Where: The Backyard Grille
Address: 4021 Hixson Pike (near Ashland Terrace intersection)
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon-2 a.m. Friday, 1 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday
Price range: $5.95 (grilled ham and cheese sandwich)-$21.95 (bone-in ribeye steak)
Don't go to the Backyard Grille looking for sophistication and white tablecloths.
It's not that kind of place.
But if you're on the hunt for good sandwiches, burgers and cuts of beef, pork and chicken hot off the grill, check out a menu filled with American fare at reasonable prices.
It's less than a quarter-mile from Ashland Terrace in a large building on the north side of Hixson Pike.
The Backyard Grille is as much a bar as a restaurant, but don't get the idea you're getting pub food from the freezer. There's something for everyone, including a kids menu.
When my party of three arrived midweek around 7 p.m., we were the only customers present. The chef/waiter was sitting at the bar when we arrived but moved quickly to seat us at a booth and get our drink order while we reviewed a sizable menu.
The menu is chock-full of starters, sandwiches, salads and dinners.
Appetizers include jalapeno poppers, ribs, mozzarella sticks, fried mushrooms, potato skins, chicken tenders, wings and loaded pork fries, all in the $5.95 to $8.95 range. You also can get a sampler plate of any three items ($8), the Carnivore collection of sirloin, ribs, brisket and turkey ($12.95) or three sliders ($8.95).
Salad offerings featured a dinner salad ($3.50), chef salad ($8.50), and a grilled or fried chicken salad ($9.50).
Dinners included pork spareribs ($19.95 for a full rack, $14.95 for a half rack), Angus bone-in ribeye ($21.95), Angus beef sirloin ($15.95), smoked beef brisket ($10.95 for a half pound, $16.95 for a pound), salmon with a lemon and garlic-herb butter sauce ($15.95), grilled surf and turf of salmon and sirloin ($20.95), ground sirloin steak with onions or sautéed mushrooms ($9.95), chicken breast ($11.95), lemon-pepper chicken breast ($11.95), parmesan-crusted chicken breast with sauce on noodles ($12.95), loaded baked potato with pulled pork and a salad with trimmings ($8.95), a six-cheese gourmet mac-and-cheese dinner with coleslaw ($7.95) and a veggie plate selection (three vegetables $5.95, four for $6.95). All entrees are served with a salad and side.
The Backyard Grille offers nine sandwiches, starting off with a quarter-pound burger (it's $6.95 and comes with cheese; bacon is 50 cents extra). Other options include a grilled ham and cheese ($5.95), pulled pork sandwich smothered in sauce ($7.95) and brisket sandwich ($8.95).
The kids menu offers a burger, chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese (all $5.95).
I got the grill-roasted half-slab of pork spareribs plate, which came with a side -- I got carrots and broccoli -- and small salad ($14.95).
Frankly, eyeing the biker-themed decor in the aging tavern, I wasn't sure what to expect.
The first item to arrive was my salad, a nice combination of red and green lettuce, carrots and fresh spinach leaves, all fresh and tasty. My pork ribs were lightly seasoned, roasted rather than heavily smoked.
While I prefer classic smokehouse-style ribs, the Backyard Grille's version was juicy and flavorful with a little blackening from a visit to the grill. Some house barbecue sauce, with a hint of Worcestershire, boosted the taste. The side of broccoli and carrots was well-seasoned, fresh and flavorful.
But apparently, I made a mistake.
My wife and son opted for the house specialty, the Backyard burger with sides of fries ($11.95). Her large Angus beef patty, cooked well done, was topped with Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and sautéed onions and mushrooms. My son chose a patty cooked medium with blue cheese and subtracted the mayo.
Our family has been on a bit of a burger binge lately, so I was interested in how the Backyard burger stacked up. My son and better half raved about the burger, toppings and fries -- they rated all "great" and said it was at least as good as any burger we've tried this year.
The bites they begrudgingly shared with me were indeed delicious, and the fries were browned and seasoned perfectly -- no ketchup needed.
The service was prompt -- we were the only customers, after all -- and friendly. Our server returned frequently to check our drinks and give a status report on our meals, sizzling in the kitchen.
The man serving us remarked that the restaurant has a new jukebox system. It played a strange collection of Christian music, classic rock 'n' roll, country tunes and pop -- entertaining in its variety.
The place is a bar, at least on weekends, and hasn't been updated in a while. If tobacco smoke bothers you, it might be better to go elsewhere. But if you like a tavern atmosphere with tons of space, a dance floor and stage for live acts, then you'll not be disappointed.
The Backyard Grille has seating for more than 100 people with a large, U-shaped bar and lots of tables and booths. The dining room and bar were very clean.
My wife and son both remarked about the smell of cigarette smoke, but they cast away all doubts for the house specialty Backyard burger. Their verdict: "We're coming back here!"
I might get the ribs again, but the next time I go it'll be for the trademark burger and extra-delicious fries and maybe the sampler platter or Carnivore plate.
Either way, the Backyard Grille is definitely out of the ordinary and probably quite the hopping spot on weekends when the good food is combined with live music and dancing.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6569.