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May 14, 2009 07:56 AM

Yard House first impressions.

Being a newbie when it comes to good beer, I was excited about this place opening because of the accessibility it offers to a wide range of local and import brews. They tout over 100 beers on tap, as well as some drinks and even a small selection of affordable wines. We showed up around 10:00 on Wednesday and the place was humming. When you walk in you see the loooong central bar which has the 100+ tap handles running up and down the center. The rest of the décor is very nice (deep blue walls, some interesting for a chain art pieces, TVs in every corner so your eye is drawn to it without overwhelming the place. The menu’s nothing revelatory, but the food was very good. Unfortunately Mrs. I and I unwittingly ordered similar preparations, she going with the Hawaiian Burger and me with the Hawaiian Chicken. We also started with the firecracker wings. The wings themselves were actually small drummets 10 for $10 and quite tasty, flecked with a mildly spicy plum sauce and flecked with sesame seeds, far better than Sport’s Exchange on Miracle Mile, though not as good as Sports Grill or Bulldog’s. After the wings I expected my $18 chicken to also be an overpriced plate, but the plate bordered on obscenely enormous, served with a thin, liquidy teriyaki-like sauce, a bowl of jasmine rice and a heaping portion of stir-fried veggies (red peppers, celery, crisp snow peas, shitake mushrooms and broccoli) that was surprisingly fresh and flavorful. Mrs. I ordered the Hawaii style Burger, coming with a similar dipping sauce, aioli, pepper jack cheese, and thin cut fries. The burger was executed in the juicy, melt in your mouth (no char) style and I was pretty impressed. The price on the burgers - a more reasonable $11. We also got a very tasty barbecue sauce on the side (yes, free). We finished the meal with a Kona ice cream sundae, which was not an ooey, gooey guilty pleasure chain restaurant debacle, but still nice sized and quite refreshing.

Looking through our meal, I’m surprised I did not down a Longboard with it, but tested the restaurant instead, picking Huyghe Brewery’s Delirium Tremens, followed by Maudite. My wife ordered a pear cider. The server knew all three and they had all three. In fact this place did not miss a beat at any point. Service was very efficient, food cooked well and the ambiance was fairly nice. The manager made sure everybody was happy, even noticing from afar that our menu was missing a page. Loud music played the entire time,a mix of 80s and 90s rock loud enough to cocoon yourself in, but not so loud that conversation becomes impossible. When the bill came, we were made aware of the late night happy hour, Sundays-Wednesdays from 10 to closing. My craft beers, served in 10 oz goblets came to $4.25 each and the cider $4.00, about a $2.25 reduction from the usual price. Appetizers were half off (wings came to $5). Their regular happy hour runs 3-6 Monday-Friday.

My guess is Sports exchange may be gone from Miracle Mile fairly soon, and if Yardhouse can cover their rent with their burgers and beer, it will be a welcome addition to the area for years. Personally, I plan on tackling the beer menu.

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  1. I went to Sports Exchange last night. I thought the bar was great with all the nice TVs going and the BBQ Pizza I had was really good (very similar to the one I make at home, in fact, Im almost positive they use Bronco Bob's Bacon Chipotle BBQ sauce!!). My buddy liked the mini burgers too. They are supposedly getting a tap soon and had a decent booze selection.

    Yardhouse, on the other hand, is awesome. Its a chain and if youve been to one, youve been to em all. Only thing thats different is likely the service, which you can expect to be infinitely suckier in Miami, Im sure. You cant beat the beer selection and the food is actually good from what Ive had. I'll definitely be there on my next Merrick Park visit.

    17 Replies
    1. re: Blind Mind

      "They are supposedly getting a tap soon". I found this absolutely baffling when I visited. How on earth do you open a sports bar and not have beer on tap??? It has now been a couple weeks since I first tried Sports Exchange (food was OK to disappointing) and they still haven't fixed it? There was already a turnkey restaurant there leftover from City Cellar. They spent all their money on big-screens and didn't bother to get a tap? Inexplicable.

