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Feel Free to Graze at Goat Kitchen

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After being part of a restaurant group that included Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville, David Weir decided to branch out on his own. But the result, Goat Kitchen & Bar in North Wilmington, wasn’t quite what he expected. “I thought I was opening a bar with good food,” he says with a laugh. “Now I run a restaurant with a small bar.”

The chef/owner is delighted with the response to his 80-seat storefront restaurant, which opened at the end of April in the Plaza III Center off Marsh Road. The intriguing, eclectic menu teases palates with such dishes as pork-and-ginger meatloaf, Merguez sausage and Brie, and grilled tuna salad. “I like to offer entrées that people don’t make at home,” Weir says.

The ingredients cross several geographical borders—from poblano peppers and pimiento cheese to Thai chili ketchup and cumin-spiced onions and peppers. It’s not fusion fare, though. “I’m a food history guy,” says Weir. “I like to use flavors that go together and have a purpose together.”


Photography by Steve Legato
 

Larry Willoughby tends bar.

Jalapeño pesto chicken pizza.

The one thing you won’t find, though, is goat, not the meat, not even a smattering of chèvre, the tart, creamy cheese made from its milk. The restaurant’s name reflects the grazing habits of the animal, and the goal of the menu to offer a range of tastes. “Goats eat a little bit of everything,” explains our server Dylan on one of our visits, adding that the staff decided that Goat really should be an acronym for “greatest of all time.”

And there were many great moments during our meal—but there were also some misses. The butternut risotto is an example. We liked its adventurous spirit, but the puddle of bitter chocolate sauce (reminiscent of a Mexican mole) overpowered the delicate squash. And the dish’s spare scattering of Brussels sprouts was more of an afterthought than a signature vegetable.

Still, the dish with more balance,  has great potential. We also found promise in the wild mushroom flatbread, flanked by a nest of arugula salad and staged attractively on a wooden plank. More mascarpone and honey would have boosted the earthy ’shrooms.

Besides those quibbles, the remainder of the meal was stellar. We really like that, with an exception of a $9 Pinot Noir, all wines are $8 a glass. Draft beer, bottles and cans range from $3 to $7. Or indulge in a fancy cocktail for $11.

The one-page menu is divided into categories like shared, snacks, soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers, big plates, and pizza. The snacks are not to be missed, especially at $5 each. They also preview other dishes in a smaller form.

Fried green tomato BLT.

For instance, if you’re not up for a full-tilt roasted pork meatball banh mi sandwich, nibble on the Vietnamese pork meatballs, highlighting three plump meatballs on a wooden skewer with pickled carrot and cucumber slices. Or sample a mini version of one of the restaurant’s big plates—a succulent porter-braised short rib with posole, a mostly hominy (corn) mixture, in this case.

One of Goat’s most popular entrées is its shrimp and grits, our waiter told us. After one bite, we understood why. Crispy diced pork adds a pleasantly unctuous texture and zippy flavor to the traditional Southern recipe, as does a piquant sherry Creole cream sauce.

The restaurant’s Reuben sandwich is like no other, with satisfying pork-belly slices, apple sauerkraut, brown mustard and dark rustic bread. Or try one of the 12-inch pizzas with a slightly charred crust. The artichoke and Parmesan pie with red peppers, olives and basil was particularly good.

There is dessert. But because of the restaurant’s “miniscule” kitchen, Weir says, the choices are limited. On a recent night, the single offering was a round
of baby cheesecake, drizzled with elderflower liqueur and honey, and overflowing with gorgeous blueberries—a simple and perfect ending to a meal showcased by clever interpretations. Another night, you might find a silky chocolate pot de crème.

Weir has fashioned an appealing open space with a sleek, industrial vibe that attracts neighbors and other visitors. His food may overshadow the bar, but that’s OK with him: “My Irish grandmother always said, ‘Eat before you drink.’”  

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