The newest addition to the Woodruff Road restaurant scene is Yard House, the chain that features craft beer and globally inspired American dishes. With my mother in town an extra day to care for the boys, Roberts and I (with Vilis in tow) headed invitations in hand to opening night. Located in the newly improved Magnolia Park near Cabella’s, the chain has locations across the US but is the only one in South Carolina.
We grabbed two of the last open seats at the bar, and our tasting experience began in earnest. I would like to preface that this was my ideal dinner – little portions of a dozen different dishes, giving me the opportunity to try a little of everything! From the appetizer menu we sampled the wings: available in buffalo, firecracker and jerk styles in a choice of traditional, boneless or gardein (the vegan alternative made from soy, wheat, pea proteins, vegetables and grains). I was curious about the gardein, as Yard House has a good choice of menu items with the chicken/beef substitute, but it turns out that with a good sauce the wings did indeed taste “just like chicken.” The blue crab cakes with fresh mango & papaya, passion fruit beurre blanc and tomato oil were perfect, and the chicken garlic noodles stood out with the addition of shiitake mushrooms. We passed on the sliders, but they did seem to be a hit with the crowd. My favorite from the appetizers was the grilled Korean BBQ beef: boneless short ribs, spinach, daikon radish and green onions, the flavors perfectly melded and the meat tender and juicy.
While we sampled we checked out the bar menu. With 130 draft beer selections of which 26 are from the South and 10 from Greenville, they have the craft beer scene covered. There is the Chalkboard Series, which features a rotating selection of five drafts prominently displayed on a digital “chalkboard.” The choice of martinis, sake, cocktails and classics was extensive, a “Fresh & Skinny” menu listing options with a calorie range of 140-200 per cocktail.
The house favorites menu category was represented by the penne with chicken, which was accompanied by mushrooms, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, marsala cream sauce and parmesan cheese. The pasta was delicious, but I felt like I should be skipping the carbs to save room for seconds of some of the other foods, such as the skirt steak salad. Possibly my favorite from all the choices I sampled, the unique entrée contained a generous portion of wonderfully marinated skirt steak, peppers, avocado, green beans, home-made chips, onion, tomato and pickled egg all topped by a gorgonzola vinaigrette.
The open kitchen kept us entertained, even while rolling out more tapas; the spicy Thai chicken pizza and the margherita pizza were good, although I would choose one of the seafood entrees before a burger or pizza. The salmon was perfectly cooked despite the volume of food the kitchen was having to keep up with, but the winner was the cilantro lime grilled shrimp, surprisingly served with spicy hummus as well as a brown rice sun-dried tomato tabouleh. The final dish that stood out to my palate was the grilled Korean pork belly, with radish kimchi and seasoned with black & white sesame seeds and chili threads.
Knowing we will not always be so lucky to have a babysitter I was happy to see a yummy-sounding kid’s menu. In addition to the staples of chicken strips, pizza and mac&cheese there were choices like Korean bbq beef, chicken teriyaki and gardein burgers. For opening night things seemed to run rather smoothly, and the staff we had contact with was knowledgeable and courteous. I realize that on this evening it was all hands on deck to showcase the best that they have to offer in terms of taste and presentation, but I have a feeling the experience will be the same on our next visit, if not better once the bartenders and waitstaff have ironed out the kinks and learned the ropes. We'll have to go back to see, also because we had to leave before dessert! Yard House stands out among the restaurant chains in Greenville, with not just their craft beer selection but the quality and variety of food. With gluten-free and vegetarian options, the wings/pizza/sliders, and the more sophisticated and ethnic dishes, Yard House is truly catering to the diverse and international Greenville.