Stephanie Izard fans fervently awaited the opening of Cabra, her new Peruvian restaurant with Boka Restaurant Group on the roof of the Hoxton Hotel. Izard, best known for her Top Chef and Iron Chef successes and celebrated restaurants Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner, and Duck Duck Goat, opened Cabra in early April to significant fanfare. Does one of Chicago’s most famous chefs still have some new tricks? Here are some early reactions.
Most visitors express enthusiasm for the restaurant’s airy, greenery-laden design. Diners also love the sweeping views from the rooftop location and large windows that fill the space with natural light. The restaurant is already very busy, warned Yelper Michael S., and will probably get more even more crowded once consistent spring finally hits Chicago. “There were so many people in the restaurant [and] in the ‘bar’ (more just standing around) that we kept getting bumped and knocked at our seats.” Though Open Table rates the noise level as “moderate,” reviewer Jbfoodie said the music was so loud his party had trouble hearing the server.
The food and drink
Izard’s loyal fanbase came out in force in the weeks following the opening, and it shows in the online comments: the phrases “I’m a huge fan” and “does not disappoint” appear again and again. Many call the chef by name and declare that she has done it again, like Open Table reviewer PVSB.
Many praised the ceviches, in particular the duck served with quinoa, pickled mango, and gooseberries. Adventurous diners appreciated the beef heart, and a side of smashed fried fingerling potatoes in huancaina sauce (made with mild yellow chilis) was adored by many. The menu can be confusing to those unfamiliar with Peruvian cuisine, according to TripAdvisor reviewer scootsmel, despite that before the opening Izard said she’s not even cooking authentic versions of the region’s food.
Some diners were so delighted by Cabra they emerged from social media hibernation.
Been awhile since I've tweeted, but I felt compelled to give some love to @CabraChicago Wonderful meal, fun atmosphere and one of the few meals I've had that has made me want to visit a place and learn more about a culture.— Bill Jones (@billjonesink) April 6, 2019
A number of reviews compare the food — not always favorably — to dishes at her other restaurants. “I really like the pork at Girl & the Goat. This is not that,” wrote Yelper Jordan R. “I think I’m mostly disappointed because it was $160 which I would have rather spent at Little Goat or G&G.” Others were unhappy that the kitchen ran out of menu items.
Most reviewers that mention service had positive feedback and said their servers were knowledgeable about the menu. Time, however, is not yet of the essence: Yelper Nerissa T. reported a good experience in general, but knocked a star off her review because the goat empanadas stalled. “We were reassured several times that they would be out within a few minutes but didn’t show up until we already paid for the bill and were about to leave,” she wrote. Still, she noted, the pastries were worth the wait.
Others called out sluggish response times as well, and reviewer Indira Z. said she won’t be returning after her mixed service experience, writing “some folks were fantastic, while others need training on inclusive customer service.” Disappointed reviewer Josh K. likened his encounter with a bartender to dining at Ed Debevic’s, a now-closed chain of 1950’s-style diners known for sassy service.
Izard’s celebrity status, leafy dining room and patio, and culinary chops carry the day. A meal at Cabra is a trendy outing for both locals and tourists, and Instagram is loaded with glossy snaps of ceviches and poolside selfies. If summer ever gets here, it sounds like Cabra may be the place to celebrate.