Haven of Hospitality
The Yard at Elyton Hotel boasts new chef, cuisine, and service.
By Jan Walsh
I enjoy three adventures in eating at The Yard before its reopening. First, I meet new executive chef, Chris Moore over a private lunch in the bar. Next, I am treated to a tasting of the entire, new dinner menu of 20 something dishes! And two nights before its grand reopening, I dine at its soft launch opening dinner. Synthesizing these three experiences into one, overall realization: The Yard has evolved into a front burner restaurant for foodies.
Hotel guests can dine at a chef driven restaurant without leaving the building. And locals can enter The Yard’s own entrance on 20th Street North, valet at the hotel, or park in its lot. But no matter how you arrive here, you have arrived into a haven of hospitality reimagined by Elyton Hotel’s general manager, Chris Townsley.
I arrive for lunch, and Townsley welcomes me to one of the farm tables in the bar. He introduces me to Chef Moore, who has come here from The Biltmore, in Ashville, North Carolina. (Read Chef Moore’s Bio) After learning about her culinary past, she treats me to a delightful lunch of Chickpea Sliders and Farmer Salad. Baby medallions of smooth and scrumptious chickpea are topped with lettuce and tomato. And the salad is a beautiful bed of Bibb lettuce filled with juicy heirloom tomatoes, zesty pickled shallot, and Chef’s signature pork belly croutons, nice touch! It is dressed in a dreamy avocado green goddess dressing. And for dessert, a decadent Butterscotch Bread Pudding with creamy, house made buttermilk ice cream.
Some of the standouts from the dinner menu tasting are ordered during the soft launch opening dinner. Others include the Pork Belly, Steak and Greens, Spiced Barley Cakes, Duck Confit, Half Roasted Springer Mountain Chicken, and Braised Pork Shoulder.
For the soft launch opening dinner, Kev and I arrive a half hour early so that we can take the elevator to the rooftop bar, Moon Shine. It is a rainy night. So, we sit inside rather than on the patio, but even the inside bar boasts views of the city. Kev orders a Frozen Mai Tai and I select the Black and Blue Margarita. As we sip our drinks, Townsley drops by to say hello, before the big night. The mai tai is a golden, luscious blend of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum with passion fruit and pineapple. And my marvelous margarita is purple in color from the mix of fresh berries with salt on the rim.
After drinks we take the elevator, which interestingly has windows on the ceiling so that you can see where you have been, down to the restaurant. Here we are seated, alongside the wine cellar with a view of the open kitchen, where I watch Chef Moore and team make magic. The wine cellar has a storied glass front, which mentions the building’s history of being located in The Empire Building on “The Heaviest Corner on Earth. Curious I asked Townsley what this meant and got a brief history lesson… This was a marketing name for the corner of 20th Street and 1st Avenue North in the early 20th Century when four of the tallest buildings in the South at the time were erected: the 10-story Woodward Building (1902), 16-story Brown Marx Building (1906), 16-story Empire Building (1909), and the 21-story American Trust and Savings Bank Building(1912), which is now the John Hand Building.
We start with glasses of French Fleurs de Prairie Rosé and pair it with first course, sharables: Pepper Jelly Toast and Beef Tartare. The grilled sourdough is slathered with a colorful and tasty house made pepper jelly and crumbles of tangy goat cheese. For those of us who want to see a bread course at the start of our meal, this bruschetta more than satisfies our craving. And I have never had more tasty tartare, which is topped with a lovely quail egg and served with cornichon, caper Dijon, and shallot.
For our salad course, we choose Stone Fruit Salad and Roasted Butternut Squash. The fruit salad is a mix of green leafy spinach, a marvelous marinated feta, and acidic shaved onions in Champagne vinaigrette. And the butternut squash for its salad were handpicked from Townsley’s own home garden and hand delivered to Chef Moore. Talk about farm to table! This salad is a delightful beautiful bowl of curly frisee, healthy kale, vibrant chard, velvety goat cheese, and crunchy, spiced candied pecans in a scrumptious sorghum Dijon vinaigrette.
For entrees Kev is excited to see a Wood Fire Grilled Prime Rib on the menu. And I catch the Cast Iron Gulf Catch of tonight’s golden tile fish. Here’s the beef…filling a steak platter, Kev’s prime rib is tender, juicy, cooked to perfection. The whole roast was well seasoned, slow roasted, and finished off, being rolled on the grill—creating the perfect crusty outer layer. Highly recommended! Earth meets sea in my catch of the night. A generous piece of succulent, golden tile floats atop a bed of earthy, spiced barley with blistered tomato and lemons, and is topped with smoked yogurt and paprika oil.
Just before our desserts of Ricotta Doughnuts and Cast Iron Apple Crisp arrive, Townsley’s wife, Kimberly stops by our table, on the way to her table, for a visit. She is sipping one of the restaurant’s specialty, craft cocktails, a golden glass of Hatton’s Handiwork. Tempted, I order one for a dessert course cocktail. Oh, my! This drink is as good as it looks—a memorable mixture of Birmingham native, Hatton Smith’s Campesino XVI Dark Rum, fresh lime juice, passion fruit, and nutmeg. I would come here for this drink… and will again.
Both dessert choices, Ricotta Doughnuts and Cast Iron Apple Crisp are exceptional. The doughnuts have a dollop of melted chocolate inside. And the better than your grandma’s apple crisp is topped off with house made Cinnamon Nutmeg Ice Cream. Chef Moore stops by the table to say goodnight as we leave. Difficult to believe this is its soft opening.
Two days later The Yard is prepped, ready and now open to the public.
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