With its newfound status as a foodie city, Los Angeles is embracing all manner of calorie-rich cuisine, including pasta-heavy Italian fare, artisanal butcher shops and Southern-style fried chicken. The newest entry into the latter category is Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, the James Beard-nominated restaurant founded in Miami in 2011 by John Kunkel, that opens its fourth location here on Saturday.
Yardbird’s industrial barn look has been transplanted into the newly upgraded Beverly Center, smack in the middle of town, where it joins Farmhouse, the farm-to-table concept from Laurent Halasz and Nathan Peitso, and Michael Mina’s Cal Mare, in the valet parking bay of a huge mall.
But what a shopping center may lack in charm it makes up for in traffic and square footage. The 6,000-square-foot Yardbird is divided into cozy nooks and crannies and features a natural light-bathed bar, which serves more than 100 types of bourbon and whiskey, incidentally the basis of the city’s craft-cocktail-du-jour craze.
Kunkel, who hails from Georgia, says family recipes still form the core of the menu, but he’s aware that no matter how much Angelenos embrace gourmet cuisine, they’re Angelenos, after all. “We’re doing a seafood menu for the first time, with grilled fish, crudos and a raw bar,” he said, adding “also great salads and seasonal sides.”
But he’s most excited about Yardbird’s nod to Old Hollywood in the form of a new bourbon called The Duke, cooked up from one of John Wayne’s original recipes. “He was the George Clooney of his day,” Kunkel said. “When his family opened up his sealed archives, they found his bottles and recipes, and the original distiller was still alive, so they are launching it through the U.S. and we’re the first restaurant to have it.”
Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade
Yardbird’s signature punch now features John Wayne’s own brand of bourbon.
1.5 oz Duke bourbon
1 oz blackberry puree (or about 4 blackberries muddled)
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
1 dash of angostura bitters
Shake all ingredients together. Strain into a mason jar filled with ice and top with soda water. Garnish with a lemon wheel on top.