Well, it’s been a couple of weeks now since the fourth Yard House (201 Plaza Real, 561/417-6124) in South Florida made its debut in Mizner Park, and already the cavernous, beer-centric restaurant is packing ‘em in like hungry (and thirsty) sardines.
It’s the kind of business, at least on a recent Saturday night, that most other local restaurants would kill for, a constant crush even early that as the night wears on becomes SRO around the giant bar and just about every other scrap of spare floor space. The Boca YH seats about 400, our waitress told us, which means—judging by the crowds—they’ve got to do at least 1,000 covers on a decent weekend night.
And why not? The menu offers something for everybody, with plenty of snacks and small plates, is reasonably priced and delivered by an army of cheery servers whose numbers are probably larger than the population of Boca Raton. And did I mention 140 artisan beers on tap?
Based on our brief visit, the food is tasty and well-prepared and runs the gamut from furiously trendy to comfortingly ubiquitous. Think Cheesecake Factory with suds. The burger is big, juicy and nicely charred from the grill; get it with killer sweet potato fries and tangy ranch dressing. The Korean-style pork belly tacos are pretty good too. And as a sucker for deviled eggs I couldn’t resist a quartet of the little suckers covered with a sweet-tart chili sauce.
What’s more impressive, though, is the ferocious logistical savvy of the Yard House folks. Just getting all those beers to the bar—via giant stainless steel pipes that rise to and then snake along the ceiling to wherever the beer vats are kept—is an achievement of design and construction. The stack of electronics that control the music and dozens of flat-screen TVs that sprout from every surface is another.
Then there’s the people logistics. Despite a mid-evening crush that’s more like a rock concert than a restaurant, the army of young servers never missed a beat. The kitchen kept up too, cranking out dishes with none of the franticness I’ve noticed in restaurants not doing half that kind of business.
You can say that Yard House has a certain corporate big box feel to it, that the menu isn’t authentically anything (like most of us really care), that it’s missing the quirkiness of funky local joints. But you can’t say the people running aren’t smart and meticulous professionals who know and have thought about every aspect of their business.
And I for one admire the hell out of that.