Despite being one of the southern most cities in the US, I ordinarily would never trust Miami to produce quality southern cooking. For ceviche and cuban sandwiches I would go to Miami, but for grits and collard greens in Florida, I figured you’d be better off in a place like Gainesville.
Perhaps Gainesville does have great southern food, but so does a restaurant on South Beach called Yardbird. And I much prefer the trip to South Beach than to Gainesville…
Yardbird is not the quaint, whole-in-the-wall with 30 year old linoleum tiling where I might normally seek out soul food. Actually it has many of the same characteristics you would expect of any restaurant on South Beach – beautiful customers, pricey custom cocktails, and a steady wait for a table any time after 9pm.
But Yardbird also maintains a lot traditional southern charm. Dishes are typically eaten family style, servers are gracious and knowledgeable, sides are called “fixins,” and all your soul food favorites can be found on the menu in one form or another.
What I appreciated so much about Yardbird is that they seemed to know exactly what elements of soul food to leave as they are, and what to experiment with. Fried chicken tasted pretty traditional – succulent on the inside and crispy on the outside, with a bit of spice and a hint of sweet. And you wouldn’t want it any other way. Fried chicken is just one of those dishes that is either done well or not, not done differently or not.
But the waffles (the second half of the famous chicken ‘n waffles combo) were made more savory with the addition of cheddar cheese and a green tomato chow chow. And watermelon, the quintessential fruit of the southern picnic, was used as the base in a lemony and slightly peppery salad.
Of course, leaving Yardbird without trying a dessert seemed almost criminal. So I happily tried the Mississippi mud pie, which did not disappoint. As expected with almost any pie, the crust was the best part.
Perfect for: comfort food in a classy setting
Perfect meal: kale salad to start, fried chicken and waffles, and a helpin’ of mac n’ cheese and grits. Finished with strawberry shortcake.