Friday, January 27, 2017

Dinner at Yardbird, Denver

If restaurant Monopoly were a real game (and why not? There's Dog-Opoly and other variants), Old South Pearl Street could be the model for it. Eateries come and go, buildings change hands, speculation abounds. I enjoy following all the action with a certain selfish interest; today's real estate swap might become tomorrow's go-to dinner spot.

So it was with particular happiness that I learned about Yardbird, the next incarnation of Gaia Bistro, newly opened in the former Black Pearl space.

The charming Victorian cottage that Gaia occupied (previously it had also been a coffee shop, a yarn shop and an ice cream place) is being torn down to make way for an office building (ugh). Black Pearl, meanwhile, closed last summer, and good riddance. They ruined my birthday many years ago, and failed to redeem themselves when we tried them again more recently.

So. Yardbird had a little bit of bad juju to work off.

We had a 7:30 reservation and were seated promptly, on the balcony level. Our server, Marie, was still learning the drinks menu, but cheerfully got back to us on the questions we had about ingredients ("What are Carpano Antica and Averna Amaro?" Answer: Vermouth and sweet bitters).

The Sergeant had The Conductor, a rye cocktail with amaro, lemon and ginger, while I ordered the bourbon-based Drifter, with vermouth, cherry juice and cherry bitters The Sergeant found his drink a little too sweet for his liking, so he switched to the Drifter on the next round.

The menu includes "breakfast all day," with some Gaia classics such as crepes, the stuffed poblano and baked eggs, plus a dinner menu of diner-style classics and comfort foods: meatloaf, shepherd's pie, mac 'n' cheese, shrimp 'n' grits.

For an appetizer we opted for "roasted beets & avocados — local goat cheese salad." That was how it was printed on the menu, with selective bolding, so I was expecting chunks of beets and avocados next to a little salad, maybe. What we got was a fairly substantial salad of mixed greens with cubes of beets, avocados and goat cheese mixed in. Which would have been fine, but it was positively drenched in an overly sweet dressing that made it impossible to taste the featured ingredients' subtle flavors. I would order it again, I think, if I could get a different dressing served on the side.

For our main courses, the Sergeant ordered the vegetable curry and I got the meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes.
Thumbs up for both! The flavors were good and the portions were just right. Not stingy, not ludicrously huge. Huge can be good if you're looking to make the next day's lunch from your leftovers, but that wasn't my goal here. I was happy to clean my plate.

I could've skipped dessert, but I wanted to see how their banana cream pie was. Yeah, it was yummy.

As I mentioned before, we were seated on the balcony, which is a little more intimate and can offer an interesting perspective on the diners below.

There's an outdoor area complete with fire pit that will be nice in the summer. (And with a prettier view, I hope, than the tarp-covered windows of the Sushi/Izakaya/Ototo Dens' parking garage. A little bird named Toshi told me once upon a time that a Japanese bakery would be going in there.)

And there's a substantial bar area with a somewhat funky layout. We didn't really get to check it out since we were seated so quickly.

But guess what? We're going back tomorrow for dinner, so we'll make a point of getting there a little early to check out the bar. We want to try some different menu items, too.

Bad juju worked off? It certainly seems that way! Stay tuned.

1529 S. Pearl St.
Denver, CO 80210
(303) 777-0500
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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