You needn’t need too much prodding from me to go to the Yard. Normally it is rated as the top restaurant in Saskatoon on Urbanspoon and is never lower than third. I would not say that it is the single best place to eat in Saskatoon but it is definitely one of my favourites. A few things must be noted, though. I consider it a bar with great food and not a restaurant with a great beer list. There is a fundamental difference in this distinction. It will be what separates loving the place and being disappointed. Food is amazing for a bar, good for a restaurant. Servers are excellent for a bar, okay for a restaurant. Décor and ambiance is great for a bar, mediocre for a restaurant. I love the place, but there where a few culinary faux pas our party experienced that I’ll share with you.
A party of nine backed me up this time so I was able to try many things. For appetizers we had drinks, I picked from the great beer list a ultra-hoppy Paddock Wood 606, a favourite of mine introduced to me by one of today's dinning compatriots. For second appetizers we had stuffed jalapenos with fries, the Mediterranean platter, and calamari. The calamari was salty in a good way but not as crispy on the outside as I’d like (oil not hot enough?) The jalapeños were, well, cream-cheesy and I am not a cream-cheeser. The Mediterranean platter was fantastic. The Hummus was surprisingly authentic. It was plentiful and that is a good thing because I loved it. Served with fresh slices of pepper, many olives (too often places skimp on the black olives, I’ve eaten meal sized Greek salads with one terrified and lonely olive perched in the very center) and big chunks of real feta. I was very happy with the platter.
I ordered my customary Caesar, as my regular readers will know it to be an integral part of my own particular… um… “idiom, Sir?” It was good, not perfect, but pretty good. Unfortunately, mine was far too sour but I cannot blame them for that particular error. I added the lime before tasting it. A rooky mistake! I blame the beer and distraction caused by having to suffer through some of my dining guests recounting the latest Jersey Shore updates. Just about enough to ruin my appetite.
Following beer-appetizers-Caesar we where brought our main courses. We had, distributed amongst our party: Roast Vegetable Pizza, Obscene Poutine with sour cream mushrooms and salsa, Chicken Spinach Wrap with Salad, Elk Burger with Brie, Fish and Chips with salad rather than chips, honey garlic wings with fries, steak sandwich, and I had The Only Chicken Burger You’ll Ever Need done jerk style with the soup of the day. Pizza was great with perfectly cooked veggies. The fries are homemade and good, but a few of them seemed woefully over cooked. Not burnt, but dried out husks. The wrap was good, and the Elk Burger with Brie was a lean meat Burger with Brie and therefore delicious. The fish, which I recommended, was unfortunately very gross. The thing was undercooked and the breading was a mass of dough with a crusty exterior. Few things in life are worse than doughy fish. I’ve had it cooked proper before, but this time it was awful. The steak was seasoned but horribly chewy. The wings were the typical overly sweet flavour honey garlic tends to be. The diner who had it said they tasted great, but her palate is rather, well shall we say pedestrian? But, lets keep this comment to ourselves, and the entire internets. The only chicken burger that I will ever need, done with the jerk flavouring, was fantastic. The soup of the day was steak orzo. Something so strange I had to order it. “Really?” I thought, “Steak as a soup meat, but how can they make it not horridly over cooked so that it has the texture of two parts sand one part rubber?” Answer: they can’t.
Oh, I also had a Guinness. Mmmmmm Guinness. They have it on tap.
Anyone wondering why my critique of the items seems at odd with the marks I gave it need only remember I am reviewing this as a bar, with great food. And as such, it is wonderful. They have plenty of kinds of beer, including Guinness, and 14 kinds of scotch, including Oban. On my to do list, is to start at the bottom (i.e. the most expensive kinds) of their list and work my way up (the list, down in price). It is a $125.50 night to try all 14. So, I’ll have to wait until something comes along that I can convince my wife is a good idea to celebrate with far too much scotch. They also have a patio that a person can sit on and drink beer. What a great way to spend the summer.
The service is great, for a bar, not so for a restaurant. Food does not fly out of the kitchen but they will keep you well-watered while you wait, never short for libations. Anyone who lives in the area probably already frequents it, or at least occasions it. Others who live farther away, it is worth visiting with some friends, I assure you. I love it as a local place to drink and have a great bite of food and highly recommend it.
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