In 1996, Steele Platt opened the first Yard House in Long Beach, California, while pursuing his vision of founding ‘the great American beer hall’, which would serve fine brews from over 250 various taps of draft beer and would have a state of the art, digital sound system as well as an extensive food menu that offering at least 100 items. Since that era nearly a decade ago, the Long Beach Yard House has become one of the 50 top grossing restaurants in the entire United States.
Up to this point in time, the idea that a brew house could successfully offer not only standard pub beverages and fare, but also an eclectic array of sophisticated menu choices had been an untried concept; but Mr. Platt was obviously on to something big. The success of his original Long Beach restaurant eventually led to the opening of nine other locations, one of which can be found at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Broadway in downtown San Diego.
A Padre game had just ended at nearby Petco Park on the weeknight that we visited, which made for a lively, vibrant atmosphere that was a lot more like what one might encounter on a Saturday night. We were led past their impressive bar by the hostess, and seated in a comfortable booth near the rear of the dining area.
Our friendly server, Jessica, promptly arrived at our table and offered us a few of their specialty libations to begin the meal. My guest had a chilled glass of crisp, Angeline Russian River Chardonnay, while I decided to try one of their famous ‘yard of ale’ selections; in this case, a well-hopped Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale that was also from northern California.
A traditional Scottish measure of volume, the ‘yard of ale’ is roughly 2.5 pints (1.4 liters) and is served in a slender, yard-tall glass with a bulbous base that causes the brew to rapidly rush forth as the beverage is consumed. I can assure you that learning to drink gracefully from one of these glasses is a practiced art.
The menu at the Yard House is diverse, to say the least. In addition to all of the typical ‘pub grub’ that one might expect, such as burgers, sandwiches and finger foods, Chef de Cuisine Dan Castillo oversees the preparation of a bevy of fine dining favorites that are designed to delight the most fastidious gourmet palate. One example of this type of fare is their succulent, shrimp lettuce wraps, which are made with pine nuts, tofu, green onions and three delicious dipping sauces. The flavors and textures in this tasty appetizer were refined, delicate and of the highest quality.
While I was still working on my yard of ale, Jessica showed up with a magnificent ‘Ahi Crunchy’ salad that was comprised of Sashimi grade, seared Ahi, mixed spring greens, crispy won tons and a tempting soy vinaigrette. The generous chunks of tuna were perfectly balanced by the slightly tart greens and crisp won tons, and were an Ahi lovers dream.
The best, however, was yet to come, as our smiling server placed our entrées before us with a flourish. My guest practically swooned at the first bite of her Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon, which weighed over half a pound, was fork-tender and came with a rich brandy cream sauce and freshly steamed asparagus. I had another of their house favorites, the fantastic Crab-Crusted Swordfish. The fish was exceptionally fresh, artfully grilled and topped with a splendid crabmeat mixture and stacked onto a small mountain of tangy, wasabi mashed potatoes and julienne vegetables. Both of these main courses were of a quality that was equal to the finest gourmet restaurants in the city.
The Yard House is a perfect restaurant to bring large parties of diners who may have vastly different values in regard to their levels of taste and sophistication. Just as its founder, Steele Platt envisioned almost a decade ago; it is a place that offers something to satisfy the gastronomic desires of nearly everyone who passes through their doors.