Editor’s note: BoneYard has closed.
When we first got word of BoneYard Kitchen and Bar, a new restaurant featuring “Southern comfort food” taking the place of Old Chicago in Uptown, two thoughts immediately came to mind: 1) FRIED CHICKEN AND WAFFLES!!!, and 2) Southern food in Minnesota? There’s no way this place is going to be legit. But a couple of visits — during the restaurant’s opening week, no less — reversed our cynicism. BoneYard, the latest concept from Kaskaid Hospitality of Crave fame, actually delivers on its promise of down-home, chicken-fried, sweet-tea-spiked cuisine. Though not without room for improvement, the restaurant is off to a very solid start; belts are going to feel a little tighter around the neighborhood.
Because if you walk into BoneYard thinking you’re going to stay on a healthy course — well, good luck. Sure, there are a few salads and a fish dish, but this isn’t the place for light eats. For example, the “snacks and picnic plates” section of the menu contains nine items, and five are fried, so you might as well give in and enjoy it. After all, the chef, Jason Brown, is a native Southerner and based much of the BoneYard menu off his own family recipes, so you know the food has pedigree.
The larger share plates are your best bets for starters, value-wise. The platter of housemade pickles and peppers ($11) offers a little of this (bread and butter cucumbers, golden cauliflower) and of that (okra, red onions, and watermelon rinds) with a neat row of Saltines to balance the heat and tang. It’s to Brown’s credit that he doesn’t ratchet down the heat to match the stereotypical Minnesota palate, and the vinegary snap of the pickles set the stage for the rest of your meal nicely. The Pastor’s Plate ($15, above) provides a generous spread of salty ham, deviled eggs, pickles, pimiento cheese, and a biscuit; it easily could be a meal in and of itself. The eggs’ creamy, not-too-mayonnaisey filling make them a treat to enjoy, but the real star of the plate is the spicy pimiento cheese, which automatically improves anything onto which it’s spread.
But let’s get serious: we came here to try to the fried chicken and waffles, and luckily, they did not disappoint. For $16, you get four large pieces of boneless chicken breast (yes, glorified chicken tenders) with a crisp, crackly-brown crust nestled alongside four buttermilk waffles wedges and a crock of candied jalapeño maple syrup. The syrup offers little heat, but the chicken is succulent and juicy enough that you don’t need it, and the warm waffles are better served with a swipe of the pimiento cheese anyway. If we were to nit-pick, we’d vote for a bone-in piece of chicken rather than a boneless breast, but that didn’t prevent us from polishing off every piece.
Other meats perform as well or nearly as well at BoneYard. Though the brisket ($24) isn’t fall-off-the-fork tender, it offers a gentle enough bite to garner a thumbs-up, particularly for its smoky flavor. The meat works especially well with pickled onions and chili aioli on the tacos ($6) offered on the happy hour menu. The ribs ($24) arrive St. Louis-style with a dry rub; they’re meaty, flavorful, and give you a lot to nibble. The pulled pork ($21) also features a dry rub but evokes Carolina flavors with its vinegar-based tang. If you can’t decide, order the 3 Meat Combo ($26, above) and bring your stretchy pants.
The burgers and po’boys section of the menu doesn’t quite live up to the success of the bigger meat dishes, though. The “Hurt Me Hot” Burger ($13, above) features a fine patty but not enough heat to really hurt — surprising for a dish that includes ghost chili sauce. The Fried Green Tomato Po’Boy ($10), on the other hand, carries the heat of its lemon Tabasco sauce so well that, when combined with the huge bun, it’s hard to detect the tomato in there. The insanely tasty cottage fries that accompany each sandwich soften the blow with their perfectly crisp, salty, non-greasy bite.
Those cottage fries lead the pack among the copious side dishes ($4 for a single serving / $7 for family size) at BoneYard — this is the section of the menu that could use the most improvement. The grits, a gluey, globby mess, are the worst offender, and the bland cole slaw doesn’t fare much better. Smarter choices include the macaroni and cheese (the addition of pimiento cheese makes it a winner); the crinkle-cut, tender-on-the-inside sweet potato fries; and the spoonable “killer” cornbread ($8, above), which balances the corn’s sweetness with bits of salty ham to prevent you from going into sugar shock.
For a breath of freshness, try the watermelon and feta salad ($8), which manages to please even when it’s not peak watermelon season with a kicky lime vinaigrette and briney bits of cheese.
Desserts range from perfectly passable to sinfully good, with the apple pie ($6) falling in the former category. Warm, cinnamon-laced and flaky, the pie would hold up better if the apples were a tad firmer and didn’t rely so much on the vanilla ice cream to carry the dish. Far more successful is the peach cobbler ($7), which comes scalding hot in a skillet, but one taste of the oatmeal streusel topping will keep you digging your spoon in anyway. Banana lovers will be pleased to see so many choices on the menu — our preference is the smooth-as-silk Bananas Foster Pudding ($7, above), with rich custard and flambéed bananas. It bests the humungous slice of Hummingbird Cake ($7), which tastes similar to many spice cakes. Chocolate fans will be surprised and disappointed to find not a single dessert catered to their taste. They do eat chocolate down South, right?
The happy hour menu offers the best deals on drinks, such as a $5 Pink Cadillac Margarita that goes down fruity and smooth, and the Lavender Lemonade Refresher ($6), which combines lavender-infused gin, lemon, and soda for a tipple that likely will be more popular in August than March. That there’s a menu just of Kentucky bourbons shouldn’t come as a surprise; the wine and beer list is decidedly un-Southern, however.
It’s hard to judge service at such an early stage in a restaurant’s life, and a few delays and miscues are easy to attribute to opening jitters. The staff is friendly and attentive — evidence of the Kaskaid training — and we’ll never complain when a server smartly hands children their water in plastic cups with lids rather than an oversized glass tumbler. If there’s anything to complain about, it would be the noise, which ranged from deafening on a first visit to a slightly duller roar on a relatively quieter weeknight. The space has plenty of rustic charm with reclaimed barn wood, mason jars, and other antique touches, but acoustically, it’s a mess. Oddly, the music sounds more like a playlist from a yoga sculpt class than a Southern restaurant and thus adds to the chaos.
But for all its kinks, BoneYard is doing a lot right in its first few weeks: solid food, easy-to-enjoy drinks, and a casual atmosphere that suits families and the Uptown scenesters alike. When the summer arrives and the retractable garage door is open, the whole neighborhood will hear the crowd at BoneYard. You might as well join in the fun.
BoneYard Kitchen and Bar
Southern-style cuisine in Uptown
2841 Hennepin Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
CHEF / OWNER: Jason Bush / Kaskaid Hospitality
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Yes
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes /
ENTREE PRICE: $10-26