Last Tuesday night I met up with a couple friends at Yard House, a popular new restaurant / tap house in the Fountains. There are some more of these scattered about the US, though not nearly as many as I had imagined, which is why I kept it on the list. There are just a handful spread out across the country in mostly major cities, with the biggest concentration down in southern California, where the company originated. I’ve driven by this place a few times in the evening and could clearly hear music and a full house of conversation emanating from within. They’ve always seemed extremely busy. Other than that, the only thing I had heard about it was that they have a ton of beer on draught, well over 100.
I arrived at about 7pm and the place was jammin’. My friends Anne and Justin had beat me slightly and were already seated. I wandered inside and headed to the left to make a big lap around the bar to look for them and ended up finding them right away. The interior is way bigger than I had imagined. The size of the Fountains regularly throws me off a bit since I picture it as a small collection of little stores down that central street. I also always forget there’s a Dave & Busters squeezed in there at the end. Anyway, the bar itself is huge and it looks like you can sit all the way around it. There are booths against the front windows where we sat. The windows look like they’re roll-up garage-type doors that could be opened up when the weather is nice, I’m not sure if they actually use them though. There’s a very large room of additional seating behind the hostess’ desk with big sliding glass doors. I think you could reserve it for a large group but it would have to be a REALLY large group. Finally there’s the outdoor patio area, which is actually the smallest section from what I could tell by looking at it from outside. I always thought that was the bulk of the restaurant from my previous drive-bys.
Once I sat down I immediately started going over the massive beer list, which they have conveniently categorized by type. I started out light with a Hoegaarden White. I’d tried this once before at Burgers & Brew in midtown and enjoyed it. Unfortunately it was a lot lighter than I had remembered and I kind of regretted the decision. There was hardly anything to it.
We ordered guacamole and chips (topped with pico de gallo & feta) to snack on while deciding on our entrées from a huge and very diverse menu. What arrived was a pretty decent amount of tasty guacamole (very similar to the kind I make, which is probably why I liked it so much) and a maybe 10 chips. We still had a healthy amount of guac in the bowl when we reached the last couple of chips, resulting in me taking a monster scoop which was both ridiculous and delicious.
By this time we had decided and placed our orders. Anne asked for a couple samples so she could choose her next drink. I guess most bars are happy to do this, I just don’t see it too often so I thought it was kind of neat. Just before our food arrived I got my second beer, an Anderson Valley Summer Solstice. I was turned on to this seasonal ale when it came out, a month or so ago, by my dad who seems to have stockpiled a year supply. It’s malty, super smooth and gets even better as it warms up closer to room temperature.
Anne ordered the fish & chips (beer battered haddock with fries, tartar & cocktail sauce). The serving size was huge, and rightfully so at ~$20. I think Anne may have preferred better quality over quantity on this one though, she told me that they were luke warm and just OK. Justin’s béarnaise burger (classic béarnaise sauce & fried onions) looked tasty. I had to ask him what béarnaise sauce was as I’d never heard of it before. I tasted it on a sweet potato fry, which he ordered with the burger, it was very delicate and creamy. Justin said the burger was good but that the béarnaise could have been stronger. The sweet potato fries probably would have been good if they hadn’t been cold on arrival.
I went with the grilled cheese & tomato bisque (roasted roma tomatoes, cheddar, gorgonzola, swiss & fontina on artisan bread). I was definitely the most pleased with my food, it was outstanding. The bread was perfectly golden and crunchy on the outside but still soft on the inside. There was no shortage of cheeses on this sandwich. Most bites had cheese stretching half a foot. For a bit of a premium of $1.50 each I had added both bacon and avocado to the grilled cheese. They don’t fool around here with portions, there was a lot of each. On several occasions I was picking up excess avocado that escaped out the back and onto my plate. If I hadn’t seen it fall I probably wouldn’t have noticed it missing because there was so much more still in the sandwich. The only thing I might change about my order is to go with less or no tomatoes. They were thick and very juicy slices which held a lot of heat, just under the level that might have been uncomfortably hot, and dominated the flavor when I bit into one. The tomato bisque was as good as the handful of tomato bisques I’ve had elsewhere. I’ve never had a bad one. It was very creamy and a little sweet.
We all ordered dessert. Anne chose the Kona coffee ice cream sundae while both Justin and I went with the fresh baked brownie and vanilla ice cream. I was so busy with my brownie that I didn’t ask how the sundae was. The brownie was very warm and gooey, right out of the oven. It sits in a shallow little pan and was incredibly rich. I finished most of it but had to call it quits when I ran out of ice cream because it was a little too rich on it’s own. It turned out to be a good thing because soon after, my brain registered that I was insanely full.
Our server was generally friendly and seemed eager to please, though he was a bit forgetful with some things. A salad that was ordered with the entrées never materialized and didn’t show up on the bill either. Additionally since our brownies were going to take about 15 minutes, we requested the sundae come out at the same time, but it was still delivered significantly earlier. Of all the people I’ve talked to before and after my visit to Yard House, the overwhelming majority opinion is that it’s OK. I think as a whole our experience was just that. My food in particular happened to be excellent however, and I will certainly return.