Part of the problem is my own expectations. I try to judge every establishment on what it's trying to achieve and I arrived at the Fat Goat ready to be a fan. I love the concept: farm to table, fresh, in-season produce. I love that it's grinding its own sausage, making its own cheese, baking its own bread. These are things restaurants should do and often don't. Even the name's cool. So I was hopeful. I wanted it to rock.
It didn't. At least not on my first visit. Nothing is bad, and the service is excellent. The dining room features a barely finished industrial look that is cheap, easy and disappointingly popular, but it's candle-lighted and busy. The food is OK. Again, we stumble over our expectations. My wife adores gnocchi, but the dish itself is a letdown, lacking adequate salt and a sauce to bring the elements together. In contrast, my filet of beef is overdone with a mushroom demiglace that's salty beyond enjoyment. (Yes, I know it should be a bit on the salty side. A bit — that's my point.) Our chocolate lava cake is burned around the edges. And dinner's not cheap. A $5 limeade? $16 for ribbon noodles? $28 per petite filet mignon? Fine. Then don't burn my cake.
Though my expectations are unmet, my hope doesn't die. Dinner is one thing, but what if the Fat Goat is a daytime beast? The lunch and brunch options are a relative bargain, many of the same flavors are present and the commitment to from-scratch, from-the-region fare is still evident, at least most of the time.
The French press sandwich is worth going back for. In fact, I have. A creative reinvention of the Cuban press, this version features prosciutto, brie, cornichons and Pommery mustard on a fresh baguette. It's warm and gooey and filling, as any menu item with the word French in the name should be. The bison burger is good as well — thick and perfectly medium rare as ordered. The promised aioli is missing, but that's forgivable given the ample blue cheese and mustard.
Another hit is the cilantro and goat cheese omelet. It's simple and nicely executed. So too are the banana pancakes. … some of the time. I won't get into another rant about the importance of consistency, but, well, consistency makes or breaks restaurants. One Sunday the pancakes come with a pile of fresh, mixed berries and beautiful, thick-cut bacon. Two weeks later they're topped with pale, limp, thawed strawberries and strips of dry, black carbon. We chip our way in to find two tiny (and tasty) unburned bites in the center while discussing how that bacon could possibly have made it past at least one cook and one server. Where was the judgment about what to set before a guest? Of course, that assumes a work environment in which everyone is a professional and working toward the establishment's success. When our server clears our plate with its pile of charcoal, she tries to explain away our disappointment by stating that it's simply how they cook their bacon. Hmm.
It's at this point in our morning that the coffee tastes weak, we notice the nail holes marring the walls, the poor paint job, the lack of dining-room music and that we can hear the kitchen radio — all of which would have been invisible if we were loving the food. S
The Fat Goat
5109 Lakeside Ave.
Dinner: Tuesday-Sunday 5:30-9:30 p.m. Lunch: Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Brunch: Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.