Rosie will be on vacation until mid-March. Today, a post by guest blogger Danya Henninger.
Yard House has been on an expansion tear since Darden Restaurant Group snapped up the Long Beach, Calif.-based gastropub chain just over three years ago. The first regional outpost opened last December next to the Moorestown Mall movie theater, and immediately attracted crowds. The 280 seats—including 38 at the three-sided central bar—are consistently packed for both lunch and dinner; weekend waits can stretch up to two hours.
What’s the draw? Unlike outdated Darden stalwart Olive Garden, Yard House is built on modern tastes and trends. Once seated, a gigantic food menu full of small plates, pizza, burgers and tacos battled for attention with the 110-option beer list. The house brews, made by Salt Lake City’s Uinta, were all nicely illustrative of their style, from a pungent Belgian tripel to a biting but floral IPA. Lots of Jersey locals are also available. Each draft is available in a small size called a “shorty,” so trying multiples is a breeze (order up to three at once).
A trio of mix-and-match tacos, chosen from a list of eight varieties, arrived in a holder with colorful toppings spilling out of warmed flour tortilla shells. Papaya salsa cooled sweet-and-spicy Korean beef short rib threads, pineapple and grilled onions complemented tender pork carnitas nuggets, and dressed cabbage shreds crunched against cumin-chipotle chicken “tinga.” Not authentic to Mexico, maybe, but definitely worthy of the chain’s Southern California heritage.
A riff on Asian in the “poke stack” did not fare as well. Layers of mealy fried wonton squares, naked julienned carrot and daikon and soy-covered raw tuna chunks (chewy instead of silky) made a tower that was nearly impossible to eat without making a mess.
Quick service saw the mains dropped just after the appetizers were cleared. A surf and turf burger was cooked middle-pink-perfect medium and topped with an abundance of soft lobster meat. The 8-ounce patty settled nicely into its soft white bun without gushing out the sides. Coated with a crisp layer of golden-brown batter, the boneless breast in the Nashville hot chicken was a juicy delight…but not at all spicy. Requisite ranch dressing and pickles rounded out the platter, but a stack of sweet pancakes took the place of the standard white bread. The dish would be much better described as a twist on chicken and waffles.
In lieu of dessert, a to-go pizza finished the meal, but it turned out to be a let down. Listed as a Margherita, the 12-inch round was nothing like the traditional Neapolitan favorite. Chewy regular mozzarella stood in for soft and tangy fresh, and instead of sauce, thick rounds of plum tomatoes topped the greasy crust.
Portions are ample and prices are neither low nor exorbitant (it’s easy to get in and out for $35-$50 a person). Destination restaurant? No. But this is a chain, and with so many options—including many that are vegetarian and gluten-free—it makes a decent stop if you happen to be in the area.
400 Route 38, Moorestown
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