The place was called Goat Town. I shouldn't have been surprised.
It all started one afternoon not so long ago. I called my friend Suleika Jaouad, who is basically one of the most stylish people I know and the example I give people when I talk about having a personal role model, to find out where we should meet. "Come to my apartment," she said. "We're in the East Village."
The last time I was in the East Village it was 2009 and I thought being cultured meant wearing chucks and not straightening my hair. Since then, my sense of culture has developed. I now know that true culture means wearing chucks and not straightening your hair unintentionally. And so as I walked by Washington Square Park and saw the street signs switch from "West" to "East," I was acutely aware of the subtle shift in culture happening around me. Things seemed hipper.
Eventually I made it to Suleika's apartment. She greeted me with a "Hello!" and big hug, and proceeded to introduce me to the pieces of furniture she had found for her new apartment: an antique sewing table with a hideaway compartment for the sewing machine, a wooden picnic bench that had been transformed into a office desk, a Chinese ceramic teapot that looked like it should be part of the Met's collection of interior furnishings (but, unlike a museum teapot, this one was full of steaming herbal tea). The place was, for lack of a better word, completely curated. An emblem of down-home-earthy East Village style.
And so I shouldn't have been surprised when Suleika told me we would have dinner at a restaurant called Goat Town. Only she didn't call it a "restaurant," she called it, "this little place," as if Goat Town had its own zip code.
The moment we arrived I could tell this was a neighborhood joint. It was early for dinner, so the patrons sat at the bar, chatting with the bartender like they'd been sitting there for hours already, and had thought why not just stay around until dinner anyway? Suleika and I grabbed a table by an open window, with a view across the street of wrought iron fire escapes that looked like a string of "z's" zigzagging down the front of multicolored brick buildings. And if we twisted to look behind us we could catch a peek of the back door, which led to the Goat Town garden, a contributor to that day's dinner offerings.
A waitress wearing a flower-print blouse and a tiny black apron came by and handed us menus that told us, in clear terms, that we would be eating locally and seasonally that night. Feather Ridge Farm deviled eggs. Market salad with coriander and herb vinaigrette. Sweet corn chowder. Heirloom tomato melon salad. Cast iron organic chicken with roasted carrots. Salted caramel ice cream. Counter Culture coffee.
The conversation went like the dinner, starting slowly then rapidly developing into a frenzied excitement, ideas peppered with laughter and tempered by solemnity, tapering off with a mellow sweetness that was heartfelt without feeling contrived. I don't think it's a coincidence that good friends and good food often come in pairs.
It's now been a few weejs since I packed my bags and left Goat Town. But I keep thinking about it. About its white tile booths and bright red tomatoes and the crispy-skinned roasted chicken. I associate Suleika now with Goat Town, too. And although I'm fairly certain that she would be thrilled to be associated with a restaurant named after a farm animal, I couldn't quite put my finger on what brought her and me and Goat Town all together.
When I started writing this post I Googled Nicholas Morgenstern, the owner and chef behind Goat Town, and found out that he, like Suleika, has a pad in the East Village, and that he also decorated his home with found items and vintage pieces. The common denominator of curated style brought them together. And although I still don't quite understand how I fit into the puzzle, I would venture to say that, like me, Suleika and Chef Morgenstern would be comfortable wearing chucks and not straightening their hair, unintentionally.
Sara Dajani is a writer and photographer. Visit her blog at devourblog.blogspot.com