I've made no secret of my love for The Village at Meridian, and that initial Yard House visit was one of my favorite things about it the first time I went there. So far, the worst thing about the place for me is that there are just so many dining destinations, including a few run by people I'm pretty friendly with and like to support. Yard House is owned by the same people who own Olive Garden, so I'm not quite as loyal, but damnit I just like the place. I like the spacious booths, the dark (but not too dark) lighting, and even the massive beer selection (I'm not a beer guy, but a lot of beers means a lot of lagers and pilsners to choose from).
|Of course, it can get crowded at times...|
My first visit as a paying customer was a lunch trip with my roommate's kids after a little playtime at the park. Unfortunately, the excessively loud music I had experienced during the preview event and had hoped would be toned down a bit once they had fully opened was still as bad as before (even the kids complained about it). Yard House actually has one of the more extensive and varied kid's menus I've seen, so of course they both ordered the chicken strips.
|Fried Chicken Strips with fries|
|Fried Chicken Strips with fresh fruit|
I actually tried a bite of one of these chicken strips, and I have to say I was pretty impressed. Enough so that I was sad that they're not available as an adult entrée. Side note: why the hell are chicken strips never available as an adult entrée? Fish and chips often are, but chicken strips are almost always relegated to the appetizer menu. Anyway, the girls liked them too.
Truffle Fries are kind of a thing right now, but I'd never tried them before. I shared an order with the girls, the older of which didn't care for them, and the younger one who dug them as much as I did. She even asked for some to take home with her leftovers! I didn't tell her what a truffle is, of course. I have the feeling that would have ruined them for her.
|Roasted Turkey Melt with French Onion Soup|
I was in a soup and sandwich mood myself, and the Roasted Turkey Melt caught my eye, primarily because of the inclusion of pickled jalapeños. It just seemed like an interesting thing to include in a roasted turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich on toasted garlic French bread, but I have to admit it worked. I was leaning toward the Organic Tomato Bisque, but our waitress highly recommended the French Onion. Good call on her part. The soup was absolutely capped with parmesan and melted Swiss cheese, and a very generous amount of fresh black pepper. I seem to run into more and more places all the time where the food is underseasoned, or they mistake heat and spice for flavor, so to have relatively simple comfort food with such attention paid to the taste made me very happy.
My next visit was during a Monday Night Football broadcast. I honestly couldn't have cared less about the game, but Yard House honors their happy hour prices all evening on those nights. Even better, they turn the damn music down. This time my mother, sister and brother accompanied me to explore the happy hour menu, where certain items that are normally a bit pricey become very reasonable.
|Four Cheese Pizza|
The Four Cheese Pizza was primarily ordered for my sister, who eats a mostly vegetarian diet. All of us enjoyed it though, especially the generous portions of fresh mozzarella. Definitely one of the better bar pizzas I've sampled.
The Deviled Eggs are not on the happy hour menu, but I couldn't pass them up (and they're pretty cheap anyway). Fairly standard except for the inclusion of spicy tomato and sweet chili sauces, and finished off with a sprinkling of chives. These were a pretty big hit with our group as well.
|Sweet Potato Fries|
I have a weakness for sweet potato fries, so I ordered those as well. I dug them, but I wasn't as impressed with the maple bacon cream sauce that accompanies them. I've ordered a lot of sweet potato fries and it seems like every place has something different to dip them in, and in my opinion most of those condiments miss the mark. The best one I've ever had? Whipped butter infused with cinnamon. I know, I know, but give it a try sometime.
|Boneless Firecracker Wings|
My favorite item during the preview event was the Firecracker Wings, and they were my favorite thing about this visit as well. Mildly spicy sesame garlic plum glaze, crispy breading, a little green onion for garnish, just plain delicious. I prefer the boneless, I just don't like doing a lot of work while I'm trying to eat and drink beer at the same time.
