When the South means South Beach

11:00 AM

When you are in Miami’s South Beach, the last thing on your mind is ‘where can I find Chicken ‘n Waffles?’ It is beach, mojitos, Cuban food and even sushi. But Southern food? Not really.

However, when Yardbird Southern Table & Bar opened its doors in 2011 that totally changed. Now, if you go to South Beach and don’t have chicken ‘n waffles, chicken biscuits, shrimp & grits and macaroni and cheese, you didn’t go to Miami at all.

Nested in a residential block near the busy Lincoln Road, Yardbird stands out in a corner with its white walls, black signs and a dozen of cozy seats in the outdoor patio. When you come in, that’s when the magic starts.  Hardwood floors, and open kitchen and home-style décor, give you a welcomed feeling… just like if you were entering a house in the south. A house with lots of mason jars, bourbon and bacon, that is!

The dishes at Yardbird are meant to be shared, among family and or friends. That’s the southern philosophy after all. And that’s what we did. We met two friends, who actually had recommended the restaurant during our last visit to Miami, on a Sunday for brunch. Reservations are highly suggested; we tried to reserve a table for four with weeks in advance and nothing was available. Don’t be disappointed and don’t change your plans, we arrived early – like 11am and although the wait was around 45 minutes, we found a bar table in less than 10 minutes. And like our waiter said, it was the best and fun table in the whole restaurant.

We started with a few mismosas and crafted beers but also ordered a Bloody Mary, that featured a bourbon infused bacon strip (yes, and it was delicious) and one of the many bourbon drinks that they have on their drink menus like the Pick Axe (a Woodford Reserve Bourbon, mint, iced tea and orange syrup). What’s more southern than bourbon and iced tea???

After getting our drinks we order one of the specialties of the restaurant, Mama’s Chicken Biscuits: two delicious and flaky house-made buttermilk biscuits, free range and perfectly fried chicken smothered with pepper jelly. Although we were hungry, the waiter suggested that we ordered only one of them since one was plenty for the four of us to share. And he was right, although after trying them, we were craving for more.  They are so good!

 The biscuits were followed by the crispy Fried Green Tomato BLT. Three chunky fried green tomatoes topped with a house-made pimento cheese spread, Heritage Acres Farm pork belly – cooked to perfection and greens – are accompanied by a sweet tomato jam. It was also the perfect portion for sharing among for people.

Our third course was the macaroni and cheese. But this was not your typical mac ‘n cheese. An iron-cast casserole filled with torchio pasta and five artisanal chesses (among them, a creamy Grasyon cheese) and a crispy herb curst, looks small at first glance, but it is good to share too. However, this is perfect for two people rather than four. So if you have a party of four or more, we suggest that you order at least two of this delicious pasta dish.

We couldn’t go to Yardbird and not have the Chicken n’ Waffles. To our surprise, they don’t serve this dish during brunch, only for dinner or supper.  But be sure to ask your waiter if they can prepare it for you. This is the restaurant’s crown jewel, their signature fried chicken dish. It comes drizzled with a hot sauce honey, a cheddar cheese waffle with a green tomato relish, a side of bourbon maple syrup and a good portion of their refreshing chilled spiced watermelon (with lemon and herbs – like basil).

This is definitely a plate meant for sharing, unless you want to have it all to yourself. The chicken is moist, juicy but not greasy. The waffles are sweet as well as the syrup and relish but they don’t over power the flavor of the bird; to the contrary, it is the perfect combination with different profile flavors.

There are of course many other southern dishes for Sunday brunch, lunch and dinner. There are plenty of eggs, ducks, bacon, and bourbon to last you a few months or weeks until your next visit to the South, South Beach.

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