There is little that says summertime better than a backyard barbecue with friends, and a new restaurant in Lakeview is paying homage to the tradition year-round.
The Backyard, which opened in March on West Harrison Avenue, serves burgers and sandwiches in a casual, kid-friendly outdoor setting.
The restaurant's namesake is spacious and features patio chairs, umbrellas and picnic benches. A playground provides entertainment for children, and a wooden fence ensures parents can relax without fearing the escape of a little one. Outdoor fans help quell some of the heat, and the casual indoor dining area also offers respite on steamy evenings.
The menu at The Backyard is simple and short, evoking summer evenings when a grilled burger or dog needs little more than a couple of beers and a dip or two on the side.
Burgers are cooked to medium-well-done on a custom-built, cast-iron cooktop. Charred on the outside and juicy on the inside, the patties come dressed with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes, shaved white onions and thick slices of house-brined pickles. Diners can customize burgers from a wide selection of toppings, including several types of cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms. Typical portions feature two 3.5-ounce patties, and those with lighter appetites may prefer single-patty versions.
Angus beef hot dogs are spiral cut, grilled and served on fluffy potato rolls. The cooking technique renders more than just the outside of the dog charcoal-specked and deliciously crispy.
The restaurant's smoker provides inspiration for daily specials, which on a recent visit included smoked tuna dip accompanied by dark-golden potato chips. The dip is reminiscent of the Gulf Coast staple: thick, creamy and deeply smoky with just a touch of brine.
Sides include the classic standbys: french fries, potato salad, potato tots and coleslaw. While the regular fries were bland and lacked crunch, the sweet potato fries were cooked perfectly and managed to stay crispy and salty on the outside and creamy and slightly sweet inside.
Cheese can be found in myriad forms and features prominently on the menu, in particular in a feta cheese dip that accompanies grilled chicken on a salad or sandwich. In its simplest form, the feta is mixed with Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon zest, dill and fresh mint and served with house-made potato chips. The garlicky, tangy condiment closely resembles tzatziki or Indian-style raita where the lemon and dill add a refreshing touch to the thick dip.
The chefs are heavy-handed when preparing the pimiento cheese: The dip is made with Gruyere, yellow and aged white cheddars and mayonnaise and showered with crispy bacon nuggets. The decadent mixture can be added to hot dogs and hamburgers.
The restaurant's cocktails mirror its food counterparts in generosity; served in tall pint glasses, they pack the requisite punch without feeling like overkill. The Daisy Mae is a margarita made with Grand Marnier and Cointreau and served on the rocks. The Bermuda Triangle combines rum, pear nectar and pineapple, cranberry and orange juices.
Weather permitting, the space outside is perfect for lounging over a margarita or beer while enjoying a burger with friends. But no matter the season, an evening spent at the Backyard will convince you summertime is just around the corner.