Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yardbird - Miami's Down-Home Cooking

Yardbird - 1600 Lenox Avenue, Miami Beach FL 33139

As you guys know, Dan and I were relaxin' last week in Florida and along with that, naturally came some fantastic eats.  I'm always happy to explore the food scene in Miami and love to enjoy the new hot spots that have recently come on the scene.  Yardbird, the newly opened Southern comfort food eatery, just around the corner from the popular Lincoln Road was our headliner in this visit.


Located close to but not exactly on Lincoln Road, Yardbird feels like an insider's little secret that only the cool kids know about.  Once we found it, we were amazed by how hoppin' it was.  At about 10 o'clock on a Friday night, it was completely crowded and we had to wait a little bit to be seated, despite our previously made reservation.  The wait didn't bother us though, as the bar staff was super friendly and the drinks were flowing.  It was great for people watching, and even once we sat down, we were able to observe the social goings on, which were fascinating.

Needless to say, I loved the high-energy vibe of this place, and with a perfect view of the open kitchen, you felt as if you were a spectator at a true Southern cook-off.  The furnishings were also homey and quite endearing with vintage old photos, resting in rustic frames, starched cloth napkins on the table (which I love!), repurposed mason jar light fixtures and other little touches that made it feel like a Southern home.

The most exciting part of course, was choosing from the incredibly rich menu items, which all sounded amazing.  We each ordered our own main dish but chose the sharing route for apps and sides.  Although we initially thought it was a good way to go, we got way too much food, and could've skipped the app.  Although I loved how all the food tasted, I wasn't thrilled about the disorderly way in which came out.  And even though we were warned that, "dishes come out in no specific order, but as they're ready," I wasn't completely on-board with that.

App - Because we were getting fried chicken and biscuits for an entree, we decided to skip all the usual suspects and try the house charcuterie.  It was Dan's suggestion, and I was surprised, as he's usually really picky.  The dish included a daily selection of house cured meats and pickled veggies, which can be unpredictable.

What we received was definitely on the non-traditional side, with a plate of duck bacon, pork rillette, head cheese, pickled beets and curried pineapples.  I was glad to see all of it, especially the head cheese and the pork rillette, which were both dressed with a slightly spicy grain mustard.  There were homemade crackers served along with this goodness, and I just loved stacking them with a variety of the meats and veggies at once.  The beets were fantastic and packed with biting flavor, while the pineapple was unlike anything I've ever had before, slightly smoky, a little sour and ethnic tasting too.  I'd absolutely recommend this to adventurous eaters, while conservatives should probably stay away.  Dan wasn't thrilled with it.

Entrees - This is where Yardbird's cuisine really shined and we found both of our entrees to be outstanding.  Mine were the sweet-tea brined Southern ribs, while Dan got Llewellyn's fine fried chicken.  I'm really not sure which one I liked best, as the ribs were succulent and beautifully falling off the bone.  They were incredibly messy in the best possible way, heavily coated in the sweet housemade BBQ sauce that could've turned anything into a culinary sensation.

The chicken was also pretty stellar, as the meat was as juicy as can be and the cheddar and chow chow waffle was the most scrumptious thing on the plate.  I kept reaching for it and dipping it into my bbq sauce, which was a winning combination.  Because my hands were so filthy from everything I just described, I didn't manage to take a picture, but I couldn't vouch for this dish more - especially because it also comes with chunky bits of fresh watermelon salad, dressed with tupelo honey and citrus pepper.

Sides - Although we didn't need fixins at all, we just couldn't resist and ordered the oven roasted pumpkin and the buttermilk biscuits.  While we enjoyed the former, which was a very unique take on pumpkin (see above picture), with stacked pieces of pumpkin dressed with sweet and tangy yogurt sauce and candied pecans, it wasn't our favorite.  The biscuits on the other hand stole the show, with their soft flaky texture and the decadent spreads they came with such as honey butter and a seasonal strawberry jam.  I couldn't get enough of these, especially the honey spread, which was just intoxicating.  Although we tried hard, we couldn't finish, so we took them home to polish off for next day.  Even then, they were still really, really amazing.

Drinks - While I don't usually get that psyched about drinks, Yardbird's menu changed that.  Filled with tons of inventive bourbon options, Dan and I took our pick.  I went for my usual, fruity, sweet drink with the Southern Peach cocktail, containing peach preserves, bourbon, fresh-pressed lemon juice and thyme, while Dan chose the Kentucky Mule with Russian standard vodka, bourbon, fresh-pressed lime juice, and ginger beer.  I think out of the two, mine was the winner, as Dan enjoyed it but said it was a bit watered down and too gingery.  Not a problem for me, as I don't love overly stiff drinks, and I thought mine was the perfect mix of sweet, sour and refreshing.

Service and Cost:
The service at Yardbird matched its surroundings; it was friendly and cool and surprisingly very efficient.  Our servers were young and energetic and looked like the Miami cool crowd - not in the pretentious way, but in a genuinely good way.  My only complaint was about the way in which everything came out, in no orderly fashion, as I mentioned before.  Even though it's a trendy, progressive restaurant, I don't view the randomness of food delivery as an innovative technique.

Costs are moderate to slightly expensive but so worth it, due to the excellent quality of the food and the fabulous atmosphere:

Apps - $6 - $14

Entrees - $17 -$42
Fixins - $5 -$8

Cocktails - $8 - $15

3 Mmmms

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