On my first visit to the Backyard by Devils Backbone Brewing Company, not far from the Corner, their laid-back atmosphere hits the backyard theme spot-on — with dogs welcome at their outside patio seating and huge yellow Adirondack chairs inside. While I found their paninis to be on the slightly pricey end, I think this is the perfect spot to grab a drink and appetizers while watching a game with friends.
A popular spot since its opening last May, the Backyard is hard to miss when walking or driving past its eye-catching yellow and black window decals. Located a quick 11-minute walk from Central Grounds on West Main Street, the Backyard is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays. Despite a somewhat limited menu of mainly paninis, beer and spirits, there are still plenty of tasty options for adults and kids alike.
Devils Backbone Brewing Company was founded by Steve and Heidi Crandall who were inspired to craft European-style beers within the context of a local, outdoorsy Virginia brewery. Now partnered with a larger brewing company, Anheuser-Busch, Devils Backbone continues to brew quality beers and achieves its mission of fostering community with locations across Virginia. Widely known and loved for its quality craft beers, Devils Backbone also makes Smash canned cocktails and hard cider.
The interior of the Backyard certainly lives up to its namesake and I really enjoyed the calm, country vibes. With covers of John Denver playing throughout the building and furniture resembling the great outdoors, this restaurant was immediately warm and welcoming.
To start, I ordered a Cherry Go Round — which I did not expect to be a kid’s juice box — while my boyfriend ordered the Lily Pad hard apple cider. Priced at $2 and $6.50 respectively, I felt like the 16oz cider was well worth the cost while the juice box was rather underwhelming. The hard cider was perfectly bright — with a relatively low alcohol percentage of 5.0 — that I thoroughly enjoyed. I will certainly be ordering a hard cider for myself the next time I visit the Backyard.
When at a brewery, I have to get a pretzel — it’s just the right thing to do. We ordered the grilled pretzel appetizer for $12 and opted to get the onion and chive cream cheese offered at an extra cost of $1. These pretzels were coated in salt and definitely left a lot of butter on the fingers but were rather tasty. Served with a spicy honey mustard that was the perfect balance between sweet and heat, these pretzels hit the spot. I preferred to slather my bites of pretzel in the cream cheese while my boyfriend enjoyed the mustard much more. I would definitely recommend ordering the grilled pretzels alongside your drinks when you visit the Backyard.
For the main, I ordered the turkey avocado sandwich, priced at $16 and filled with turkey, bacon, white cheddar, mayo and avocado. I chose a side of salt and vinegar chips which I ended up bringing home to snack on another day since my sandwich was so filling. My first few bites of the sandwich were quite enjoyable, but I quickly began to dislike the greasy exterior.
The paninis are brushed with butter and grilled to a lovely crunchy golden crust, but I felt that there was just a bit too much butter on mine and it became slightly uncomfortable to eat. Next time I would order this sandwich without the bacon since I am personally not a huge fan of that component, and I felt that there could have been a bit more avocado. Overall, though, I was pleased with the balance of ingredients — while the turkey was overtaken by the bacon, the sandwich was not packed to the brim and I was able to finish it feeling satisfied.
My boyfriend ordered the Italian panini, priced at $17 and filled with ham, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, spinach, tomato, banana pepper, red onion, oregano and balsamic vinaigrette. The banana pepper had a very strong flavor while the vinaigrette ended up being rather muted. The meat was balanced and not over-packed but was overwhelmed by the banana pepper taste.
Overall, the panini was on the heavier side and when combined with bites of pretzel here and there, it ended up not quite feeling worth the steep price. Additionally, my boyfriend opted for the veggie slaw as his side to go with the sandwich. While initially refreshing, the slaw was not super special and ended up being slightly too acidic when paired with the sandwich. Alongside both sandwiches came bread and butter pickles, cut to look like chips with a balance of sweet and salty flavors. The refreshing taste of pickle between bites of the heavy sandwiches helped to balance out our meal.
With only one dessert option on their menu — a $7 churro pretzel — we opted to skip on the sweets. Next time I visit the Backyard I will be ordering this pretzel perhaps instead of a sandwich since I think it could be a great contrast to the more savory grilled pretzels.
The Backyard also has a small shop area filled with t-shirts, hats and other goodies for sale at a very reasonable price. My boyfriend picked out a t-shirt with the Devils Backbone lettering logo on the front and a cool graphic on the back — he was so pleased with the shirt he changed into it right away. Priced at only $25, this shirt is of excellent quality and I will surely be heading back to the Backyard to pick one up for myself.
With a small kids menu and sign on the front door welcoming dogs to their patio seating, the Backyard is a great family-friendly place. With a big screen placed towards one side of the main dining area, I am sure the Backyard comes to life when there’s an exciting game to be watched. In my experience, the Backyard is worthwhile for their drinks and shareable plates, but not if you’re looking for a nice, quality meal. I can absolutely see myself coming to the Backyard with a group of friends to try their beer and some appetizers, but I will probably not be coming back for a sandwich any time soon.