Little Goat, the bustling all-day diner from Top Chef champion and celebrated Chicago chef Stephanie Izard, will leave its decade-old home in the West Loop in early 2023 for new digs in Lakeview. The diner will join two other Boka Group restaurants — GGs Chicken Shop from Boka executive chef Lee Wolen and an as-yet-unannounced venue — inside the 122-year-old building that previously housed the historic Southport Lanes at 3325 N. Southport Avenue.
Though the diner continues to thrive, the transition is due in large part to the economic and labor fallout from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, says Boka Group co-founder Rob Katz. Serving three meals a day means hiring, training, and managing an enormous number of employees — a lift so significant that Little Goat has cut out dinner service for the time being. “[The diner] is wildly busy — I don’t know if we’ve ever been busier than we are today,” says Katz. “But the diner model of breakfast, lunch, and dinner has become exceedingly difficult in the pandemic and post-pandemic world of extreme labor shortages — it takes an army to put forth that effort.”
Originally launched in late 2012 at 820 W. Randolph Street, Little Goat quickly garnered a large and loyal following thanks to its chef’s celebrity profile and international mash-ups of familiar classics. Located across the street from Girl & the Goat, Izard’s always-packed flagship restaurant, the casual diner also drew attention for its family-friendly environment and retro aesthetic. The partners have declined to offer specifics on the future of the Randolph Street space, which they happen to own, but Katz says he and Kevin Boehm plan to use it again “in some form or fashion.” Sugargoat, Izard’s bakery, also uses the space. Boka officials teased an announcement about the sweet shop’s future. Boka already operates Duck Duck Goat, Girl & the Goat, Momotoro, Lazy Bird, Cabra, and Cira in the West Loop and Fulton Market area. The latter three stand inside the Hoxton Hotel.
In Lakeview, the diner will seat just 50 — a third of the West Loop location’s capacity — and offer three meals a day. It will likely share some back-of-house operations, such as dishwashing and storage, with the other Boka restaurants in the building. But each will have a separate entrance and distinctive design to set it apart from its neighbors. This isn’t a Boka food hall.
“Going back more than a decade, Stephanie’s vision was to have a little diner,” says Katz. “What’s happening on Southport is that it’s really going to be a Little Goat Diner.”
Katz and business partner Boehm, the 2018 James Beard Award winners for Outstanding Restaurateurs, first announced plans for the multi-restaurant hub in Lakeview in November 2021. In the meantime, workers have gutted the building, first erected around 1900, and designers from New York-based design firm Brand Bureau (also behind the look at many Boka projects) have set to work creating “breathtaking” interior and exterior spaces, says Katz.
GG’s Chicken Shop and the unnamed restaurant are slated to open in November, followed by Little Goat Diner in January. Stay tuned for more updates on Boka’s extensive Southport project.
Little Goat Diner, 3325 N. Southport Avenue, Scheduled to open in January. GG’s Chicken Shop, planned for a November opening.