There are exciting new businesses coming to Lincoln Park in the NewCity Plaza. One of them, just southeast of the North and Clybourn Redline Stop, is the national chain restaurant, Yard House (1500 N Clybourn Ave.).
Yes, it has TV’s, lots of TV’s. Yes it has burgers and beer—lots of beer, 250-tap draft beer system. Beer selections aside, Yard House is one of the classiest bars. Its food and beverage matches the elevated, yet comfortable feel.
With their new opening—the first location in Chicago, I was invited to sample their menu in a private tasting. Below is my honest review of the foods and beverages, the ambiance and service.
My friend and I sat at the big, roomy booth on the side of the restaurant to take in the extensive space. Our table had dark brown wood. It was smooth and refined.
We sat down midday, and my friend ordered her first cup of coffee. I am always against ordering coffee unless I know which kind they are serving me. To our surprise, Yard House uses Lavazza, real Italian espresso. This was news! It is hard to find good coffee at restaurants, especially at bars. Lavazza pairs perfectly with Yard House’s light sandwiches, and especially with their dessert.
We thanked our server, who was as sweet as she was observant and helpful, for the copious amounts of coffee refills.
Yard House Specialty Cocktails:
Meanwhile, I sampled various cocktails. Yard House has an extensive list of beer cocktails and specialty cocktails, as well as seasonal cocktails like the Rum Pumpkin Mule and Brown Sugar Old Fashioned.
Beverage manager, Gregory Howard, takes great care in creating palatable cocktails that are familiar, yet specialized.
I tried a sunset champagne mimosa. Yard House creates refreshing, yet strong cocktails, infused with real chunks of fresh fruit like pineapple and strawberries in the Southern Belle. I will warn you, the cocktails are strong and delicious. You will want to try them all, but you will feel a buzz from your first one.
I liked the way Yard House organized the drink menu. For beers, they organize selections into: cider, wild ales, malty, hoppy, strong and dark, light, strong and roasted, wheat, strong and spiced, and bottled beers.
While I didn’t have a beer flight, I did try a beer cocktail.
The Cocoa Hazlenut Stout is rich on the top, and then has a surprise sweetness at the bottom. The cocktail is a blend of frangelico, creme de cocoa, rogue hazelnut brown nectar, and young’s double chocolate stout with a jumbo ice cube in the center.
Order the Duck Appetizer:
Throughout their menu, Yard House offers healthier versions, vegetarian options, gluten sensitive dishes and what can only be described as gourmet bar food.
To start, we tried the Crispy Duck Wings. If you only order one appetizer, order the duck. I first discovered duck when I was in France one year ago. Now, whenever I have the opportunity, I order the duck. And these duck wings were light and crispy. They had finely chopped jalapenos. I like my food mild, and I can only handle a little spicy kick. I appreciated the spicy kick, and I really appreciated the delicate maple soy glaze. We left the side herb salad untouched and moved towards the Lobster, Crab and Artichoke Dip.
We had high hopes for the Lobster, Crab and Artichoke Dip. It is the very first item on the menu. And it was perfectly good. The lobster and crab were lost in the four cheese blend. Take note, we later learned that the Spinach Cheese Dip is a favorite.
The Main Dish:
Yes, we are at a bar and fries complement most dishes. So, I will start with them. The fries were average, thin and lightly crispy,and for all of the other food on the menu, I would substitute for a salad. However, we learned that Yard House makes a special Cajun ketchup that only comes with the Chicken Schnitzel sandwich. Ask for this ketchup. It is a tad spicy and delicious.
The Chicken Schnitzel was surprisingly unseasoned. It was plain much like the Swiss on top.
The flavor was led by the jam and light bread. This jam—tomato, bacon, onion jam sounds basic, but it was sweet like a jam and elevated this otherwise standard dish. I really liked it. It was premium comfort food and while sweet, not overwhelmingly so.
For lunch, I had the Surf and Turf Burger. While my first bite of seafood was sub-par, this Surf and Turf Burger layered with asparagus and lobster was moist, savory and lightly buttery. The fact that they sandwiched the asparagus in between the lobster and beef, added a perfect crunch. I cannot say enough good things about this burger.
Add Some Tacos:
I want to take a moment to spotlight tacos, particularly the Vampire Taco. Yard House is a national chain restaurant that originated in California, and the chefs definitely brought their knowledge and passion for seafood to Chicago.
The more I tried their seafood, the more I loved it.
When the Vampire Taco came out, it looked funky with a special cheese crusted tortilla. But, it is surprisingly easy (and not messy) to eat. The added length of the tortilla keeps all of the filling nicely wrapped. It has carnitas, bacon chorizo, Chipotle salsa, roasted garlic, and cumin crema, a bit of guacamole and a dash of cilantro. It was prefect. I only had a few bites, and it tasted just as good at the restaurant as it did the next day.
French and Italian for Dessert:
Save room for dessert. It’s so good. Share the Mini Trio Sampler. You can select from four different mini cakes.
By the end of this nearly three hour feast, we finished the crème brûlée . There was a bite left of the lemon cake, and while we love chocolate, the Mini Chocolate Soufflé was so rich that we skimmed it for the lighter and sweeter crème brûlée, which had chocolate a few spoonfuls down.
Yard House pays attention to detail from the appetizers to the drinks to the dessert. And even still, their food is reasonably priced with most cocktails at 10 dollars. You don’t have to choose between beer and wine, you can choose sake, beer cocktails, moscow mules, skinny cocktails, and champagne. There really is too much to drink in. For a bar that touts it’s beer selection, it does not overlook its cocktails.
If I had to choose my favorite drink, it would be the Southern Belle. It is Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka, lemonade, fresh strawberries and pineapple.
My favorite dish on the menu is the Surf and Turf Burger. I have had a lot of good burgers, but what surprised me about this one was that it didn’t need sauce. It was a standalone good burger.
I will say that the Vampire Taco is the most expensive taco on the menu at $6.50. However, order the Crispy Duck Wings, a beer cocktail and a Vampire Taco, and not only will you be eating the finest food on the menu, but you will also be delightfully full.