My first assumption about the popular south beach restaurant Yardbird was – attractive food in a trendy, prohibition’esque bar with a modern twist, that taste wise would be a far cry from the heavily seasoned, cholesterol heightening, soul caressing southern cooking that I once knew before macaroni came in five artisanal cheeses. I figured this was another South Beach interpretation of Marcus Samuelsonn’s Red Rooster in Harlem, minus the NY accents, along with every other emerging fine dining, southern restaurant I’ve been to in the past year three years. I had all kinds of assumptions about what the food should taste like but probably wouldn’t, and I expected the price points to resemble that of a drastically inflated soul shack minus the soul, with a slight adjustment to the presentation.
My first interactions were with the friendly, and uber hip bar staff, along with the perky bus boys floating around, and the even keeled hosts. Everyone had a pleasant and charming demeanor. The restaurant itself had a ton of energy and zest. This possibly due to the overflow of patrons from the NBA Finals and the ABFF (American Black Film Festival). I caught it at that perfect time of the day when they’re in the midst of transitioning over from lunch to dinner, entitling you to that perfect spot at the bar before the dinner crowd starts to trickle in.
I have to admit, Yardbird was pretty refreshing. It offered the ambience, the décor,
the stereotypical beautiful south beach people, and the unique, damn near artistic, menu. The menu was a really eclectic twist on traditional southern cuisine. It offered items such as the chicken meatloaf drenched in parsnip puree, sweat tea brined southern ribs, signature fried chicken n’ watermelon and cheddar cheese waffles.
The side fixings and appetizers included items such as chicken and sweet potato dumplings, fried green tomato BLT, and housemade strawberries and ricotta. Along with my favorite, the macaroni and cheese with about a million different cheeses. After having an extensive conversation with the bartender about the 99 different types of bourbons they had on deck, me being the black sheep that I am, went with the handful of vodka selections they had and ordered the Ketel One Lemon Drop vodka martini.
To even further compliment the theme, the bartender went to the back to freshly squeeze some lemonade to top my drink. Only I would go to Mexico and order rum, so this not so rare occasion of me ordering vodka at an old school, down south, whiskey house themed restaurant in the middle of South Beach, should not be surprising at all. Need-less-to-say, my martini was perfect, and even provided further inspiration for my entrée. Having dined at my share of upscale southern style restaurants, I couldn’t wait to see whether this place was going to truly defeat the odds and provide a unique yet true to the tradition southern experience, or if it was going to come off like the rest of the upscale trendy southern cuisine ***clears throat fancy soul food establishments.. I secretly hoped that it wouldn’t live up to the hype, giving me ammunition to write an article on how soul food has become a lost and over-gentrified art, etc etc. However, after seeing and tasting my fried chicken and macaroni and cheese from Yardbird… I knew it simply wasn’t going to be one of those writes. My food was absolutely delicious. It was. It respectfully gave homage to the traditional art of dipping heavily battered chicken into a pan of piping hot oil and being solely responsible for the ultimate demise of one’s ability to do anything for the next two hours.
It was perfectly seasoned and prepared. It had the right combination of seasonings perfectly married together, was beautifully presented, colorful, flavorful, rich, and filling. The fried chicken was tasty, the macaroni was exquisite, and it was just enough. Portion-wise, it wasn’t fine dining to the point where you have to pick at it for an hour in order to secretly fill yourself up. It was truly a good meal. Overall, with the super savvy wait staff and bartenders, it was truly a divine experience. Thank you Alyssa, and thank you Imani. I am glad you made the recommendation. It was an absolute treat, and I would definitely give it a Levon’s Top Obsession recommendation if you’re ever in South Beach for the summer.