Walking into The Green Goat in West Ashley can feel like the final act of a classical odyssey. A collection of trees sitting along Wantoot Boulevard obscure the restaurant's sign from the traffic whizzing by on Highway 17, and the parking lot is a land mine of potholes deep enough to necessitate a visit to Gerald's. If you pass an erotic dance studio next door, I hope it brings a smile to your face as it did to mine. After all, aren't some of the best under-the-radar restaurants located in strip malls like this?
Inside, the restaurant is striking in the amount of space it has. A pair of open cabinets act as dividers in the middle of it all to break up the space into a bar area and a separate dining room. The walls are awash in a chartreuse-leaning kelly green and contrasting white stripe, with black furniture to round out the decor.
The beer list contains a handful of local pours, familiar domestics like Bud Light and Amstel, and craft varieties from breweries such as New Belgium and SweetWater. A collection of cocktails is also available.
The menu is organized with the usual chronology of any meal that starts with appetizers and proceeds with salads and sandwiches before delivering you to the entree offerings. There's pimento cheese, fried pickles, and fried green tomatoes, and such Southern classics are joined by bar fare like hot wings and French onion soup. An original appetizer called Billy Tomatoes ($5) bills itself as two thick slices of roasted tomatoes dusted with a blend of parmesan and asiago cheeses and then drizzled with a pomegranate balsamic reduction, but it arrived with mounds of cheese perched atop watery and mushy slices. The pomegranate balsamic reduction was too sweet to stand up to the acidity of the tomatoes; a regular balsamic might have been able to save the dish from its textural failings. On a separate visit, the fried green tomatoes ($8) were a complete turn around from our previous dance with the vegetable, ensnared in a delicate and perfectly flaking crust and scattered with restrained crumbles of goat cheese. It was also topped with a generous helping of chow-chow (cabbage, carrots, and green peppers) that deftly allowed the bright flavors of its vegetables to shine through a delicate veil of acidity.
Although a house and Caesar are included in the salad section, the spinach salad ($10) is a more exciting choice, with its roasted red peppers, bacon, and candied pecans adding a punch of sweet, salty, and Mediterranean flavors. The Grammy's Favorite ($9) pairs fried goat cheese with orange slices and dried cranberries over arugula.
Inquiring about the menu's fried hot dog will get you the sexiest explanation one has ever heard over a menu, a tale of tube meat being dropped, sans breading, into the fryer until it is rescued minutes later and smothered in the toppings of your choosing. In the end, we passed. The po boy ($10) and BLT with fried green tomatoes ($9) continues the mildly Southern tilt of The Green Goat while the crab cake sandwich ($11) and meatball and sausages sub ($10) hold court for fans of classic American fare.
There's pasta, too, and the chicken and bacon pasta ($12), with its thick cream sauce, massive pieces of antibiotic-free chicken, and trio of onions, peppers, and spinach brought back memories of various high-end Italian chains restaurants that reliably deliver such dishes. It was heavy, sure, but balanced a hearty serving of fresh vegetables with moist chicken breast. That one can order it with gluten-free pasta is an added bonus. One evening's pasta special, dubbed the Smokey Gnocchi, was a valiant effort to top beet gnocchi with beef brisket in a cheddar cheese sauce. When it appeared, the dish felt like the sort of concoction that might be found on the Food Network a decade ago. The reddish-purple orbs floated in a white sauce underneath a heaping pile of beef. The gnocchi failed to convey any beet flavor, leaving the dish to marry the taste of fairly bland brisket with a white cheddar sauce that erred on the salty side.
The fried chicken ($10) is of the bone-in variety and arrived with a dry, flavorless interior and over-fried exterior, which required a bit of work to get through. The ham and swiss stuffed meatloaf ($10) was slightly charred but thankfully covered in a sizable plop of gravy. Upon reading the description, visions of an obscenely thick cut meatloaf, marked with an incision on its side and stuffed with fresh slices of ham and cheese had danced in my mind. What appeared on our table contained slices of ham and cheese that tore through its center, a couple slices of deli meat rolled together and placed in the loaf prior to cooking. This preparation added no discernible ham flavor to the overall meatloaf. Shrimp and grits and a boneless pork chop are also available on the list of entrees. The side dishes include the usual suspects like mashed potatoes, green beans, and french fries. The one side that appears unique to the restaurant was a Newcastle mac and cheese that unfortunately tasted like someone had poured a pint of the beer into the dish. It was overpowering and tasted like skunky beer.
The service is friendly and relaxed, adding to the eatery's allure as a local hangout. But for those not already captured by The Green Goat's charms, does the eatery deliver on its promise to serve delicious down-home American cooking? After several visits, no meal was entirely enjoyable. Missteps abound in the kitchen, and for some, half a good meal is forgivable. Yet with a spate of new restaurants opening along the once desolate stretch of Highway 17 between Avondale and I-526, one can't help but wonder if that will be enough to sustain the verdant billy.