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Review: Cornhole and class at the Yard in Coquina Key in St. Pete

Before the opening of Shackleton's Folly, there was a lot of talk about how southern St. Petersburg needed a place like it: a neighborhood joint where people could stop in for dinner and stay late for drinks.

Shackleton's Folly wasn't it, open less than a year before closing over the summer.

But its spot in the corner of the Coquina Key Shopping Plaza wasn't empty long before new owners moved in, gave the room a facelift, and reopened with a new name that makes no allusion to failure.

The Yard doesn't stray far from the path set by Shackleton's. There is a spot for live music and karaoke. There is still beach volleyball right outside the dining room. A cornhole tournament could break out outside at any minute. There are plenty of televisions if there's a sporting event that you need to see from any seat in the house. And there is food that is better than you might expect in the environs of a sports pub.

The menu is a mix of traditional bar food with a twist, and some more original items. Fried mozzarella ($6.99) sounds ubiquitous enough, but here, the fresh cheese is wrapped in pancetta before being battered and fried. Instead of marinara, the fried cheese is sauced with a balsamic reduction. The plate was quite attractive.

Every sports bar has potato skins ($6.99), right? Here, they are fried and stuffed with chicken, chorizo, tomato and pepper jack, and served with chipotle sour cream and pico de gallo. Each element serves to make it better than the sum of the parts.

The lollipop pork chop ($17.99) is a 14-ounce piece of meat the likes of which you would not find at most places that you might hang out to watch a game. It sports handsome grill marks and sits on a fruit relish. The menu says peach salsa, but I would have guessed an apple-cranberry chutney, which makes more seasonal sense. A side of vegetables includes squash, asparagus and shiitake, all of which are also well-marked by time on the grill. The mashed potatoes are fortified with asiago and garlic.

A favorite among the flatbreads was the house version of a white pizza topped with shrimp and bacon ($10.99). The crust is thin but chewy, topped with goat cheese and Boursin with spinach and caramelized onions before adding the meat.

There were some modest misses, but none was a complete failure. The fried softshell crab BLT ($9.99) is a good idea, but the crab was too aggressively seasoned, especially paired with the bacon. The menu description of the stuffed poblano ($5.99) is confusing — it sounds like you either get two peppers, each with a different stuffing, or maybe that you have a choice of stuffings (one was shrimp and chorizo, one was vegetables). We ordered it and got one pepper that had elements from both of the stuffings described. The mahi Frangelico ($14.99) was a terrific piece of fish, nicely cooked, and the idea of the sauce wasn't bad: hazelnut liqueur and butter. But they lost me with the bananas, which added more sweetness than the fish needed and were too similar in texture. Maybe some toasted hazelnuts over the dish to provide some contrast? It seemed more like an interesting sauce for ice cream. Which, actually, might be really good.

A somewhat more worrisome factor was the number of menu items that weren't available. Each visit, there was more than one. Eventually, we were able to come to an agreement as to what we wanted and what they had, but it took a little work.

Desserts are simple. A chocolate layer cake ($6.99) is not made in-house, but the brandied cherries on the side are. And it's a good bet that the Twinkie, which is fried to be the cake part of a strawberry shortcake ($4.99), isn't made in-house either. It is fun in a state fair kind of way.

The food is good enough so it would be nice if there was a better offering of wine to go with it. Just a few varietals are available, without choices among them. There is a decent selection of beer, the more traditional pairing with wings and sporting events.

And you rarely see anyone playing cornhole holding a glass of wine.

Jim Webster can be reached at jwebster@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8746. He dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.

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The Yard

4300 Sixth St. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 498-8809;

theyardstpete.com

Cuisine: American, sandwiches, sports bar

Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Monday through Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

Details: Amex, V, MC, Discover; reservations not necessary; full bar

Prices: Entrees $6.99 to $17.99 (though one steak entree is $39.99), appetizers $4.99 to $9.99

Rating out of four stars:

Food: ★★ 1/2 Service: ★★ Atmosphere: ★★ 1/2

Overall: ★★ 1/2

Clarification

Portofino Mediterranean Grill is between Ulmerton Road and Gulf-to-Bay

Boulevard. The review last week gave an incorrect

general location. The address (18825 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater) was correct.

Review: Cornhole and class at the Yard in Coquina Key in St. Pete 02/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 1:09pm]

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