      1. re: Frodnesor

        I think the taps go in on Tuesday. There are only gonna be 4 draft beer selections from what I remember... I know Guinness was one of them and Yuengling was another then 2 more. I thought it was pretty dumb to have a sports bar with no draft beer but I bet they were tired of waiting and just opened anyways. Its a lot easier to pay the bills when you have some money coming in the door...

        As for the food, its a sports bar. You cant expect more than burgers, salad, pizza, wings, etc. Its really hard to eff any of those things up too. The pizza was good, nothing extraordinary, but good. Like I said, I make a similar (but much better) version of this pie at home. The mini-burgers were great according to my buddy who's other buddy had them the week previous and also liked them. Again, its bar food we're talking about... The bar food at Yardhouse is much better in quality and taste.

        1. re: Blind Mind

          I have no problem with bar food but the sliders I had weren't good. The fundamental problem was with the bun which was hard, sweet and greasy.

          1. re: Frodnesor

            I just had the Thai chicken wings at the Sports Exchange and they were extremely generic. They had four bottles (heineken, budweiser, Yeungling and I forgot which other). The setup is a bit swankier in order to appeal to a gables crowd but I did not feel it delivered either.

            On a side note, I ended up back in Yardhouse and this time service was efficient but high-octane chain, with the server trying to push items and upgrade our orders. It's not an approach that I think will work in the Gables. Food was still good, though I thoroughly disliked the tuna steak sandwich

            1. re: Icantread

              "not an approach that I think will work in the Gables". You mean the Gables whose main drag contains a Pollo Tropical, Denny's, Benihana, CPK, Houston's..? If anything works on a Gables crowd it seems to be chains and it seems the Gables crowd looves chainspeak. I think you're overestimating the sophistication of The City Beautiful crowd.

              1. re: lax2mia

                well, when you put it that way, it becomes apparent why I moved out. However, my usual spots focused more on Anacapri, Provencal, Chocolate Fashion and the like, with occasional forays into CPK, and Chicken Kitchen for the sake of simplicity.

                I would say Denny's and Pollo Tropical exist because they're low budget chains. Houston's is a freak of nature but very consistent and Benihana is a bad example considering they are dying

              2. re: Icantread

                The setup at Sports Exchange is all vestigal from City Cellars. Other than eliminating the big glass wine cellar behind the bar and putting in the big-screens, I don't think they've done much at all.

                1. re: Frodnesor

                  Sorry, my writing and my thoughts don't match. It's a bit swankier for a sport's bar, but yes, all they did from the previous incarnation is open it up by removing the wine cellar and add the 5 big screens.

                  1. re: Frodnesor

                    Hey, alls Im saying is that it was a great place to watch a game and the food wasnt bad. Its serviceable bar food and thats about it. To reference, I went to "Crazy Pianos" in the Grove tonite and thought the food sucked ass. Typical bar food plus a few high priced "entrees" that are incredibly generic. I had a chicken sandwich that tasted like pure salt. Fries were cold and kinda like the gross Burger King ones. That is an example of shitty bar food. Bar food is so freakin easy that if it makes you want to NOT go back then the resto is bad. Sports Exchange did not leave me with that impression and the TVs and setup are enough to make me think they will draw a decent sports crowd. Bet they cant wait for football season...

                    Again, Yardhouse is much better.

                    1. re: Blind Mind

                      Crazy Pianos opened finally?! Shame it blows.

                      1. re: Icantread

                        Yard House impressed me too, since I figured a chain restaurant coasting on the gimmick of having 130 beers on tap would phone it in on the food. Thankfully, it didn't.

