Our Gourmet: Much has changed at this familiar locale

February 06. 2018 11:31PM
The “Hog Thai'd” flatbread at the Backyard Brewery features braised pork, shaved Brussels sprouts and scallions with a Thai coconut sauce. 
Backyard Brewery
1211 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester; 623-3545; www.backyardbrewerynh.com

Opens at 11:30 a.m. every day; closes at 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 p.m. Thursday; midnight Friday-Saturday.

Cuisine: American.

Pricing: Apps $7-$12; soup/salads $6-$10 plus add-ons; Hand-Helds/Flatbreads $11-$17; Suppers $14-$24.

Scores for Backyard Brewery
Atmosphere: 18/20
Menu: 19/20
Food: 19/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 17/20
Total: 91/100

Nostalgia buffs can still find the venerable cocktail lounge from The Yard restaurant right where it always was, but everything else has changed at the restaurant complex at the junction of South Mammoth Road and Route 28.

What for decades was The Yard is now the Backyard Brewery, and aside from the old bar, just about everything is different — and quite good.

The old bar is exactly as it has been for decades, but where it used to be just off the front entrance of The Yard, it’s now in the very rear of the new Backyard. And it has a new name, denoted with a small wooden sign over the doorway: The Throwback.

The main area of the Backyard Brewery’s bar/restaurant and beer-making operation is a very large place. In front of the main entrance (formerly the rear door) is an outdoor patio, seating maybe 80 to 100 guests. Inside is the huge main bar/restaurant area, which is surrounded by big-screen TVs . A country decor blends with gleaming modern brewing equipment. Additional seating is upstairs balcony tables as well as smaller rooms and an upstairs banquet room.

It’s a very cool place, with special decorative touches. Giant chalkboard-looking signs are all around, boasting the craft brews, and diners are surrounded on all sides by picket-style barnboard fencing nailed to the walls — a very appropriate “backyard” touch. A large central chalkboard-style sign borrows on an adage and proclaims “New Hampshire we stand, pint in hand.”

More than a dozen brews are featured, with another half dozen promised in soon-to-brew batches, and beer pricing is very reasonable. There are IPAs, porters, dubbels, stouts, various lagers and blonde ales. Individual tastes can be had for $2, or four 4-ounce tastes for $7, or larger servings in pints, 32-ounce crowlers or half-gallon growlers.

Backyard’s menu is on one (large) page, and there is enough variety with special touches to outdo most any pub in Manchester.

Full dinners include steak, prime rib, seafood, poultry, Asian dishes and ribs. Six flatbreads feature unusual pizza items such as prime rib, pork, shaved Brussels sprouts, goat cheese and pineapple salsa. Salads can include chicken, pork, steak or shrimp in a variety of concoctions. There is soup and “Hand Held” orders including gourmet burgers, pork carnita tacos, bison burgers and a Reuben.

Appetizers cover the modern gamut of tastes, of course including wings, and (pork) nachos, a poutine alternative Brew-Tine, crispy Brussels sprouts and pulled chicken with Buffalo ranch sauce.

We dove right in with a few tastes of brew and an order of Haddock Chowder ($6) and Prime Rib Egg Rolls ($8). The soup was so full of fish we almost sent it back for more broth. It was tasty and rich, creamy and savory. The egg rolls were robust and crispy, with shaved prime rib mixed with cheese and sriracha ketchup. Solid, delicious appetizers.

Our dinners consisted of Fish N Chip ($18), and a Hog Thai’d flatbread ($12). Both were well-crafted and entirely delicious.

The fish and chips came with a nice bowl of cooling cole slaw, and the chef rose to the challenge on the chips. We like our french fries crispy, but many chefs either do not get the message or do not have deep-frying equipment capable of truly crispy fries. We explained this to our server and she made sure, and accompanying our fish was a very hefty pile of fries that were as crispy as we have ever had them without being burned.

We forgot to ask about the “local catch” aspect of the menu description, but we’ve been around long enough to be certain that these fish fillets did not come out of the Merrimack River. Five large, thoroughly deep-fried slices of fish were accompanied by tasty and tart tartar sauce. A very good fish and chips dinner.

The flatbread, more Thai flavored than themed, was loaded with braised, shaved pork, with sliced Brussels sprouts and scallions, under a Thai coconut sauce and provolone cheese. The sauce was light, and did its best to keep pace with the formidable pork and veggies, but we had to ask for additional sauce to keep it balanced.

The menu says the flatbread crusts are “custom crafted with (Backyard’s) own spent grain and house ale.” However they are made, the taste is distinct, and worth trying. Pizza crust is often a disappointing afterthought, and those who pay attention are prized by those of us who care.

Full as we were after all of this, we took dessert home in the form of a S’Mores Mudpie ($7), which combined chocolate ice cream, graham cracker crust, chocolate ganache and marshmallow in a sinfully rich and large serving of a delectable sweet. For finishers there is also Pineapple Bread Pudding ($8) a walnut-strawberry-vanilla ice cream-brownie Chunky Brewster ($8), and a Canoli Dip with waffle cone chips ($7). It is good to know the Backyard is following its Yard predecessor with a selection of OMG-good desserts.

The Backyard Brewery represents a major investment by The Yard owners to sustain a very successful restaurant operation for years to come. It seems that, just as The Yard maintained its level of reliability for decades, so will the Backyard Brewery develop and solidify its new business model.

And if there are any patrons who do not like the new digs, there is always The Throwback.

Our GourmetManchester

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