A mild case of human smuggling brought The Astronomer and me to Back A Yard in Menlo Park. Our friend Matt, who traveled with us from L.A. to The Bay, needed to meet up with his friends A.J. and Ariel in Mountain View. Rather than drop off Matt at A.J. and Ariel’s place, we decided to meet halfway in Menlo Park for a casual lunch. The impromptu meet-up also provided a fun opportunity to put a face to a food blog—Ariel is the author of This Food is my J.A.M. The more cameras at a meal, the merrier.
According the restaurant’s website, ‘Back A Yard’ is a Caribbean term that encompasses the “lifestyle, culture, spirit, cuisine, and festive mood of welcoming visitors to your home.” Located in a not-so-swank part of The Peninsula, this brightly painted hole-in-the-wall seats just sixteen people. All orders are placed and paid for up front with the cashier. Food is delivered hot from the kitchen soon after.
Mandy Erickson of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, “At Back A Yard, jerk cooking, a marriage of Jamaican spices and African barbecue techniques, is applied to pork, chicken, salmon, steak and tofu. The marinade permeates the meat (or meat substitute), adding complexity of flavor and heat without overwhelming the palate.”
The Astronomer and I shared a Jerk Chicken and Pork Combo ($11.50), which came with rice and beans, fried plantains, a small salad, and a garlicky dipping sauce on the side. The chicken and pork, which were seasoned with allspice, nutmeg, Scotch bonnet peppers, and thyme, were moist, flavorful, and fatty in all the right places. The plantains were nicely caramelized and pleasantly sweet, while the rice and beans took on the same flavor profile as the meats. The food at Back A Yard is straightforward, hearty, and satisfying.
In addition to our jerk platter, we ordered a side of corn festivals ($2.25). These doughnut-like pieces of fried flour and cornmeal were slightly sweet, simultaneously springy yet doughy, and very addictive. They paired perfectly with the jerky meats and savory rice.
Lastly, our table shared a slice of key lime pie ($2.75). The graham cracker crust was crumbly and buttery, while the curd filling delicately balanced sweet and tart.
Back A Yard
1189 Willow Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025