First – let us apologize for our hiatus, we’re back now and excited to share our food thoughts with you!
Although we had some other restaurants lined up, when Backyard Pizza finally re-opened, we had to bump it to the front of the line.
Speaking of which, we know you were just as excited as we were for the return of the ever-popular destination as evidenced by considerable lines extending past the the lobby and into the sidewalk… at 5pm… on Tuesdays. For this town, i can assure you, that is madness.
To address the circumstances that led to this Huntington favorite from having to re-open in the first place, we’ll touch on it just in case you’re not familiar. On the morning of July 27, 2014, the historic Morris Building downtown caught fire due to an issue with an elevator. The building was home to a few residents, a couple of businesses, and two wildly popular restaurants owned and operated by Drew and Megan Hetzer – the original Backyard Pizza and The Peddler. Luckily, everybody was evacuated safely and fire fighters did a phenomenal job extinguishing the flames, but significant damage was done. That morning, we were on our way to Backyard for Sunday brunch as we had family in for a reunion – it was the place we would always take our out of town guests. The news hit the community hard; though it was just a local eatery, it certainly felt like we were losing a lot more. And what we as patrons felt certainly didn’t compare to what the Hetzers and the employees must have gone through. However, from early on Drew and Megan pledged they would return, and the community gladly rallied behind them.
Fast forward to Fall 2015, and the highly anticipated debut came with absolutely zero letdown. For those able to recall the previous Backyard location, it’s understood that the new would have some big shoes to fill. Not just in quality of food and service, but the place itself was the spot. Atmosphere, vibrancy, unique style, art, the old Backyard had it all. How was the new to live up? I am one to not set expectations – that way i avoid disappointments but leave the window open for surprises. When i first stepped into 833 3rd Avenue, i was more than surprised, i was blown away.
We don’t like to give too much away about the actual space as we’d prefer for you to just rush in and experience it yourself, but just know that it is out of this world. If you’ve already been, you saw what i did there. The elements that made its predecessor stand out are still there, but re-imagined entirely. There is tremendous attention to detail, jaw dropping art taking center stage, and now, a more modern edge.
The restaurant is spacious with a giant bar and tables ranging from two-tops to 8/9 seaters. At the end of the bar you can find the Raw Bar portion.
Alright, alright – now to the food review!
Pulled pork sliders: these are fantastic. The BBQ is sweet and zingy, with plenty of pop, but what sticks out to me about this appetizer is the woodfired dough serving as bread. The the not-so-small mini sandwiches are also piled high with french fried onion straws to add to the texture.
Kati’s order: Woo-tang – hickory grilled chicken, bleu cheese crumbles, fresh shredded mozzarella, roasted red peppers, diced jalapeno and red onion. Finished with cilantro, drizzled with our honey, Sriracha and lime schwing sauce.
[Not pictured. Why? Look, it had been over a year – we went to town as soon as the food was placed in front of us]
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t love at first bite. I have tried every pizza on the menu, and this one is still my favorite. The chicken, red roasted pepper with two types of cheeses make for a great foundation, but once that sriracha, honey, and lime schwing sauce is drizzled on…it’s game over. I could bathe in this concoction. But instead I just eat the whole pizza in one blink because it’s the bomb.
Will’s order: Truffle Shuffle – Baby portabella tossed in white truffle oil and rosemary. Roasted garlic cream sauce, carmelized onion, sauteed spinach, smoked applewood bacon with mozzarella and parmesan.
If there was just one ounce of disappointment in our four or so trips so far, it was that my pizza came out a little overdone. However, i still devoured it and still got enough of the rich, bold flavors i had missed for so long. The cheeses are strong, in a good way, and the garlic cream ties every other ingredient in wonderfully.
Kati’s order: Half shell oysters
There aren’t a lot of places around here to get raw oysters from the half shell, but Backyard’s raw bar is certainly a place that can provide that and be trusted to be fresh. With a squirt of lime, pinch of horseradish, and some cocktail sauce I was in seafood heaven and almost forgot I hadn’t left West Virginia.
