Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
1600 Lenox Ave., Miami Beach
A few James Beard nods. Write-ups in major newspapers and mags the likes of the New York Times, Men’s Journal and Southern Living. A featured appearance on CNN’s Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown. You name the accolade, Yardbird, the Southern-inspired brainchild of 50 Eggs restaurateur John Kunkel, has probably earned it.
And here’s my dilemma, folks: Reviewing your dining experience at such a highly lauded restaurant, when that experience, in all honesty, wasn’t out-of-this-world, as to be expected.
Was I super stoked for my first visit to Yardbird, so much so that I was really hoping to be “wow-ed”? Absolutely. Did we enjoy the elevated farm-to-table fare we were served? For the most part, yes. Was it the best Southern food I’ve ever had, and did it live up to the hype? That’s debatable.
We’ll start with the service: We were impressed from the moment we were greeted by the welcoming hostess, to the knowledgeable bartender who happily recommended “The Porkchop” ($14, Old Forester 86, house Dijon syrup, thyme, citrus and apple cider) — which served as a zesty start to the evening — to the attentive server who dished out our meal tableside. On the same hand, Yardbird’s refined yet rustic ambiance offered a warm, down-home feel.
Then came the Fried Green Tomato ‘BLT’ ($14, with pork belly, tomato jam and house-made pimento cheese), which was perfection in the form of an appetizer. This dish earned some major points in my tasting book, mainly because the crispy exterior didn’t fall off the supple tomatoes after being fried.
The Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles ($36), a mammoth portion favorably split between two of us, came loaded with a fluffy-crisp cheddar cheese waffle, fried chicken that, while insanely moist, didn’t lend much flavor in the batter, along with chilled spiced watermelon that wasn’t whatsoever spicy, and a fantastic hot sauce honey. Our side of Macaroni & Cheese ($10) was certainly cheesy, thanks to its five artisanal cheese blend; however, the “crispy herb crust” topping wasn’t all that crusty or herbaceous to our taste.
I’ll admit I had some serious order envy when the table over from us was served the chicken biscuits and shrimp and grits (they both looked amazing). Will I return to Yardbird to order these dishes and another incredible cocktail from the extensive — and inventive — bar menu? You betcha.