The Dish is a multimedia food review segment co-produced by Will Davis and Carter Horan. Each week, they will travel to a North Shore restaurant to try, discuss, and evaluate the eats on in and around Lake Forest.
Located in downtown Highland Park, Backyard Grill is one of the more unknown secrets in the area. Most diners in Highland Park tend to go to popular places they have heard of before like Michael’s, Real Urban Barbecue, Walker Brothers, or even Once Upon a Bagel. Even with this being true, we still were begged by classmates to go give Backyard Grill a chance. These peers raved about the portion sizes, homemade gyro meat, burgers and onion rings. In addition, many different Yelpers rated Backyard Grill as the #5 restaurant in all of Highland Park. Various residents expressed gratitude and excitement over the fast and casual atmosphere of the restaurant, the spacious eating area of Backyard Grill, and, of course, the food. Hungry and prepared, we showed up hoping to find a new hidden gem in Highland Park’s downtown.
Our total price for the food came out to just about $29. This included a gyro topped with tomatoes and tzatziki sauce, a “BYG” burger (bacon, cheese and grilled onions), a side of onion rings, a side of fries, cheese sauce and two drinks. Overall, a very fair price considering the amount of food we ordered and the healthy portion sizes that we received. In comparison to other similar restaurants like Michael’s, Backyard Grill was cheaper. A burger at Michael’s with bacon and cheese would eventually come out to be just around $8.60 whereas a burger with bacon, cheese and grilled onions at Backyard Grill cost just $8.50. In addition, from our experience we determined that Backyard Grill’s portion sizes were bigger than Michael’s. Backyard Grill was pretty above average when it came to portion sizes and price when compared to similar restaurants in the area which helped in giving it such a high rating.
Backyard Grill is located in downtown Highland Park near Real Urban Barbecue, a restaurant we visited just eight weeks ago. In a highly competitive area, Backyard Grill held its own with a good sized crowd at 7:30 pm on a Monday night. The joint features a giant, electronic menu that draws attention to customers as soon as they enter. The feel of the restaurant is much more modern than the classic styles of Tony’s Subs and Dogout. This is due to the style of the menu, and the advanced “Coca-Cola Freestyle” soda machine that offers over 100 different flavored drinks. With their seating option, Backyard Grill has a second room during their busiest hours for additional accommodation. A surprisingly nice touch was the Christmas lights that lined the counter, bringing a nice flair to the restaurant even though it was still November. The tables and floors were clean and tidy since employees were getting ready to close the restaurant for the night. Overall, Backyard Grill was maintained well, and we had no complaints besides the tough scout for parking in downtown Highland Park.
Food Quality: 8.5/10
Far and away, the food quality at Backyard Grill was its best feature. The gyro meat was delectably juicy, and the tzatziki sauce was almost comparable to the unbelievable sauce we received at Dogout. The burger was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and was complemented flawlessly with caramelized onions, melted cheddar cheese, and smoky bacon. In addition to our main entrees, we ordered sides of onion rings and fries. We were very pleased and impressed with the size of the rings. They were exceptionally crispy and the thickness of the onions within the ring was perfect. This side dish definitely trumped that of the fries. The fry texture was quality but it was lacking the extra pinch of salt that would of really given them much needed flavor. Fortunately, this was the only flaw we found in the food that we ordered. The cheese sauce was also very sound, and was similar to the gooey, creamy cheese sauce that Michael’s serves. In total, the food was astounding and we genuinely enjoyed our trip to Backyard Grill.
The level of care and hospitality we received at Backyard Grill was extremely mediocre. Ordering our food was quick and easy, but the employees lacked the enthusiasm and generosity you expect from a high quality restaurant. We walked around with a giant camera and it isn’t exactly what restaurants expect from the normal customer. We could tell they felt uncomfortable with it around, even after being granted their permission to film. Our food took just a short 7 minutes to be prepared and came out extremely fresh and delectable. From then on, a worker approached us once while we finished up our meal, offering to collect our dishes and ending our experience on a high note.