Fried chicken fans, rejoice. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar — the popular Miami restaurant best known for comfort foods like buttermilk biscuits, lobster mac and cheese, and crispy, thick-battered fried chicken that’s been brined for 27 hours — officially arrives in D.C. today. Thursday, April 1, is opening day for Yardbird’s new spot downtown. The space that used to house Cajun restaurant Acadiana, which closed in December 2018.
Yardbird’s reputation precedes itself. In 2011, the original location opened in South Beach and quickly garnered national attention for its refined approach to Southern food. The following year, Bon Appétit named it one of its best new restaurants in the country. Southern Living included Yardbird on its top 10 list of the best fried chicken in the U.S.
The brand has grown to six locations, including Las Vegas, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Singapore. The D.C. outpost (901 New York Avenue NW) marks Yardbird’s entry into the Mid-Atlantic. Chris Watson, who was most recently the corporate chef with Fabio Trabocchi’s restaurant group, will be leading the Yardbird kitchen in D.C.
“I’ve never seen the chicken fryers that we have,” Watson says. “I’ve never seen a dessert this big before. I come from a land of everything’s [small] and you can eat 20 of them. I’m excited to see people’s faces when they come in and try the food.”
Decadence is a recurring theme at Yardbird, where St. Louis-style pork ribs come stacked like Jenga pieces and are delivered on a platter shrouded in smoke. The theatrics carry over to dessert, too. A strawberry peach cobbler is presented beneath a dome of golden-red tuile that patrons are encouraged to smash open with the backs of their spoons.
“I like that it’s big and loud and boisterous,” Watson says. “Making people happy is what we want in this.”
The restaurant is vast, with a giant circular bar anchoring the interior and two sprawling patios bookending the property. Patrick Rebholz, corporate executive chef at Yardbird’s parent company, 50 Eggs Hospitality Group, says the massive footprint is especially helpful in light of the pandemic. Upon Yardbird’s opening, D.C. restricted restaurants to 25 percent capacity indoors.
“We can really sprawl out so that it’s approachable to everybody, especially in these times,” Rebholz says. “We know it’s going to be a process, but we want to have fun. We want to have some loud music. We want them to really enjoy the bar and get fun with the food.”
In addition to the Yardbird favorites, the menu also features a number of dishes exclusive to D.C., including Rappahannock oysters, a 32-ounce porterhouse with chimichurri, and Chesapeake crab cakes with classic remoulade. Bourbon is at the heart of the cocktail lineup, which complements the hearty menu. Standout libations include the blackberry bourbon lemonade — Yardbird’s popular, top-selling drink — and the Bobby Burns, a take on a Manhattan with a touch of Drambuie scotch.
Dinner and weekend brunch (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) will kick off Yardbird’s D.C. service, with lunch to follow suit in the coming weeks.
“People need to treat themselves,” Rebholz says. “It’s been a long, rough year. When people are comfortable, we want to be there for them and have that experience waiting.”