Will’s order: Reuben pizza – Guinness braised corned beef, roasted garlic, caraway seed, kraut, smoked gouda and a sweet pickle remoulade.
You know how last time you were eating a Reuben sandwich and you thought “geez Louise, why hasn’t someone made this into a pizza already?” Right, so probably not, but that is the number one thing i love about Backyard – they are adventurous and daring and like to push the limits with flavor, yet calculated and meticulous and successful. They are like that wily, old white water rafting guide that might just be crazy, but you still trust him to keep you alive on your journey through the rapids. What was i talking about? Oh right, this pizza. So good! It really is like taking a bite out of your favorite Reuben, and it so works on that crisped woodfired dough.
Haystack – Our dough deep fried over Velvet cinnamon ice cream, tossed in cinnamon and sugar, whipped topping, drizzled with honey and fudge. Flambe of grand marnier.
The most iconic dessert on the menu, and it’s easy to see why: the Haystack makes a show for itself. With the flames sizzling over the mound of cinnamon ice-cream, it’s impossible not to be tempted to photograph the thing. For Huntington natives, you will take one bite and immediately go into a deep nostalgia of a wonderful little place called Chili Willi’s we all miss dearly. The crunchy almonds, the drizzle of cinnamon, and those “haysticks” all make a glorious exclamation to an already awesome dining experience. It is really as gorgeous as it is delicious.
Okay, so now, one of my favorite parts of our blog – getting to hear from the fine folks that make it their life to treat us with their food. Here’s Drew.
People tend to like classy restaurants that stick with familiar American themes. The elderly love it, it’s classy, and it keeps businessmen and women nostalgic. Inspired by the “Dangerous Book for Boys”, a team of professionals and I came up with something that combines a lawyer’s nostalgia for camping/fishing/military service and our communities love for pizza and oysters. I spent several months conducting a content analysis around our area, focusing on the professional workforce of downtown Huntington. Along with other data, this study provided: taste preferences, distance they’re willing to travel for lunch, budget and how long they have for a break. The name Backyard was chosen because it’s modern enough to be considered upper scale, but common enough to be inviting for everyone. We wanted the name and design to have that Appalachian appeal. I have been in the restaurant business my entire life, it’s what I enjoy doing. I grew up in the business watching my mom wait tables while my dad taught school. My parents separated when I was 6 and I spent a lot of time at work with mom. During my years at Marshall I was undecided with what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had always worked two to three jobs while going to school and they were in the restaurant or bar business. When I was at work it was like my play time, I enjoyed being there and connecting with people. The best advice anyone could have ever given me was no matter which path you choose in life, make sure you are passionate about it. With passion you will become the best at what you do. My wife and I being from Huntington, we wanted to offer something unique that people can have pride in. Especially, when they have friends from out of town and they go, “Wow! There’s nothing like it.” Wood fired ovens make the best pizza hands down. We also make everything from scratch and love playing with flavor profiles to create very nontraditional pies. As for the raw bar we special order our oysters so they arrive within 5 days of their harvest date. On the raw bar there is a wood fire grill that gives anything that touches it a delicious rustic flavor.
I think we speak for thousands in the area, and it’s clear to see why, when we scream “Hey Backyard – welcome back!”
WHEN TO GO: Literally, like right now. Or if you’d like for me to be more specific, i guess i could limit it to just lunch, or dinner, or brunch. Oh, that’s right, we didn’t even bring up brunch. Well, believe when we say you shouldn’t miss it – more on that when we have our special Battle of the Brunch edition on the blog.
BEST PART: So hard to say. They are doing so many things right. Ultimately, though, we have to go with the people. That’s what makes Backyard Backyard.
WHAT SETS IT APART: The vision. A lot of people don’t dare to dream, some who do, don’t act on it, and the few that dream big with every intention of realizing it are just special.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: N/A
HOW TO FIND IT: 833 3rd Ave Huntington or https://www.facebook.com/Backyard-Pizza-and-Raw-Bar-332057573529178/
OVERALL RATING (please visit our first post to see our scale, it’s different than most):
The most elusive, the most prestigious, the most everything:
5 Tandems – Huntington Legend/We are bowing to you