Last year, my husband and I were banding about a couple of potential locations for a Christmas trip. My husband’s first thought was to go to Denver since neither he nor I had ever been before. But, seeing as it was Christmas, and winter in Denver, all I could see was the potential of getting caught in a blizzard and then not being able to make it home to get to work. After all, we don’t have unlimited vacation time. So, we settled on Phoenix instead. But, Denver was always in the back of our minds. After having discussed our desire to spend a long weekend in Denver, my sister-in-law and her husband said they would be interested in meeting us in Denver since it’s pretty much halfway between where we live and where they live, so we said we’d go for it. And we settled on Memorial Day weekend. A nice long weekend getaway to a beautiful city.
On the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I left Los Angeles on our way to Denver. My sister-in-law and her husband left Minneapolis on their way to Denver. By the time we all arrived, and made the trip from the middle of nowhere, also known as Denver International Airport, to our hotel in the heart of Downtown Denver, it was late Friday night. Here we were after having a long day of work, and then the mad rush to the airport on a holiday weekend, and then the travel on top of it, we were all kind of tired and just looking for something to eat. We decided that the easiest thing to do would be to eat at the restaurant that was right next to the hotel, in fact, so close that one of the entrances to the restaurant was from the hotel lobby. The Yard House Restaurant is chain brewpub/restaurant that is prevalent in Southern California, but that we apparently had to travel to Denver to try for the first time. But it seemed like a great atmosphere, with a big menu, a good crowd, and a terrific location. The ad in front of the restaurant advertised that there were more than 100+ beers on tap, I think that was enough for the majority of our group to be happy with. What I discovered later was that the idea for the Yard House actually came from a man who moved from Denver to Southern California and had the idea to open a restaurant with some partners that specialized in having one of the largest selections of draft beers and diverse American fare food. This is exactly what we found inside the restaurant. A terrific, 3-full page list of craft beers on draught and a large menu selection of all types of American food. This seemed like it would be a good ending to the beginning of a great mini-vacation.
For the first time since we’ve been together, I actually saw my husband order a beer at a restaurant! I’m not a drinker, so I don’t partake in any alcohol at all (blasphemy, I know!), but that’s not my husband. But though I always tease him to order something when we go out, he never does. But, I think bolstered by the fact that there were over 100+ choices of draft beer, and the fact that my sister-in-law and her husband would also be drinking, he decided to try something! Luckily, the type of beer he was looking from a brewery located in Bend, OR, was actually on tap, so I guess the timing was just right!
The four of us decided to order a couple of different appetizers to split. On the menu was blue crab cakes, which my husband and I just couldn’t resist. Served with mango papaya chutney, passion fruit beurre blanc and tomato oil, the 2 blue crab cakes came out looking golden and crispy on the outside. The inside was filled with blue crab meat with a sauté of peppers. The mango papaya chutney and the passion fruit beurre blanc really added sweetness to the flavor of the crab cake. Personally, I prefer the taste of Dungeness crab over blue crab as I feel like Dungeness has more flavor to it, so having added fruit flavored sweetness to the blue crab cake was the perfect complement.
My brother-in-law and sister-in-law really wanted the fried calamari served with spicy tomato and tartar sauces. I was excited because I’m a big fan of fried calamari, but my husband is not. So, to have the chance to have some fried calamari excited me! It’s the little things in life! The fried calamari was so yummy. The batter was nice and light and fried to a perfect crispy, golden brown. The spicy tomato sauce with the fried calamari was really good and the spice helped to add delicious flavor to the calamari. My husband actually tried a piece of the fried calamari and admitted that it tasted way better than he remembered calamari tasting.
For my entrée, I think that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I knew I was starving, having really not eaten all day, and I wanted something that would fill me up, so I chose a full order of the St. Louis style ribs. I figured that as hungry as I was, I could easily finish a full rack of ribs. Little did I know how big a full rack of ribs was. I literally thought that the full rack would be half the size it was when it came to the table. I knew then there was no way I was going to finish! Oops. The ribs were served with creamed corn and bbq pinto beans. The bbq sauce was a little spicy for my taste, as advertised, but not anything I couldn’t handle. What I loved about the ribs was that there was soooo much meat on them. Most of the time when you order ribs, it’s a lot of bones and very little meat. Not in this case, I felt like each rib had enough meat it could have come off of 3 bones instead of one. The creamed corn was so yummy. I love creamed corn! As I thought, I couldn’t finish the ribs, but luckily for me, my brother-in-law had a hankering for ribs, and was still hungry after his meal, so he actually finished off my ribs for me!
My husband opted to go for miso glazed sea bass served with bok choy, carrots and edamame over jasmine rice. He actually had intended to order something else, and when I saw the sea bass on the menu I was surprised that he wasn’t ordering the sea bass. But I guess I must have seen the sea bass on the menu before he did, because as soon as he saw it, he wanted to have it! He can’t resist sea bass. It looked so delicious when it was brought to the table. I tried some of it and was kind of sorry I hadn’t ordered it. The sea bass was so flaky and light and perfectly cooked. The bok choy was super flavorful and tender. The dish was amazing and my husband loved it.
Coincidentally, during the day, my husband had a craving for butterscotch pudding, and they just happened to have it on the menu at the Yard House. In fact, our waiter told us that they had the world’s best salted caramel butterscotch pudding. Of course, my husband couldn’t pass it up. The butterscotch pudding is came out in a glass cup with the pudding on the bottom, the salted caramel on top and then the dessert was topped with homemade whipped cream, cookie crumbles and maldon sea salt. My husband said that the dessert was really good.
After looking through the menu, and debating whether or not I should get anything, I settled on the mini crème brulee. Boy, am I glad I did. The menu describes it as vanilla bean custard and chocolate topped with caramelized bananas. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to the table. But when it arrived looking like it did in the picture, I knew I was going to love it. After all, I’m a banana freak. And caramelized bananas, yum! There were 2 slices of caramelized bananas on the side of the plate, and then a ring of caramelized bananas over the ramekin. This had to be good. One dip of the spoon into the ramekin and I got a little bit of caramelized banana, a spoonful of vanilla bean crème brulee and then a little bit of chocolate. Oh, it was good alright. The chocolate was a semi solid disc of semi sweet chocolate right at the bottom of the ramekin with the custard right over the top of it. Put the vanilla and the chocolate and the bananas together and you have a trifecta of flavors!
My brother-in-law decided he too wanted dessert, and after looking through the menu, decided upon the mini lemon soufflé. I had seen that earlier on the menu and had thought it looked delicious, so I was glad he ordered it. The soufflé had fresh raspberries and homemade whipped cream on top. And it looked like a work of art to boot. And judging by the fact that the soufflé was gone within seconds, I’m going to say that my brother-in-law liked the dessert.
Yard House was a great choice for late night eats when we were all tired but in need of sustenance. It helped that the restaurant was located next to the hotel, so that meant we didn’t really have to wander out anywhere. The atmosphere inside the restaurant was relaxed and fun, all centered around a central bar with hundreds of beers on tap, and surrounded by flat screen TV’s with plenty of sporting events playing. We had a nice low-key dinner, plenty of good food and drinks, and were able to relax. That’s really all we were looking for. The Yard House hit the spot that night.