                        Went there last Friday, able to shoehorn myself into the media opening. It was a great way to check it out since the servers kept coming around with small portions of a wide chunk of the menu. So I didn't have to bust my gut and still check out nearly a dozen different items (cheeseburgers, pizza, crabcakes, pork egg rolls, pork loin, country-fried chicken, sirloin, spinach dip, summer salad, etc.). I walked away more impressed with the apps than the entrees, though the burger (served a quarter at a time, but I managed to wolf down 3/4ths of one), spinach dip, and summer salads left the best impression. The burger is juicy and the potato bread roll is something I wouldn't mind blowing up and sleeping on.

                        Went back after the Mother's Day crowds died down on Sunday to check out the menu items I was eyeing that didn't make the rounds on Friday )(amazing chicken tortilla soup, by the way), and enjoyed both visits, thoroughly.

                        Merrick needed a place like this, since the place appears to be a restaurant graveyard save for a few exceptions like Villagio. It's Bal Harbour in ghost town form, and it needed a place like this to make Merrick accessible to more than just well-to-do poodle walkers who send out their nannies with the kids to burn energy in the waterplay fountains as they shop.

                        The Yard House space itself has gone through a few cursed tenants like Pescado. Let's hope this breaks the curse. I like its chances.

                        1. re: Gabled

                          Not typically crazy about chains, but have ended up at the Yard House about 3x since it opened (I know, I should be embarrassed to admit that).

                          I have to say, the service was great each time (that's a first for Miami/Coral Gables) and everyone in our group(s) was very satisfied with their meals.

                          Peppercorn crusted gorgonzola burger was pretty damn good, as was the macadamia crusted snapper. And of course, the beer selection is pretty cool. Try the beer flights - I think the selection changes daily....

                          And to end this little story - I ended up actually purchasing something at the Village (Cole Haan had a great sale) - point being, that the restaurant is what got me there in the first place (something that Merrick Park desperately needs considering it just went bankrupt).

            2. re: Frodnesor

              I went to Sports Exchange the week it opened and it was just average. I also found the lack of draft beer weird so I asked about it. I was told the boss did not want to have draft beer (which I still find odd) but because of demand, he might have to. The boss felt the UM crowd would be more interested in bottled beer.


              1. re: BurgerBeast

                That's someone really attuned with their audience to think that college students would prefer bottles over pitchers.

                1. re: Frodnesor

                  Or someone that thinks UM students are actually that sophisticated. They're students!!! The place is odd. It's almost a "forced" sports bar feeling. It tries to be a little upscale but doesn't make it. It tries to be casual, but cant' because it's trying to be upscale. I think sports bar I think Quarterdeck and the like. Not too sure about this place.

                  1. re: Frodnesor

                    or have a good selection of bottles.

                  2. re: BurgerBeast

                    Went to Sports Exchange Friday night. They now serve draft beer. My friend and I waited 20 minutes for a Blue Moon. When it arrived our respective significant others were ready to order their second beer. When our food arrived, we only got two sets of cutlery and we were four. They didn't have any clean ones ready to go apparently so our server had to go find some. She apologetically explained they weren't expecting the crowds from the first Taste of the Gables but shouldn't they always be better prepared to handle their restaurant at capacity? Tasted the pork sliders which were good. The beef sliders were blah, nothing special. Spinach dip was way too cheesy for my taste. I suppose it's a good spot to grab a beer and watch a game but hopefully they can work out service kinks.

              2. Went to Merrick Park last night with the girlfriend to do some shopping and decided to stop into Yardhouse for a beer afterwards. It was around 815pm and the place was MOBBED!!! I couldnt believe it! Not a bar stool to be had and there was at least a 20-30 minute wait for a table. We circled the bar and decided that waiting would be silly, especially considering theyd run out of those buzzer things and were shouting people's names by the door. Great news for them, bad news for us. I guess since Ive been to this chain before I dont mind waiting a month or so for the thrill to be gone.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Blind Mind

                  Went to Yardhouse last night. Loved the place. Can't wait to watch a game there. It was packed. Even the food was decent - the scallops in the Scallop Orzo were cooked perfectly.