From the various times I’ve been there we’ve ordered all of the usual suspects: Chicken Tikka Masala (ask for spicy), Veggie Paneer, Lamb Vindaloo, Chicken Korma, Saag Paneer, the chickpea dish (forget it’s name) garlic nan, raita and chutney.

Everything is always so fresh you can taste the individual spices popping out of the dish. Unlike at so many other places where it all gets overwhelmed by the curry so much so that you can’t even tell apart the chicken dishes from the lamb.

So happy we have a place like this around the corner.

4 teeth