the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Goat Stew


I went for breakfast at the Dominican diner down the block.  I’ve written about this place before.  They have two menus combined in one folder — traditional Dominican cuisine and the gringo menu for those who want burgers and BLTs.   During my first few visits there, I went the safe route, ordering boring veggie burgers and turkey sandwiches.   Three blogger friends, Miguelina, Astrogirl, and Victoria of Veep Veep, all women with some part chica latina, scolded me for being so vanilla.

“Try something different, white boy!” said Astrogirl.

I ordered the goat stew.  It was delicious.   Tender, spicy, in a unique sauce.   Since then, I have ordered it countless times, as well as ordering other unfamiliar delicacies, such as cassava instead of potatoes, with my scrambled eggs.

At first, the staff was unfriendly to me, but once I ordered from their side of the menu, they accepted me as one of the community.   They yelled my name when I walked in, like Norm in Cheers, and they gave me the best table in the corner.  I talked to them about the Dominican music playing on the speakers; we chatted about life back in the old country.

I was eating my breakfast late today.  It was 11:30 and customers were now coming in for lunch.   Three burly Russian guys sat at the adjacent table.  They wore grey uniforms, and I assumed they were involved in some contruction or painting project nearby.  They were earthy guys, looking hungry.  One of the men — short, barrel-chested, and sporting a mustache — called over the waiter in a booming voice.

“Over here!”  he said.

His tone might have sounded rude coming from someone else, but it was clear that this mustachioed Russian spoke this way with everyone.   He also displayed a disarming smile that made you like him.

The Dominican waiter came over.   He told me his name once, and it sounded like “Chi,” so I will call him Chi.

“So tell me, my good man,” says the thick-accented Russian to Chi.  “What’s good here to eat for lunch?”

Chi looked nervous answering this question.    I studied the situation.   It was unclear if he concerned about his boss hearing his answer or giving the wrong answer to the three Russian guys?  Maybe these men were members of the Russian Mob and Chi was sweating in his boots?

“Fried chicken is good.” said Chi.

“Nah.” replied the Russian.

Chi tried again.  “Chicken parmigana.”

“No!   Nyet!   No chicken.  I’m sick of chicken.  My wife only makes chicken.”

Chi leaned against the wall, deep in thought, his eyes flickering back and forth from the back door to the kitchen.  I was completely involved in this drama, not quite understanding either the situation or the mystery.

I decided to help both Chi AND the hungry Russian trio.

“You should try the goat stew!”  I said, proud of my multi-cultural culnary knowledge.  “It’s excellent.”

This outburst was not a usual activity for me.  Sophia might have done this, but not me.  I rarely give advice to people I don’t know, strangers sitting at the next table.  I usually read the newspaper when I eat alone, or play on my iPhone, ignoring others.   But this story was so involving, I felt like I was part of it.  The three Russians turned towards me, hearing my advice, then quickly back to Chi, waiting for his response.

“No,” said Chi to the Russians.  “Don’t eat the goat stew here.  Have the chicken.”

For lunch, all three Russians ate fried chicken.

As I left the Dominican Diner, I noticed that nobody was eating the goat stew, even the Dominicans.


  1. Miguelina

    Ha, ha. Neil, I have to confess something to you: I’m Dominican, and I’ve never had goat stew. But I love you for trying it out! Maybe it’s high time I do.

  2. Twenty Four At Heart

    They don’t have goats in the dominican. I wonder what it is you’ve really been eating?

    (Ok maybe they do – who knows?) : )

  3. Ellen B.

    There are lots of places here in Los Angeles that serve goat stew. It’s called “birria” and is quite delicious. I’m thinking that this is a Mexican dish.

  4. 180/360

    I’ve heard of a lot of mexican dishes made with goat but I’m definitely not brave enough to try it. If Chi doesn’t recommend it, I’d try a new dish.

  5. Mik

    Are there many goats about? Maybe it isn’t goat, but sounds like something I’d try.

