By Mike Danahey
Any longtime Chicago Cubs fan can fill you in on the details of the fabled curse involving Sam Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, who wanted to bring his goat, Murphy, to a game in the last Word Series involving the Cubs in 1945.
The goat was denied entry. Sianis cursed the team. And at least seven stunts ensued to lift the alleged jinx, to no avail.
This year — as the Cubs contend with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National Leaguetitle and a spot in the World Series — a mobile restaurateur from Naperville is taking an approach of beating the curse by eating goat.
LaTasha Garcia said she and her husband, Steven, thought of offering goat tacos out of their food truck, The Cookout on Wheels, as a way to celebrate the Cubs making it this far in the playoffs. They asked around to the craft breweries and taprooms where they frequently appear and wound up Sunday evening setting up outside Crystal Lake Brewing in downtown Crystal Lake to sell them.
The couple has offered goat before, in stew form, they said.
“We like to throw something exotic on our menu from time to time, to change it up,” Steven Garcia said.
This time though, Steven Garcia is preparing a whole goat, either cooked over oak embers on a large rotisserie or in a smoker, with the meat to be used in tacos.
“It’s a chance for him to combine his goat skills with his smoker skills,” LaTasha Garcia said.
The key to either technique is to go “low and slow,” cooking the meat at a relatively low temperature and for a long time to break down the muscle in the lean goat.
“In the smoker, I have it at 235 degrees and cook it for about eight hours — the same amount of time I do on the rotisserie. The wood gives it a mild, smoky flavor,” Steven Garcia said.
Steven Garcia also flavors the goat with a Greek-style rub of garlic, oregano, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in which he lets the goat marinate for a half hour before putting it into heat.
The tacos come three to a $9 order and are served with a garlic sauce and mango salsa. Sunday, the couple sold 52 taco orders next to Crystal Lake Brewing.
One appreciative eater was the brewery’s co-founder, John O’Fallon.
“I actually thought they came out pretty good. I’m a pretty tame eater, and I’d definitely say that they were for the adventurous,” O’Fallon said. “But they were tasty, juicy and a little sweet. I heard some people say they were tough, but I didn’t find ’em that way. If nothing else, very interesting.”
The Cookout on Wheels offered other dishes, including ribs and chilis and sides such as a citrus slaw and its signature macaroni and cheese.
In their best-of-seven series against the Dodgers, the Cubs are set to play this week in Los Angeles.
The Garcias planned to be set up Tuesday night outside Auto Zone in Lisle at Route 53 and Maple Avenue.
“It’s a spot we go to when we don’t have brewery appointments or other events to attend,” LaTasha Garcia said.
For those wanting to try goat meat, it can be found at a few local grocers and brick-and-mortar restaurants.
In the Elgin area goat meat is available at the Elgin Fresh Market locations along South McLean Boulevard on the west side and along Summit Street on the east side. In Carpentersville, Hot Masala along Randall Road also sells goat. Prices range from about $3 per pound to $8 per pound, depending on the cut.
Some Elgin diners also had recommendations for where to try goat (chivo), particularly in a Mexican stew called birria.
Sophia Morales-Calderon said, “It’s so good, A guy sells it at the Milk Pail weekend flea market (in unincorporated East Dundee off Route 25). His spot is called Rancho Alba, and his wife makes fresh corn tortillas to go with it.”
Mary Smith recommends another spot at the flea market for birria, Camarena’s.
Oswaldo Betancourt noted that Los Girasoles on Elgin’s west side has the goat stew.
“It’s good,” Betancourt said. “it’s only in the weekends though, and you have to either call ahead Friday night or go in early Saturday-Sunday. It sells fast, and they only have so much of it.”
As for what beer to have with your goat, Crystal Lake Brewing’s brewmaster Ryan Clooney of East Dundee has several suggestions.
“For braised or stewed goat, I would recommend something on the malty side with a touch of balancing hops like our Lakesider, or Oskar Blues Old Chub Scottish Ale,” Clooney said. “Smoked or barbecue, with a salsa like we did here, you could go either a nice stout or porter or a big hoppy IPA. The IPA would really complement the fruity salsa.”