I took my first road trip in more than 16 months recently, traveling to South Beach, Islamorada and Fort Lauderdale. I’ll be sharing some of my food visits with you.
First stop, Miami Beach and a visit to Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, a restaurant that has served as a template for others desiring to create a contemporary take on Southern cuisine.
It’s first year, the restaurant, started by Jeff McInnis, a Top Chef finalist, and Miami restaurateurs John Kunkel and Chris Romero, was a semifinalist for best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation, and Bon Appetit named it one of the country’s 50 Best New Restaurants.
Even after 11 years, Yardbird is a popular spot. Reservations are hard to obtain, and locals will tell you there is a line out the door every night. Still, my companion and I walked in on an early weekend and were only made to wait a few minutes, and I’m sure that was just for the theatricality of making someone wait.
Despite its dedication to craft cocktails, Yardbird’s bar did not have any large format ice. So having a negroni, which I had been craving all the way down the Florida Turnpike, was not a possibility.
Instead I had the Yardbird Old Fashioned, fashioned out of bacon-infused Wild Turkey bourbon with a bit of maple syrup and a dash of Angostura Bitters. The taste reminded me a bit of the duck fat-infused sazerac cocktail from Atchafalaya in New Orleans but a tad sweeter because of the syrup.
Our first course was the fried green tomato BLT, big hunks of house-smoked pork belly standing in for bacon. The firm discs of tomato were nicely breaded and fried, smeared with pimento cheese and topped with frisée salad. If I’d known the appetizer was going to be the highlight of the meal I might have savored it longer.
For my entree I chose Lewellyn’s Fine Fried Chicken. It wouldn’t make sense to come to a place called Yardbird and not have chicken – unless it was supposed to be a prison-themed restaurant. And since my middle name is the properly spelled Llwellyn, I had to go with it. And it was…ok. A half a bird, breaded and fried just past the desired golden hue, and served with a honey sauce. At $28 – so a whole chicken would be $56; great food costs! – is wasn’t exactly a bargain, especially given that it came with no sides. I ordered the house fries – another 10 bucks – and the were good if a bit soggy.
My friend’s shrimp and grits were slightly better, though the grits were hard and clumped. It was served with a veal jus and had roasted tomatoes, bits of ham, and red onions. The shrimp, tails intact, were big and firm.
The staff worked well together and tables were well spaced. In fact, all of the tables the host walked us past on the way to a dark back corner as she told us they were reserved, remained empty throughout our dinner, so we felt very safe.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar is at 1600 Lenox Ave., Miami Beach. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 305-538-5220.