Everyone inside is an animal.
There doesn’t appear to be much goat being served at Goat Town, a new restaurant in the East Village. Actually, numerous visits were lacking in the namesake animal until my last trip, which found an order of homey, bitter-herbed goat meatballs ($10) added to the menu. The savory meatballs came atop a mellow mass of puréed cannelloni beans, and tasted more like lamb; picky eaters have nothing to fear. Well, not really.
Owner Nick Morgenstern’s latest venture, having founded and left Brooklyn’s General Greene, works well for the space it’s in—the space that used to house cursed seafood restaurant Butcher Bay. Morgenstern has gutted and completely refurbished the restaurant, which now boasts an antique tin ceiling, tiled booths, a small seating area in back, a long sturdy bar and a handful of small tables. The curved ceiling and booths give the room a diner-meets-subway-station vibe and the soft yellow lighting and café tables in front make it a cozy place to have a meal or wait out a snowstorm.
Co-owner Joel Hough, formally of Cookshop, put together a menu that incorporates the apparently still popular farm-to-table model. This means you can start your meal with a bright green lacinato kale salad ($9) with neon strips of sweet, roasted butternut squash, crispy pepitas and enough thin slices of Edward’s ham piled on it to make you forget it’s considered a salad. This starter was excellent and beat only by the pheasant rillettes ($12), which, when slathered on slices of buttery sourdough bread and hit with a dash of whole-grain mustard, melted on the tongue in a hearty, forceful, eye-rolling bite.
I also savored the salty skin of the tender pan-roasted baby chicken ($18). It came with an uninspired but rich polenta that complemented the hearty flavor of the bird, both with its creamy texture and soft flavor.
Not so good was the mush of French onion soup ($8), one day’s special, which lacked the usual thick layer of gooey cheese and instead was more like soggy bread stew. On another night, the delicate sweetness of the butternut squash soup ($8) fared better and went well with the spicy and limey Stout & Stormy ($7), a beer cocktail comprised of house-made ginger beer and Keegans Mother’s Milk Stout.
Goat Town also offers a rotating selection of East and West Coast oysters. I tried one of each selection—Mecox Bay ($2.75), Beau Soleil ($3), Hama Hama ($2.50) and the Barron Point ($3)—though it took almost 30 minutes to get these sea creatures, which require no cooking. They come with a side of shallot, green chili and ginger mignonette, which added a refreshing bite to the pricy mollusks. You can also order a side of salted butter, raw radishes and fresh whole grain brown bread from Amy’s Bread, which the server said went perfectly with oysters. I found the additions overly salty and not worth the $7 price tag. Instead, for the same cost, order another glass of the house red or white; the restaurant’s rotating selection proved drinkable with the entire meal.
Another way to stretch your dollar at Goat Town is to hit happy hour, 4 to 7 on weekdays, where you can snag a burger and a beer for $14. Unfortunately the only beers included in the special are Bud, Coors and Tecate. The burger doesn’t disappoint, but for $14—the beer comes gratis with the sandwich—it shouldn’t.
One night I ended a meal with a "dip" ($3) of salted caramel ice cream, a dish that Morgenstern made popular at The General Greene. I hated its burnt sugar and curdled tang but lucky for me, in Goat Town the law leans in favor of the customer and my waiter deducted it from the bill. It might not always be the ideal place to visit, but when I was looking for a break from this endless New York winter, Goat Town proved to be a perfectly lovely getaway.
511 E. 5th St. (betw. Aves. A & B), 212-687-3641.