It will no doubt strike you as odd to know that more often than not, restaurant food scares me. I’ve seen what goes on behind the orderly dining room – a lot of chaos. A lot of sub standard ingredients (skinless chicken breasts arriving from suppliers in a frozen block) prepared by people who are there because they can’t do anything else but work in madness of a restaurant kitchen. Pests are another problem, mouse droppings on dry stores are a standard fixture (especially in London). Personal hygiene leaves a lot to be desired. Let’s say none of those factors are at play, you still have to contend with the richness of restaurant dishes. Even salads are a minefield of saturated fat.An extended, hotel stay holiday poses plenty of these perils. I physically recoil as I walk past some of the places on Lincoln Road or Espanola Way. Large laminated menus are shoved in my face, places with generic names like ‘Oh Mexico!’ (gee, I guess that must be Mexican food.), ‘you get a free margarita cocktail’ the young woman touts pointing to something day glo served in the glass the size of Layla’s sand bucket.The good places, always a needle in a haystack, are usually very expensive and unavailable. Yardbird is affordable but difficult le to get a reservation at. All my attempts on Opentable were futile. I hedged on being able to get a table for dinner if I showed up. One look at the harassed hostess, dark rings under her eyes, told me my chances were poor. I was right, nothing, nada, zip. I liked Gigi so much last year, I went twice during our stay and chef owner Jeff McInnis came from Gigi so I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I came back for a late lunch and was offered a table outside in the sun which I immediately snapped up.
Yardbird is open all day from 12 with a Brunch menu on the weekend and a Lunch then Dinner menu during the week. The ‘Farm Fresh Salad of Flat Top Mountain tomatoes, Meyer lemon, Texas olive oil, house smoked sea salt, and Bourbon Sherry vinegar” made me swoon on the spot when I read it, before I had even laid eyes on it and when it came, cut into supersize wedges – they were so sweet. I closed my eyes and savoured each bite. Exceptional tomatoes rock my world, if I was stranded on a desert island – tomatoes is what I would take. My sister ordered the famous savoury waffles and fried chicken. I got the slow braised short rib sandwich which comes with cubes of watermelon. Which again – heaven. The next evening we came back for dinner with more people. Walk ins at 5:30 pm. We got a circular booth inside. The dinner menu has fewer fresh salads and fruit. We tried the shrimp and grits; grilled pumpkin; butterleaf salad with grilled mango; the ribs; the vegetable pie; and for Hrabi, the fried chicken and waffles again. For dessert; the blueberry pie; the banana cream pie; the smoked cheesecake. Growing up in Europe, Southern food is something I’ve read about, not really eaten – a vague idea in my mind. Eating it in the flesh, so to speak, I found the hot food is good but on the heavy side (I make an exception for the slow braised rib sandwich, which was incredible). What surprised me (and my sister and girlfriend) is how good the fruit and vegetables are. Sides of watermelon tossed in salt with a chiffon of mint. Can plain old pumpkin, grilled, really taste that good? The little blueberry pie, heady with floral blue notes – just beautiful. I’m going to try to get one more brunch in before we go and I am going to order every fruit and vegetable dish on the menu.
1600 Lenox Ave,