This Must Be Why Professional Food Critics Go Twice.

As I type this, I’m eating my leftovers from last night’s dinner at Girl and the Goat. I’m glad we finally made it there. We’ve been interested in trying this restaurant since they opened about two years ago but, until last night, we hadn’t ever managed. Bill almost had the chance to go once (and on the company dime, no less!), but someone else scuttled that. He’s always been a touch grumpy about that.

I can’t say I blame him. But I’d’ve envied the hell out of him if he had gone.

Yesterday morning, he was looking at their online reservation form and found early dinner reservations. After confirming we had no dinner plans, he snapped up those reservations and told me he’d meet me at home to head out at 5:15pm. We were excited.

Of course, we’ve been wanting to get into this place for a bit over two years. A ton of our friends have gone, and raved about it. People we don’t know well have raved about it. People we don’t know except through the magic of the internet have raved about it. Hell, even those notorious assholes at Yelp! seem to basically like the place. So, there’s a lot of build-up and expectation here. On the plus side, every one of our friends who also had to wait a long time to get in said it was well worth the wait. “Amazing.” “Stellar.” “Wonderful.” All ways our good friends have described the place.

As you can no doubt deduce, it did not live up to the hype. It wasn’t bad enough to warrant saying, “I never want to go again,” but we won’t actively seek it out again.

Why? Well, I had to ask myself that when the cost of the meal slightly and briefly surprised me. It shouldn’t have. We ordered a lot, and we knew it. We saw the prices on the menu. So when I was a bit taken aback at the final number on the check, I had to stop and think about it again.

Absolutely nothing, individually, was overpriced for what we were expecting to get. But the overall experience was not worth the money we spent. In terms of food, things were pretty darn good but the kitchen seemed a bit off their game. Still, anyone can have a bad night, so that wasn’t the issue. No, what made G&G not worth the money, for me, was much more systemic than a slightly off-night in the kitchen.

They rush you.

If the tables weren’t so closely spaced that getting the person on the booth side in & out requires moving the table, I might have thought it was just our server being a bit off for us. But we were clearly able to see several tables around us, and they all had the same issue.

When we went to order the server said that we’re at a small plate restaurant and we should order everything up front & let her take care of the timing. I’ve never heard that before and maybe it was a bad sign. But, at the time, I was willing to go with it. Yet every dish came just a little too soon. Our table was crowded. The tables next to us were crowded. The dessert menu just appeared on our table while we were working on one previous dish and they offered to wrap the final dish when we were only half-done with it. The check came oddly soon.

I can only conclude the staff at G&G is trained to systemically encourage you to rush so they can turn the table.

I get that one table lingering can really screw up a restaurant’s timing & profits for the night. I get that staff at any restaurant are trained (or figure out how) to pace things to encourage diners to dine and leave at a reasonable pace. I get that the more asses a restaurant gets in seats in any given night, the better off the restaurant is. And, usually? Staff at most restaurants (even 24 h diners) are darn good at subtly doing encouraging turnover without negatively impacting customer experience.

Unfortunately, the folks at G&G are just on the other side of the line. They didn’t subtly pace things so we left around when they wanted us to leave. They rushed us just a bit. And then charged us a pretty penny for the privilege. And we watched them do the same to the tables around us.

So, I don’t think Bill and I will ever head back alone. If friends want to go, we’ll give G&G another shot. There was a lot of lovely food on the table, and any kitchen can have an off-night and make your scallops a hair overdone. But I don’t, currently, feel the need to try again of my own volition.

6 thoughts on “This Must Be Why Professional Food Critics Go Twice.

  1. That’s why I generally feel uncomfortable with really pricey places. I feel like it’s impossible for me to feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth, even if it’s a *really* nice place. I see it sort of like wine: maybe the $150 bottle is better than the $20 one, but is it really $130 better? I just don’t think I could ever justify it.

    I’m sorry you spent that much and didn’t make wonderful memories to keep.

    • I completely get where you are coming from. I never buy the rather expensive wine for the same reason. I don’t get the nuance that makes it better. For me, though, the experience surrounding food often is worth it. Kind of a bummer that it wasn’t this time, but that happens. Sadly.

  2. As a friend who has had a fantastic experience there, and has plans to go for her birthday, I’m disappointed for you. But just like movies or music, I suppose some restaurants just aren’t for everyone.

    • I remember you loving it. And I know you have tastebuds, so that factored into our excitement. πŸ˜€ I hope I hear back on the birthday celebrations.

      It’s true that some places aren’t for everyone, and that’s ok. We’ll undoubtedly head back at some point, but it will be at the instigation of friends. Maybe that time, it will be better. But, until then, Chicago’s just got too much awesome going on to make a point & drop the dosh trying again.

  3. Oh, I’m so sorry you had an undesirable experience there πŸ™ Back in May, we took our son and had a great time…we all agreed that the restaurant, itself, worked like a well-oiled machine. I agree with you that I thought the individual prices were modest, but it can add up very quickly (especially when you are wanting to try EVERYTHING.) For three people, with 2 drinks and tip, our bill was close to $150. Honestly, I expected the check to be more. Some dishes were better than others, but overall, we were satisfied. And to be even more completely honest, they knew ahead of time that I was a food blogger coming in, so things could have been a bit skewed in our favor. I don’t typically let people know that until after the meal is finished because I don’t want food or service to sway but this time, it helped get an RSVP within a few weeks (and a platter of free desserts LOL.) πŸ™‚ Would we go again as just the three of us? No, probably not…that experience has been checked off. Though, I wouldn’t mind having a table of 8 (back there by the kitchen) in order to change the experience just a bit. πŸ™‚

    • Toni, I vaguely recall your excited tweets about going and that you liked it. It certainly added to the general hubbub of the place being spectacular.

      The truth is, I think Bill and I would have walked away with “well-oiled machine” if they’d backed off on the speed of food arrivals for us, and everyone around us, just a bit. I was completely ok with our server being in charge of timing, versus our ordering a bit a time as I normally do at small plates places. But this resulted in our ordering more than we might have otherwise (hungrier right at first) and feeling rushed, which isn’t a great combo. Like you guys, we wanted to try EVERYTHING. πŸ˜€ It was just the two of us, we had three drinks or so, and paid for our dessert, and our bill came out to a bit less than yours. That’s what happens when everything sounds amazing AND a place is well-hyped.

      I normally don’t mention my blog to folks, as I normally don’t talk about restaurants on it. In truth, I tend to want to experience the place in the moment, without feeling like I’m taking notes for later! I have no doubt others can manage both, but it’s difficult for me.

      Anyway, I do expect to go again sometime, with friends. And maybe it will change my whole opinion! And this hasn’t negated our desire to try Little Goat in any way. Given it’ll likely take us forever to do so, maybe we’ll accidentally catch you there! πŸ˜€

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