Images courtesy of The Backyard.
While Mother Nature evidently hasn’t gotten the memo yet, winter is, in fact, over. Spring is weeks old, and with the recent return of Brewers baseball, the joys of summer aren’t far behind. As barbecuing, lawn games and outdoor alcohol consumption return to their rightful place of sweet acceptability, Milwaukeeans are taking to the Miller Park lot, festival grounds, their own lawns and makeshift drinking establishment patios to imbibe under the sun. In that spirit, Bay View bar The Backyard (2155 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.), born just over 18 months ago, is right on time.
Repurposing the lot never really put to use by previous occupant—the short-lived Tulluride—The Backyard, as the name suggests, utilizes its exterior space to offer a vast adult playground conducive for cookouts, bonfires and sun-soaked relaxation.
I’m no stranger to The Backyard and its open-air accoutrements. However, I’ve been a scarce visitor since winter - save for a fuzzy afternoon on New Year’s Day. With March Madness in full swing, baseball on the way and spring technically back, I decided to revisit the (relative) KK newbie for a lazy Sunday to see if I could will myself into the summer spirit.
As I’ve often seen, the early afternoon summer crowd was sparse, with a few regulars dotting stools around the bar. The bartender excused himself from conversation with one of them and greeted my guest and me. Gazing at the chalkboard detailing drink specials hanging near the entrance, I was happy to see the Sunday special that I fondly recalled from past visits. That special was an all-day happy hour, which grants customers $1.50 bottles of domestic beer - all the usual suspects - as well as $4 tall rail mix drinks and $2 Pabst tall boys.
Indecisive and not quite ready to top my undigested brunch with rail whiskey, I opted for a plain old Miller High Life as we entertained venturing out to the yard, despite the blah, soggy conditions. We decided to save the outdoor journey for a future visit, but were glad to see the raised fire pits, grills (on which patrons can grill their own food), the brick patio lined with lawn chairs and tailgate favorites like ladder ball and bags set up on the expansive thicket of grass.
I made quick work of the High Life at one of the establishment’s raised tables, occasionally looking up from conversation to watch the NCAA basketball game on one of Backyard’s three interior TVs (there’s another one outside, too).
Venturing back up to the bar for a slightly more adventurous beer option, we found nothing too out of the ordinary on Backyard’s abbreviated tap line or in its cooler.
Then I remembered its “house” beer. I sprung for a 16-ounce can of Berghoff’s Backyard Ale ($2), which is brewed by Wisconsin’s own Minhas Craft Brewery - of Mountain Crest and Kick Axe Malt Liquor infamy - and has no connection to the bar, except in name. I’d never seen it at any other bar in town and quickly remembered that there might be a valid reason for that. So, naturally, I managed to take down the questionable wheat ale… then another.
What my recent trip taught me is The Backyard is - more than anything else - a well-executed seasonal concept that just happens to have a functional bar, a friendly staff, varied clientele and dirt cheap prices for standard libations set around it.
If swank thematic décor, painstakingly crafted obscure artisan cocktails and a uniform customer base are your bag, there are a variety of other options in town to choose from (even one next door). If you want to play outdoors, watch a game or have a few drinks in a welcoming neighborhood tavern, consider driving past Horny Goat Hideaway and give The Backyard a shot.