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The SCENE Magazine

The Backyard Seabrook: Comfort Food Reimagined

Feb 01, 2019 10:07AM

A hot new addition has arrived in the Bay Area, bringing a bevy of innovative meals, a warm atmosphere, and a fine-tuned craft beer and wine list to go with it!

The buzz is all about The Backyard, and original doesn’t even begin to describe the eclectic journey guests can explore during their visit, a team effort from owner Jared Klein, General Manager Zach Anders, and Chef Erik Janszen.

“I actually came out here from California a few years ago with the idea that I wanted to open my own place, and I began working with (local restaurant) NOBI as a server, really learning about what people wanted, and had a whole education on craft beer,” said Brooklyn-born Klein. “It was really like going back to college,” he said. As it so happened, the restaurant Merlion on 4th in Seabrook was planning their relocation and expansion, and the pieces began to fall into place for what is now The Backyard.

“I fell in love with the location, and decided after my visit there that it had to be the future location of my place. [Merlion’s] relocation over the next several months gave me time to find my team and concept. My chef Erik was essential for this. One of the main concepts is mac ‘n cheese, but it didn’t stop there,” he said, noting the Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup with grilled chicken, coconut milk, chili oil and grilled lime), Arbol Corn Chowder (with cheddar and cotija cheeses, chipotle pepper and cilantro), and panko-crusted avocado bites which are now regular items on the menu.  “The menu isn’t extensive, because we didn’t want to overdo it—but everything I tasted that Erik created, I was just blown away. There is really something for everyone on this menu,” he said.

And who doesn’t love mac ‘n cheese? The more than 100 different recipes (customizable macs using the in-house ingredients, beyond what is featured on the menu) and twists of the classic remain the big, shining stars of The Backyard.

“Our Viet Mac [white cheddar, mozzarella cheeses, fresh ginger, basil, and marinated flank steak] is one of our most popular macs. Erik is a big fan of Phở, and he took all of those ingredients and flavors and created this incredible mac ‘n cheese,” Klein said, noting that the NOLA mac (white cheddar, mozzarella cheeses, andouille sausage, jumbo gulf shrimp, and red bell peppers) has also been incredibly popular, along with the Elote Mac (a blend of cheddar, cojita, grilled corn, and smoked paprika, topped with fresh cilantro, avocado slices and valentina crema)—one which was originally intended as a special mac that is about to become a regular menu item based on its rave reviews. 

The glowing feedback from guests extend to other delicious dishes as well!

“The response has been incredible, on social media, food review apps, everywhere. Our wings—and I’m a big fan of wings, so I was adamant about getting that perfect crunch, and great flavor—have gotten some great reviews as well. I had one guest tell me that they must have had over 10,000 wings in their life, and these are some of the best they have ever had,” Klein said, referring to the Hot Honey Garlic Wings, sauced in spiced honey, garlic and gochujang (spicy Korean pepper sauce). Other standouts include the Saigon Steak Tacos (grilled flank steak, pico de gallo, cabbage, Sriracha crema, and grilled lime), and the Korean Pork Cracklins (crispy pork belly, deep-fried and tossed in Korean spices with hot honey sauce).

And as if the innovative twists on mac ‘n cheese and variety of creative dishes weren’t enough, The Backyard offers a finely-tuned wine list and a rotating craft brew menu, showcasing some of the newest and best Texas has to offer—something with a fun future ahead!

“Be on the lookout soon for mac ‘n cheese flights that we will be pairing with beer flights as well,” Klein said.  Future offerings will even include rolling out a brunch menu, sandwich specials, and further twists on mac ‘n cheese, because as Klein points out, “The possibilities are endless! There’s just so much you can do with it!”

 Great food and drinks with a twist—what’s more to love? How about a perfect, cozy atmosphere both inside and out where everything can be enjoyed as well?

“So my parents were visiting for our Grand Opening [on January 19], and during their time here they showed me some videos of me, as a kid really enjoying food,” Klein laughed. “We had a butcher-block table in the house, and our custom tables reflect that as well. There’s really nothing better than a meal shared with family, conversation, and laughing. I wanted a place that felt like home. I had a vision, and I wanted our backyard to feel like they’re in their own backyard,” he said, adding that the large open patio, complete with a fire pit, games, picnic tables, and soft lighting is also a great place to reserve for upcoming events, and a beautiful space for occasions such as wedding receptions. “We also love giving back, so keep us in mind for future events and fundraisers, as well,” he added, noting that this homey atmosphere and “chill vibe,” as Klein describes it, will also include live acoustic music on a regular basis once warmer weather rolls around.

100-plus recipes of mac ‘n cheese, plus all of this? It’s 100 and more reasons to come and visit The Backyard!

“We are just so excited to be here, be in Seabrook and meet new people and see new faces. It really feels like a family already. Come in, come say hi, come get to know us! We look forward to seeing you in our Backyard!” said Jared.

The Backyard is located at 1301 4th St. in Seabrook (formerly Merlion’s on 4th location). Visit thebackyardseabrook.com or keep up with weekly specials and more on Facebook (The Backyard Seabrook). So grab the whole family, enjoy a comfort food classic with a twist (and perhaps a new Texas craft brew or two)! Make sure to tell them The SCENE sent you! 

By Sarah Piña