  6. teahouseblossom

    Mmm..goat stew.

    You know, for lunch tomorrow we could always go to the local Indian buffet place, where they have a dish called “goat curry bone.” Very delicious.

    Then again, goat two days in a row might be a bit much.

  7. Deidre

    It’s possible its time to rethink the goat.

    Although it is a good sign that Dominicans actually eat at the restuarant. Its always slightly alarming to go to a Thai place for example that only serves the whities.

  8. leah

    that can’t be a good sign.

  9. 3boys1mommy

    I heard all three of Sammy Sosa’s 60+ home run seasons were fueled by goat stew… or was that goat steroids?

    You should take a merengue class Neil, you owe us a dance video!

  10. ingrid

    i used to have something goat at a local jamaican place when i lived in ottawa. i felt similarly proud to be eating “the real food”. most people did take away, but there was a small room in the back of the restaurant where the jamaican-canadian’s ate. i always felt privileged but awkward to be there.

  11. SciFi Dad

    This couldn’t possibly end well.

  12. churlita

    You might want to ask Chi why he said that. I’d love to hear the answer.

  13. Danny

    I had goat stew once at an African wedding and it was delicious even though I was a bit nervous about it. But really, what’s the big difference between a goat or a cow? Also ate horse meat and rabbit when I lived in France but I could live without both of those. I admire your adventurous spirit!

  14. Chris

    That’s funny. I don’t know what’s worse, that you’ve been eating something that even Chi doesn’t recommend there, or that one of your few attempts to be social and friendly to strangers resulted in a bit of a snub.

    All that matters is that you like the goat stew, and you offered a sincere and friendly endorsement of it to your table mates. Nice.

    Thank you very much for the crush. Made my day. Truly.

  15. Stacey

    I would stick to the gringo menu. I’m a wuss. But I’m also a wuss who’s gotten violently ill every time she’s tried a new food.


  16. better safe than sorry

    never had goat, i’ve had buffalo and deer, both of which i found to be gamey. i’m hesitant to try anything new, it was my parents that made me eat both.

  17. anymommy

    I feel a little sick for you, but you know ‘they’ say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So you are stronger for not having died of not-really-goat-stew-food-poisoning.

  18. Venus

    Hmm, what’s the mystery with the goat stew? Maybe it isn’t goat. Maybe that is where bodies that run afoul of the Russian mob end up and feeding it back to, possibly, the same Russian mob that is behind it would have been too ironic or fortuitous or something. Hence, Chi’s reluctance. You should definitely ask him and enlighten us.

  19. brettdl

    Goat Stew IS PEOPLE!

  20. CuriosityKiller

    You’re the second person who told me the goat stew is great – he’s vanilla too. It’s hilarious that you’ve such a great leap and crossed over, only to realize it wasn’t what it was.

    “all women with some part chica latina, scolded me for being so vanilla” — that’s some serious rhyme, bro. Hahahaha.

  21. Danny

    I keep hoping for a new post, not only because I like your writing, but because that photo of the goat stew at the top of the page is going to make me hurl if I see it one more time.

  22. Lucy


    Please let me know when Neilochka posts again. I’m hooked but pregnant and vomiting in my mouth when that plate of goat stew is revealed.

    Thanks much.
    Pregnant Friend

  23. Lucy

    The above is an actual E-mail I received this morning. Since you love the mommies, I thought you should know.

  24. Chris Hoke

    Does the menu say it like this:

    23) ‘Goat’ Stew

    Cuz, then, yeah, it’s hobo-meat.

  25. Astrogirl

    Dude. I said “Try something different.” I didn’t tell you to eat GOAT. Baby steps, man.

    Actually, I’ve eaten goat curry and it’s quite tasty. And if you think THAT’S adventurous, you should meet the hubs – he’s eaten woodchuck and squirrel.

  26. Someone

    I m Dominican yes there are goats there and are eaten quite often, but I am curious as to why Chico told them that but it was ok for you to have

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