Restaurant review: Fitchburg's Thirsty Goat not exactly the G.O.A.T

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By Bill Livick/Special to The Gazette
Thursday, May 11, 2017

FITCHBURG—The Thirsty Goat, a sports bar and aspiring brew pub, opened last September with a full menu of meats prepared in the establishment's smokehouse and broaster fryer.

The Goat also offers guests a bunch of TV screens tuned to sports channels in a roomy, upscale setting. It has been well received by the Fitchburg community, and it also draws customers from throughout Dane County and northern Rock County, said General Manager Caroline Clanton.

The Goat was conceived as a brewpub, but it still is waiting for equipment and permits and probably won't begin brewing on site until this summer or fall, a greeter said.

Meanwhile, it offers craft beers ranging from local brewers such as Ale Asylum, New Glarus Brewing and
Karbon4Brewing to ones from as far away as Maine and California. The Goat also has beers from the big commercial breweries such as Miller and Budweiser.

The restaurant opened in the large, spacious building that was formerly home to Casa Del Sol, which went out of business in 2015. The new restaurant/bar has a seating capacity of 350 inside and another 150 outside, where a deck wraps around three sides of the building and overlooks a pond.

Inside, there's a large bar area and a smaller dining room off to the side, and there are about 30 flat-screen TVs tuned to games and athletic events.

“We're showing all the events,” Clanton said. “We have anything Packers and Badgers, and we have the NFL Sunday Ticket, too, so we can watch all the games.”

The food menu includes appetizers, soups and salads, broasted chicken, sandwiches and burgers, and seven items from the smokehouse (ribs, pulled pork and brisket, among others). There also are five entrees and a Friday fish fry.
The meat here is flavored with a dry rub and served “naked” (without additional barbecue sauce). If you're coming for the food, the smokehouse is the logical place to look.

The baby back ribs ($27 for a full rack; $18 for a half) are rich and meaty without excessive fat, and they deliver loads of smoky flavor. There are four sauces at each table that go well with some of the sandwiches but aren't necessary to impart flavor to the ribs.

For a good idea of what the smokehouse has to offer, check out the sampler platter ($24), which includes smoked brisket, chicken and ribs.

Alternatively, the broasted chicken ($14) offers four pieces of meat (dark and white) with a choice of two sides. The meat is moist and tender with very little greasiness.

Side options include tasty fresh-cut fries and corn bread, creamy mac and cheese and a rather bland coleslaw, among others.

Some of the kitchen's sandwiches leave much to be desired. A build-your-own burger ($8) was oddly lacking in flavor, and a vegetarian burger ($11) was not only overpriced, but it was also about as bland as you could imagine.

A “crispy” chicken sandwich was better, but at $10, it seemed pricier than warranted.

The menu also lists four fairly standard salads—the best being a goat cheese salad ($14) with greens, apples, oranges and croutons topped with crusted walnuts and a fried wheel of goat cheese, served with an orange-honey vinaigrette.

Service at The Thirsty Goat is very professional, and there's a friendly vibe to the place. The downside to its popularity is the noise level, which makes it difficult to carry on a conversation—a common problem in new restaurants these days.

With homemade food and its smokehouse, the Goat has the potential to become a fixture on the Madison-area dining scene. But for now, it's a nice sports bar in an attractive building, with reasonably good food.

Bill Livick is a freelance writer who writes entertainment stories and Madison-area restaurant reviews for The Gazette.

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