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The Yard House

The Yard House, and Downtown at the Gardens in general, is hip like a McMansion, hip like Weston, hip like Celebration, Florida, and Irvine, California (also home to a Yard House — probably not a coincidence). In its gleaming dark-wood interior, its cavernous spaces, its polished metal, its assembly-line gourmet food, its professional, anonymous service, the place represents both the destruction of community and the listless heart of whichever community embraces it. It takes a strong man not to cry, but only at first: Wade through the menu for 15 minutes and you'll be hollering your fealty to the studiously folksy rafters, raising your voice in chorus with the assembled frat boys, 40-year-old investment bankers, and professional blonds in adoration of the corporate automatons who came up with the Yard House business plan. Those crazy cats serve up 113 varieties of beer. This Pubstalker had a lovely, citrusy Whittekerke White, a rich and semisweet Rogue Mocha Porter, a "Black Velvet," which combines Guinness and Woodchuck pear cider in a way that seems almost healthy, and a "Youngberry Chocolate" — half chocolate stout and half Lindeberry Framboise. One misstep: Avoid the "Monk in a Trunk" brew, which tastes horrifyingly like an actual monk in a trunk. The Yard House food menu seems hell-bent on cramming as many nationalities and concepts onto a single plate as is possible: In addition to burgers, pan-Asian appetizers, and a healthy bunch of salads, punters can chow down on New Zealand lamb chops with shiitake mushrooms, "corn risotto cakes," and balsamic glaze. That's at least four nationalities in a single dish, which means the Yard House is either a global village or a global invasion of villages. After a few beers, it's always hard to tell.


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