The most impressive thing about Yard House, the new eatery (and drinkery) in the Darden collection that opened recently on International Drive, is its beer delivery system. If you stand at the central bar, which dominates the huge, open dining area, and trace the lines from the 140 tap handles, you can follow the metal tubes that lead upward and across the open two-story ceiling space and into a room overlooking the restaurant.
That's the keg room, refrigerated to between 32 and 36 degrees, where the approximately 131 beer varieties are stored (some of the 140 taps have duplicate brews, the more popular ones). When a bartender pulls a tap, the beer is sent whooshing from the keg room into the mug. It's really quite impressive.
Beyond that, there isn't a whole lot more to get excited about. The food menu is also quite large, and although it initially reads like any other bar menu in America, it also has pan-Asian notes that go completely unexplained. There is an extensive list of burgers and your usual bar appetizers, such as calamari (fried or kung pao'd) and spinach cheese dip, interspersed with moo shu egg rolls and chicken garlic noodles.
I attended a preview night that had the servers circulating the room with various bites, all of which were devoured by the hungry crowds but none of which I can recall as noteworthy.
I returned for a lunch visit a few weeks later and sampled some items in a less hectic atmosphere (although the restaurant was doing brisk business even then). I ordered the grilled Korean pork belly "street taco" as an appetizer. At $4.85 it may be the most expensive taco I've ever purchased. It was sufficiently greasy and had a nice spiciness in the slaw-like topping. But worthy of the price it was not.
For an entree — and something a little more filling — I eschewed the burger list and opted for a half portion of the roast beef dip (as in French dip) paired with the chicken tortilla soup. The baguette bread was fresh tasting, the meat plain without the jus or horseradish cream. The soup serving was bigger than a cup but smaller than a conventional bowl. It was fine.
My server was a long time in greeting me. In fact I considered leaving. But another young man stopped by and asked if I'd been helped yet. When I said that I had not he said that he was not my server but he would get someone immediately, which he did. That was very nice, and he was astute enough to notice.
Yard House is part of the big development currently under construction known as I-Drive 360, part of which will feature the giant Ferris wheel to be called the Orlando Eye. A Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum will also be part of the complex. Other restaurants will join the mix, too, although I hear that a planned seafood restaurant from a local restaurateur has been nixed.
Yard House is at 8367 International Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, including late night hours. The phone number is 407-351-8220.