When you walk into Yard House in Raleigh's North Hills shopping center, you may assume you've entered a sports bar. Everywhere you look multiple TV screens stand in your line of sight (there are even several in the outside dining area) and a large bar dominates the center of the space.
The thud signaling Yard House's heavy tome of a menu landing on your table will begin changing your perception. Tasting some of what you find in that menu will confirm that Yard House isn't so much a sports bar as a restaurant with a lot of TVs.
There are burgers (beef, turkey, tuna and "gardein," a meat substitute) and sandwiches aplenty, but you can also choose from ginger-crusted Norwegian salmon, orange peel chicken and rib eye steak among the many entrées. A "street tacos" section and a selection of pizzas round out the menu, which includes appetizers, soups and salads to choose from as well.
An excellent starter is the moo shu egg rolls. Flavorful, they bulge with chicken, carrots, spinach, cilantro, onions and chili cream cheese perched upon shredded carrot and radish. I felt tempted to cancel my entrée and order more egg rolls. If you want to sweeten the taste a bit, dip them in the accompanying apple-ginger plum sauce.
During the day you can take advantage of a lunch option that pairs either a half sandwich or pizza with a salad or soup. Do what you want for the sandwich/ pizza portion of the pairing, although the Margherita pizza is nice, laded with plump, juicy tomato. However, for the salad/ soup portion, order the chicken tortilla soup. Thank me later. One waiter described it as "the best soup we have" and it's difficult to imagine one better. Brimming with chunks of chicken breast, the soup features layers of pico de gallo and avocado with cilantro that combine for a hearty, satisfying selection.
Yard House has you covered if you happen to be hungry late, serving food until after midnight each night. The restaurant can be surprisingly busy at 11:30 on a weeknight. One recent evening the din of chatter—the space's acoustics tend to enhance the volume—at times threatened to drown out the '80s music pouring from the house speakers. The chatter was too loud when Prince was on and, sadly, not loud enough when Ted Nugent began playing.
Along with much of the regular menu, a few special late-night items are available after 10 p.m. They include the truffle cheeseburger and the pastrami dog, which is a beef dog topped with thin sliced pastrami, fried green cabbage and horseradish mustard. I confess I was afraid to try such a concoction after midnight.
The Monte Cristo pops were far less intimidating. Two cubes of Monte Cristo sandwich (deep fried ham, turkey and Swiss cheese with a dash of powdered sugar and some jalapeño peach syrup) are served on wooden skewers (hence the "pops"). The portion size allows for indulgence without being deadly.
Whatever you settle on to eat, you will need something to wash it down. Yard House offers 140 beers on tap, plus such mixed drinks as the "bikini tini"—a rum, pineapple juice and Dekuyper pomegranate concoction—and the "Miami ice"—cherry vodka, pineapple rum, Dekuyper peachtree and island punch.
Choices abound for dessert. The mini chocolate soufflé is such warm, gooey goodness that you may ponder crawling into it and letting it envelope you. That would be weird though, so just enjoy eating it instead.
The mini peach apple cobbler is worthy of a Southern church ladies get-together. Fruity with a touch of cinnamon and a caramel ice cream, it will have you scraping the ramekin with your dessert spoon to get every last bit. If those sound too rich for your taste, try the mini lemon soufflé. Its charms are more subtle. The flavor is lemony but not overpowering and each bite melts in your mouth.
Service is friendly although you may occasionally feel unattended during busy periods. The staff will help you navigate through the extensive menu and happily make food or drink suggestions if asked.
Yard House is a chain located primarily in the West, although it also has locations in New York and Florida. A nice touch is its "round up for charity" campaign. Each bill includes a line for rounding up to the next dollar with that extra change going to various charities.
This article appeared in print with the headline "The whole nine yards."