There are few things in this world that I crave. In fact, I can list quite a few of them offhand:
- Constantly being the center of attention.
- A good book.
- Soft, sturdy toilet paper.
- Someone who tells me how good-looking and funny I am.
Above all else though, there is one glorious simple beautiful thing in this world that can cause me to experience terrible withdrawal symptoms: a burger.
I’m not kidding either. Simple ground meat formed into a disk shape and grilled upon flames is one of, if not the biggest, craving I ever experience. I would love to say there is some heroic reason for this, like a burger once saved me from drowning. As wonderfully delicious as that thought is — pickles do make great floaties — it simply isn’t true. I can say that I have some wonderful moments associated with burgers. Time spent with family as my dad braved the elements to grill for us all. Dinners with the fellas where we housed patties over intense fantasy football talk. Making dinner for the special people in my life where you agonize over every dash of spice you add because you just want to make a great meal. Plus, cooking burgers taught me all about grilling, which is more of an art than people realize. All of this has driven a deep love for burgers that causes cravings that make pregnant women look rational and balanced.
There are plenty of great burger places in Richmond. When a craving hits, I never fear that I won’t be able to satisfy it. Sometimes though, you just want to try something new. As I began to feel the edges of my latest craving creeping into my soul, I knew where I wanted to try. I remember reading an article about a restaurant in the West End called The Backyard Grill quite a while ago. The article would randomly bounce around the empty shell that is my head, randomly plopping itself into my thought process at 11 pm on a Wednesday night, when it wasn’t helpful. So, when it finally decided to flood my focus on a Friday afternoon, I knew it was a sign. I texted Jeremy immediately, secured him as my dinner partner and began the process of mental preparation. Ohhhhh burger, here I come.
The Backyard Grill is located in the strip mall on Ridge Road. Parking in the lot was a bit more creative than I expected it to be. The lot was pretty full by 6:15ish, which is when we got there. Granted, it was a Friday. People had parked in the very dead center of the lot, which was confusing to me. I’m not sure if these were actual spots or if people just felt like they could park there because they were “important.” We found a spot on the far end of the parking lot, but just keep in mind that if you have older folks with you, parking close may be a bit of a challenge. Or, maybe I’m getting old and crotchety at 31.
The inside of the restaurant seems to be divided into two areas. Up a step and to the right is the bar area. This had a few tables and a fairly decent size bar with seating. The main dining area itself was quite nice. There were a fair amount of tables. The room felt big, even with a wooden divider in the middle of the room. I appreciated the dark table tops contrasting against the warm light-colored floor. Our booth was spacious enough to accommodate four people. The lighting was also very pleasant. I know that’s weird to say, but some places are too dark while some are overly bright. This was just right, Goldilocks style.
Our server brought us menus and went over Happy Hour with us. $4 drafts piqued my interest and I quickly committed after hearing the tap list. The draft list was quite expansive and included several local beers, like Center Of The Universe’s Pocahoptus (which I ordered). Our server went to ring in our drink menus while we looked at the menu. The menu has a wide variety of things on it, if you are looking for meat. It is a very heavy meat-option kinda menu. Yes, there are salads, a few grilled cheese options and a black bean burger. The meat dominates the rest though. Lucky for us, we were in the market for some burgers.
We started out with the smoked pimento cheese appetizer. I was interested in this dish for several reasons; it’s cheese, it’s smoked, it’s smoked cheese and there were chunks of blue cheese in it. I’ve never had pimento cheese with blue cheese in it. When we dug into this dish, there was a lot to like about it. I appreciated that it was served with a small salad that was dressed with balsamic. I think that the balsamic could have been a bit more chilled, but I lived with it. The lettuce and the sharpness of the balsamic paired very nicely with the cheese. The grilled onion roll was amazing to cart the cheese to my mouth. It had great flavor and the inside of the bread was warm and soft. With a subtle smoke flavor and a consistency perfect for spreading or dipping, the actual pimento cheese itself was very, very good. I thought the blue cheese was an interesting addition. I am pretty neutral on its contribution. I enjoyed hitting the lumps of saltiness as I ate, but I didn’t love the actual lumpiness as it interrupted the flow ever so slightly. Outside of that mild distraction, this was a tasty dish that could easily be a go-to appetizer. It also has made a grilled onion roll a must-have cheese accoutrement.
I’m going to be honest, the hardest part of any meal for me is actually choosing an entree. When I am presented with five different specialty burger options, how do I choose? What if I make the wrong choice and I end up with burger remorse? That’s a real issue in my life — I know, I know. First world problems. Choosing a burger to satisfy my craving was an intense process, but after careful elimination I decided on the Big Foot which comes with house smoked pulled pork, Swiss cheese and apricot Sriracha. I, as usual, ordered mine as rare as humanly possible. Jeremy went a slightly different route. He chose the Rebel Yell. This burger comes sweetly topped with sliced brisket (smoked in house), grilled onions, cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce. He also added fresh jalapenos. Both burgers came with a side of fries and the usual burger fixins.
Our meal didn’t take very long to arrive from the kitchen. First glance told me I had made a great choice with my meat stack. The burger was plump and nicely covered the bun. The pulled pork on top glistened with its coating of apricot Sriracha. The cheese was generous and melty. After dressing it with lettuce and pickles, I took my first huge bite. The juices from this burger coated my hands in mere seconds. The burger was just as I requested, rare as all hell. Everything worked perfectly together. The smoky pork, the sweet and spicy sauce, the rich cheese and the meaty burger all played a symphony that would cause any meat lover to weep. Outside of stuff I have made at home, it was one of the finest burgers I’ve had in a long time. Messy though. Bring wet naps because you will really need them.
I was also pleased with the fries. They were ample and crisp. They were the Scottie Pippen to the burger’s Michael Jordan. Yes, one was better than the other but neither would have been magical if the other wasn’t there. Portion size for this whole plate was perfect. I was pleasantly full, but not uncomfortably so. It was all in all an excellent meal. Jeremy fully agreed.
The Backyard Grill is a hidden gem in the world that is Richmond’s West End. It easily slips under the radar of most people which is a crime. The food and the atmosphere are just wonderful. Next time you need a little burger in your diet, take a voyage to The Backyard Grill. Craving satisfied. Until next time, readers, may your pimento be smoked and your Sriracha peachy.