That brings us to my most recent visit. I finally, finally cajoled the roommate into coming along, with both kids in tow. Interestingly, the music wasn't blaring this time either. Maybe it's a Monday thing? Since we showed up during the tail end of happy hour, I decided to try something I'd missed on the previous trip.
|Onion Ring Tower|
The Onion Ring Tower was as awesome as it sounds, and since I'd never pay the normal nine bucks for the 25 onion rings you get, but half-off for happy hour is much more reasonable. Beer battered, dusted with parmesan and served with both ranch and chipotle dipping sauces. Very yummy, novel presentation, and of course it's a food that encourages beer consumption. As for main course, the roommate chose the Roast Beef Dip, with a side salad that I completely spaced on getting a picture of. I was torn between a couple of items, neither of which I ended up getting once I found out that the fish in the Fish & Chips was haddock. The children ordered a couple of items that had been added to the kid's menu since our previous visit, the Chicken Teriyaki and the Barbecue Chicken.
I'm just going to be completely honest here, I was floored when I saw the kids' dinners, especially when compared to the portion sizes of the last meal they'd had at Yard House. Both were basically identical: less than a cup of chopped, grilled chicken, served with a sidecar of sauce and a ramekin of starch. They mixed up which kid got what side (don't ask me why anyone would think that someone would order chicken teriyaki with a side of parmesan mashed potatoes), which just goes to show how identical the dishes are. Since any meal comes with your choice of side and therefore someone could do that, I guess it's an easy mistake to make, but I was still surprised. I'm just glad the kids discovered the mistake before we ended up with a pile of barbecue sauce-flavored rice. The waitress did earn extra points when the younger child shocked us all by asking her for gravy for the mashed potatoes, and she went through the trouble of having the kitchen cook down some of their bourbon gravy to get rid of as much of the alcohol as possible. Unfortunately, the kid didn't like the gravy and ended up wishing she'd ordered the spaghetti and meatballs instead. The older child was happier with her teriyaki, and said it was surprisingly filling once the rice was mixed in. Still, I wouldn't say it's worth the price for these meals.
|Roast Beef Dip|
Likewise, the roommate wasn't especially taken with her Roast Beef Dip. She said it was okay, but made it clear that it was nothing special and that she wouldn't order it again in the future. The fries didn't score too high with her either.
|Fish & Chips|
I was excited to find out that the fish in the Fish & Chips was haddock, because honestly I crave haddock like crazy this time of year. You can thank the couple of years I spent in Upstate New York for that, it seems like every eatery in the area does Friday fish fries over there, and the most popular fish for it is haddock. I've had no source for a fix since Stan's over at the Vista Village closed down, and unfortunately I learned here that the preparation and presentation are every bit as important the type of fish used. Still, just viewing it as fish and chips, it was good. I've also never had cocktail sauce served to me along with fish, so that was an interesting touch as well. This was my first time having the standard Yard House fries, and I didn't like them much more than my roomie did. We're both fans of the golden brown, crispy outside/fluffy inside type, whereas these are a little more toward the soft and oily side of the scale. Not inedible by any means, but I'll definitely be sticking with their more premium fries in the future.
|Cookies and Cream Crunch Pop|
Kid's meals do come with a drink and a dessert, so that took a bit of the sting out. The dessert choices are fresh fruit or a Cookies and Cream Crunch Pop, which the waitress described as being like a Rice Krispy square, with Oreos mixed in, on a stick. The roommate tried a bite and confirmed that was a very accurate description.
It was strange to have such a middling experience after two really good ones, but then I recalled there were a few bites during the preview that I had a lukewarm response to. I still really dig the place so I'll definitely return, but I'll probably hedge my bet when choosing what to order next time. Then again, I do really want to try their Black Truffle Cheeseburger...
Food: When it's good, it's really good, and even when it's not it's still okay.
Value: It varies, but if you're wanting to explore the appetizers then happy hour is highly recommended.
Service: I've never had an issue with the waitstaff, not on that crazy first night or any of the visits since. Every employee I've interacted with was knowledgeable, friendly and extremely helpful.
Atmosphere: Big and dark, and very pleasant when the music isn't cranked.
Final Grade: B