A shout out to my friend, Tim Lake, who recently moved to Alabama and suggested I try Backyard Burgers if I could find one in my travels.
Actually, I wouldn't call Backyard Burgers a burger joint any more than I'd call it a fast food place. Supposedly, all burgers are cooked to order after you order them at the counter, then they have a staff member bring the burger out to you in the dining area.
Backyard Burgers started in 1987 in Cleveland, MS. Local grocer Lattimore Michael (right) was making burgers on his grill at his store when he decided to open a drive-thru location because his burgers were so popular. The original idea of Backyard Burgers was to be primarily a drive-thru concept, but as they've grown over the years they've added restaurants that offer inside seating. There are now nearly 180 Backyard Burgers in 20 states - primarily in the southern part of the U.S.
I was in Lincoln, NE recently and found that there was a new Backyard Burgers restaurant there (see map). It was lunchtime, I was hungry, so I went in.
Actually, the dining area of the Backyard Burgers in Lincoln is very nice. It kind of has the feeling like you're actually eating inside an old outdoor brick grill.
Backyard Burgers char-grill their burgers over an open flame. The burgers are billed as 100% Black Angus burgers and are garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, ketchup, mustard and pickles. You can add any type of four different cheeses to the burger as well.
They also have a number of "specialty" burgers - Mushroom Swiss, Bacon Cheddar, and something called the Miz Grazi. It's a basic cheeseburger topped with a spicy pepper sauce that is supposed to open up your sinuses pretty quickly. It sounded tempting.
They also have grilled chicken selections, BLT's, hot dogs, salads, and other foods. Check out the menu here.
However, just like any first visit to a burger joint, I went with the basic cheeseburger - only I did have them put pepper-jack cheese on it. I usually don't order french fries, but their waffle fries looked pretty good. So I got an order of those, as well.
As I said, you order at the counter, they give you a number, you sit down and they bring your food to you. It wasn't much more than 4 minutes after I ordered and an employee brought out my burger and fries in a little basket.
The burger was - well, it was a little dry and overcooked for my tastes. Actually, it sort of reminded me of the Bubba Burger patties that I got recently. The Backyard Burgers patty had kind of a weird shape to them - same as the Bubba Burgers. I had a little trouble tasting the meat with all the toppings on the burger. I should have just ordered a plain cheeseburger and gone from there.
The waffle fries were good, though. Big and fluffy, they definitely tasted like potatoes and not the oil that they're cooked in.
Along about 3:30 p.m. later in the day, though, I began to feel a little sick to my stomach. I don't know if it was the Backyard Burger or the fact that I've been on the road so much lately and my body was telling me to quick eating crap. A couple bottles of water settled my stomach down.
I may try Backyard Burgers again if I run across one. They're OK, but the one I had in Lincoln didn't have me yearning for another one.
(Update - I had another Backyard Burger at a Louisville location. Once again, it was just OK. They really put too much smoke in the burger during the cooking process.)