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Fork in the Road was in Miami over the weekend and paid a visit to one of the buzziest restaurants around, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (1600 Lenox Avenue, 305-538-5220). While Floridian cuisine might be best known for stone crabs and Cuban sandwiches, it’s definitely worth paying a visit to this newcomer next time you’re in the Sunshine State for some full-on Dixie fare and a great bourbon menu.
Here in New York, the Southern-food trend has reached an apogee of sorts. For some reason, however, Yardbird feels fresh and fun, though you’ll certainly find elements of kitsch thrown in. The menu is designed into “small shares” and “big shares” and features such staples as pimento cheese, Brunswick stew, iceberg wedges, and meat loaf to start, with entrées including sweet-tea-brined ribs, macaroni and cheese, Berkshire pork chops, and the ultra-crunchy fried chicken the restaurant has become known for.
We started with the pimento cheese ($5), which came in a glass jar alongside celery and carrot spears and excellent homemade crunchy, saltine-like crackers. The cheese spread was sharp with nice roasted-pepper flavor, and was a huge portion, easily serving two. Definitely a winner.
We then tucked into the iron-skillet local fish ($28), which that day happened to be pompano. Lording over a bed of succotash, it was flavorful and nicely cooked if slightly boring, and somewhat of an antidote to what would be the caloriefest of fried chicken (pictured above).
As the name would suggest, it’s the restaurant’s pièce de résistance, a $24 plate that features half a Bell & Evans bird that’s been marinated for 27 hours, served with a cheddar and chow chow (green tomato relish) waffle, spicy Tupelo honey sauce, and chunks of refreshing watermelon. The coating on the bird is thick and crunchy and not at all greasy, and the waffle is as fluffy as can be with just a hint of cheese flavor. Drizzle some honey over the bird and dig right on in with your hands. Along with one of the 50 bourbons available, it makes a very tasty meal, with enough leftover to eat for the next day. (Although we licked the pimento cheese clean, we still had a wing and half a thigh of chicken left over, plus about a quarter of the fish.)
Yes, there will still be those who might gripe at paying $24 for fried chicken when you can find decidedly cheaper alternatives down South. Fair argument. But I guarantee you’d be paying a lot more for that fried chicken if you were in New York City.