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As the dining room in the old transportation museum building turns a year old, it is coming into its own as a unique spot for family fun.
When a developer friend of Teal and Jeff Batson’s suggested they turn a derelict train station at the edge of Wasena Park into a restaurant, they thought he was crazy. With two young children and two restaurants already (Wildflour Cafe at Towers Shopping Center and On the Rise Bakery downtown), the Batsons were plenty busy; certainly too busy to open another restaurant in a building that had been sitting vacant for over 30 years—since the Flood of ‘85 decimated the Virginia Museum of Transportation.
And yet, every time they walked along the greenway, past the old place, something within Teal stirred.
“I just kept thinking, we have to do something with this place,” she explains in her quick, Long Island dialect. “It would be such a fun place where we could bring our children and other people could bring their children…a community orientation. There aren’t too many places in Roanoke where you can eat outside and play outside.”
It was this concept—the eat outside, play outside idea—that Teal kept in her vision while designing and building the Green Goat (named after the hybrid train used to pull locomotives around the train yard). With its location on the Roanoke River Greenway, Teal saw the restaurant as a destination for families out playing; parents relaxing on the porch with an iced tea or craft brew in hand, while kids catch caterpillars in the yard. Teal also recognized The Green Goat’s convenience for employees at Carilion; walking over for lunch via the greenway.
Creating this kind of niche, active-family oriented dining experience seems a worthy enough goal. But for Teal, it doesn’t end there. She wants The Green Goat to be a community experience as well. In the 12 months The Green Goat has operated, Teal has hosted several events for local organizations—something she isn’t able to do with her other restaurants. “I didn’t go into this thinking I wanted to be like something else that already exists in this community, you know. I wanted to be a whole different experience…I wanted to merge the community into this place.”
Because of their other restaurants and kids, the Batsons decided to partner with Louie and Brittney Haddock. Louie was the Batson’s line cook at On the Rise for two and a half years prior. Teal recognized Louie’s phenomenal talent in the kitchen and wanted to offer him a new opportunity.
Louie is The Green Goat’s primary chef and handles the menu, with Teal as consultant. They offer a ‘one size fits all’ menu since, as Batson explains, that’s what families require. However, they aren’t willing to compromise their standards. As such, they buy their food from a locally sourced food company and make everything from scratch.
“We are one size fits all,” says Teal, “but we are trying to set ourselves apart from the chains.”
Any discussion of food at The Green Goat must begin with their sweet potato tots, served with sriracha ranch for dipping. It is healthiness fried, a true accomplishment. I recently discovered the same wonderful “fried health” yumminess in their eggplant fries. These are served with with sriracha bistro sauce; a slightly thicker and spicier version of the sriracha ranch.
As for sandwiches,The Crankpin—a fried portabella mushroom wrap—is one of my favorites; earthy and wholesome. I also love the Cow Catcher, their quarter pound burger. Both sandwiches marry the best of pub grub with farm bounty, a common thread with all of Green Goat’s offerings.
Their pizzas offer another case-in-point. They include toppings like green apples, brie cheese and artichoke hearts. I have tried two Green Goat pizzas: the Round House and The Goat. The Round House favors a subtle island flare with its pineapple and slow-roasted, shredded pork (featured also in their Korean Tacos). The Goat tastes more urban patio with its asiago cheese and olive oil sauce, ham, bacon, brie and green apple toppings. The homemade crust gives both pizzas a pastry undertone, making The Goat, especially, taste almost like dessert. And I happen to know that one editor and his wife rarely let a week pass without a Green Goat White Pizza.
True to their vision of ‘one-size-fits-all’ dining, The Green Goat offers typical kid fare, only upscaled: mac-n-cheese (creamy), chicken tenders (“delicious” says my teenage son), mini cheese pizzas and more.
The Green Goat celebrates one year in July. Teal says she’s still waiting to see how the restaurant’s personality ultimately evolves. To this dining writer, it’s obvious. The Green Goat is a celebration and support of all things local: food, families, community and history. I can’t think of another place in Roanoke like it.
The Green Goat, 802 Wiley Drive SW, Roanoke