Dining Out at Yardbird

Yardbird’s southern cooking and whiskey make it to Denver.

As a waiter set a smoke-filled cloche on my table at Yardbird, he offered a tip: “I’m about to put on a show whenever you’re ready.” I dutifully pulled out my phone to capture the smoke floating out of the glass lid as the waiter lifted it, revealing Yardbird’s St. Louis ribs—a show indeed, and a delicious-smelling one at that. Yet as eye-catching as the display is, the real star is the flavorful, fall-apart, hickory-smoked meat itself, stacked on a small plate like a Lincoln log cabin.

Yardbird, part of the 50 Eggs Hospitality Group, first started in Miami in 2011. It now has six locations as close as D.C. and as far as Singapore. Denver is the newest outpost, located in a 14,950-squarefoot former warehouse in RiNo, making it the brand’s largest location yet. That space is broken up into a large outdoor patio, a side patio, a private event space downstairs, a beautiful front bar, and the main dining area that looks into the open kitchen.

The most famous Yardbird dish is its fried chicken and waffles. It sat on tables everywhere I looked even during a 7 p.m. Friday seating. Plan to come hungry, as the Yardbird staples and dishes specific to the Denver location (the only one with a smoker) are indulgent. The fried green tomato BLT has a crispy on the outside, soft on the inside fried tomato as the base, complemented by pimento cheese, tomato jam, and house-smoked pork belly on top. Deviled eggs are filled high with dill-forward, creamy yolk, and topped with smoked trout roe. The large, lemony hummus comes heavily garnished with pine nuts, pistachios, and olive oil alongside sesame-topped crackers and crudite. If you’re looking for chicken rather than ribs (the restaurant is named Yardbird, after all), order Lewellyn’s fine fried chicken. The half-bird plate has a flavorful, crunchy fry and is served with buttery mashed potatoes and a small arugula salad. Don’t be shy with the Yardbird honey hot sauce— more heat than honey, with spice and acidity perfectly matched for anything coming from the fryer. Look to the fryer once again for the dessert. The fried Oreos are churro-covered atop Oreo ice cream.

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At Yardbird, the drinks menu gets just as much attention as the food menu. The beverage menu is a 28-page PDF, 23 of which are wine. Yet it’s the full bar of spirits that sets the tone, with more than 100 whiskeys (nearly half of which are bourbons) earning the spotlight. Classic and original cocktails cover the gamut—the Passionate About Tequila cocktail made with passionfruit, reposado tequila, sweet vermouth, and spicy bitters will indeed make you passionate about tequila.

From first order to last, Yardbird’s lively atmosphere makes an event out of classic American dishes and an impressive list of wine, spirits, and cocktails.