I-Drive 360 will be the talk of the town when it officially opens next spring. The all new entertainment district will revolve around the massive 400 foot tall observation wheel, The Orlando Eye. While the project isn’t expected to have a grand opening until 2015, the first of many all new restaurants has opened. Yard House opened it’s doors on April 24th, and we managed to swing by to take a look.
Yard House isn’t a unique idea specifically for Orlando, or Florida for that matter. Yard House is a chain of restaurants that specializes in a large variety of beers, as well as a unique blend of dining choices. While the restaurant opened on April 24th, it’s been keeping very quiet about it’s opening. We wouldn’t have known that it was open, if it wasn’t for the “Now Open” banner on the front of the building.
While Yard House does specialize in beer, don’t let that fool you. Upon walking in you are greeted by a very sleek design, and look that reminds you of a very high end restaurant. This isn’t your typical ale house.
Yard House features 140 different types of beer on tap. The choices range from domestics, imports, local brews, seasonal brews. You can even try sample flights of different beers. Since we came in on a Sunday morning, and weren’t in the mood to “tie one on” we chose a very light tasting beer. You can get samples of some of the beers that you aren’t sure of. It’s just a taste to give you the flavor of the beer. Our beer of choice was Woodchuck Spring Cider, very light and airy, with a hint of apples.
If you’re not a beer drinker, there is a huge selection of wines and specialty drinks as well. In fact, there’s a huge wine cabinet that allows you to see all the wines in stock. There is also a full bar, which makes specialty drinks and basically anything else you might want.
While the building is two stories, the restaurant uses one entire floor for holding the massive kegs. While we weren’t allowed to get up there and get a picture, we could get a small glimpse from the ground. The keg storage is huge, and chilled to the perfect temperature. Lines run from the keg storage room, all the way to the bar. As far as the beer itself, guests can purchase three different sizes-Shorti (about 6 oz) a goblet (about 12 oz) a pint (16 oz) or a half yard (about 32 oz).
While the beer is enough to keep some guests coming back time and again, the food is really the highlight. Like many newer restaurants, Yard House showcases it’s kitchen right where guests can see everything happening. Chefs roam in and out of the kitchen, stopping and giving you tips, or their favorite dishes.
The menu is a very eclectic mix of American favorites,with Mexican and Asian inspired cuisine. Everything from seafood, street tacos and even burgers and sandwiches. The menu has several different sections (and is freaking huge) from just single serve snacks, to appetizers and of course entrees, desserts and salads.
Being just around lunch, we opted to go for something that was recommended. The tomato bisque and four cheese grilled cheese was probably about the best we’ve had anywhere. Roasted Roma tomatoes, with gorganzola, fontina, swiss and cheddar cheese topped with bacon takes the kid out of this kid favorite.
Another childhood favorite, mac and cheese is also kicked up. Most restaurants are jumping on the nostalgia craze, and doing things like lobster mac n cheese, but most of the time the flavor really isn’t there. Yard House mixes their mac n cheese with wild mushrooms, bacon, chicken, cheddar and parmesan and mixes it all with a truffle oil. To say it’s different is an understatement…and they’ve been doing it since the chain first started.
While the rest of I-Drive 360 isn’t scheduled to be open until 2015, Yard House makes for a new favorite for locals and tourists alike. The restaurant has daily and weekly specials, as well as happy hour daily. The service is also a little different, in a good way. Instead of being typical servers that tell you what you want to hear, our server Ron was very attentive to what we liked and what he could do to make our experience the best. In this day and age where everyone’s a critic online, it’s very important to be nice…which most places do wonderfully. However, our server went above and beyond for us, and took time explaining things and even telling us about the place and some of the cool things that most don’t really take the time out to know. While that’s not exactly protocol, it made a huge difference for us.
Slideshow-Check out even more pictures from Idrive 360
Yard House is located on International Drive in the all new I-Drive 360 venue. It opens daily at 11 a.m. Currently parking is free in the huge new parking garage, but we suspect that could change as more venues open.
Stay tuned as we bring you even more from I-Drive Orlando, and be sure to follow along with us on Twitter @BehindThrills for the latest updates.