Restaurant Review

Yard House

Yard House, a national chain with a long menu and an even longer list of craft beers on tap, has opened its first Jersey branch, in Moorestown.

Photo courtesy of Yard House.

Yard House, in the Moorestown Mall, aims to “offer something for everyone,” Jon Harrold wants you to know. That is evident the instant you open the multipage menu, which is as big as a broadsheet newspaper. Close to 150 dishes skate before your eyes, plus about 110 beers on tap.

“Every guest is important,” continues Harrold, associate general manager of the 275-seat restaurant, which opened last December as the first Jersey location of the 66-unit chain. “If someone wants a steak or seafood, we can accommodate them. They may want something light or to share. We have vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. And if you just want a burger and a beer, we’re pretty good at that too.”

Such broad appeal might explain the two-hour waits people willingly endured on a weekend soon after the opening, compounded by the fact that Yard House takes no reservations. Things have calmed down since then. The addition of 60 patio seats in warm weather also helped ease the crunch. On a summer Saturday, we were able to land a table with less than a 30-minute wait.

Founded in Long Beach, California, in 1996, Yard House initially focused on beer, then expanded its food offerings. In 2012, it was bought by the Darden Group, owners of Olive Garden, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Capital Grille. Moorestown is just the sixth Yard House location in the Northeast.

South Jersey, Harrold says, “is an area where there are a lot of good places to eat and a lot of breweries and places to drink, but maybe not so many to do both at the same time.”

The dark and sprawling interior has two visual wows. One is the labyrinth of stainless-steel tubes that run from the kegs, visible in the glassed-in beer room, across the ceiling and down in a gleaming bundle to feed the 110 taps in the large, rectangular bar.

The other is the set of bright, colorful paintings by California artist Jerome Gestaldi, whose abstract and semi-abstract works grace every Yard House.
The wide-ranging menu, created for all 66 units by Yard House executive chef Carlito Jocson, is carried out by Moorestown head chef Tony Marziano and a kitchen staff of about 70.

Asian influences abound. We enjoyed the Poke Stack, a variation on Hawaiian poké, with chunks of raw ahi tuna between layers of deep-fried wontons, crunchy carrots and radishes in a wasabi soy sauce. Also good were crispy duck wings in a maple-soy glaze with an earthy herb salad; and a cheesy lobster, crab and artichoke dip with pita and tortilla chips. The base of feta, cream cheese, Jack and Parmesan did not overwhelm the delicate flavors of lobster and crab or the flavor of artichoke.

Yard House offers three varieties of lettuce wraps: chicken, shrimp and mushroom. We tried, and enjoyed, the latter—each of three wraps filled with a creamy mix of sautéed crimini and shiitake mushrooms, tofu and pine nuts. It came with three dipping sauces.

Entrées—unfortunately delivered before we had finished our several starters—were not as consistently good. Nashville Hot Chicken, a battered, fried breast, was bland. While Chinese egg noodles with bits of spinach came with lots of lobster and crabmeat, the dish lacked personality. Lobster garlic noodles had no garlic flavor. A truffle cheeseburger had no hint of truffle and the burger was overcooked.

An entrée called Mac & Cheese Squared, on the other hand, lived up to its name, being loaded with tasty cremini mushrooms, bacon, chunks of chicken, melted cheddar and Parmesan. Another winner was skirt steak with sweet potato/corn griddle cakes and cheesy scrambled eggs. In the three-taco sampler, the Korean pork belly in kimchi sour cream, and the Vampire (a cheese-crusted tortilla filled with chorizo, chipotle salsa and guacamole) won praise, but the fish taco was merely mushy.

Customer satisfaction being a priority, our server not only offered to take back my undercooked Thai pizza, but returned with a well-made fresh one.

Banana-berry crumble offered pleasing textural contrast between sautéed bananas and strawberries and crunchy macadamias. But Maldon sea-salt crystals couldn’t offset cloying salted-caramel butterscotch pudding with the overkill of sweetened whipped cream.

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Restaurant Details

  • Cuisine Type:
    American
  • Price Range:
    Moderate
  • Price Details:
    Appetizers, $9.25-$13.25; soups and salads, $4.45-$17.45; entrées, $9.95-$32.65; desserts, $3.95-$9.95.
  • Ambience:
    Upscale, if slightly garish, New American gastropub (first NJ outpost of a national chain).
  • Service:
    Enthusiastic, if a bit programmed.
  • Wine list:
    110 beers on tap, specialty cocktails and wine.

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