The moment you step into Back A Yard, you are greeted by vibrant paintings of the Caribbean, staff’s smiling faces, and Jamaican music echoing from all corners of the building. This is one of the most underrated, yet fantastic restaurants in Menlo Park, bringing Jamaican flavor and community to the Bay Area. The restaurant is located on 1189 Willow Road, Menlo Park. According to their website, Back A Yard is a common phrase in the Caribbean that represents the lifestyle, culture, spirit, food and the vibe of welcoming visitors to your home. Simply meaning, the way things are done Back Home, in Jamaica.
Jamaican landscape paintings on the walls of Back A Yard.
Back A Yard has been open for 15 years, under the leadership of its original owner, Chef Robert Simpson.
Staff member, Silvia Trujillo, said that the Menlo Park location is “our first one, our smallest one, and it’s our busiest one.” Back A Yard has four other locations in the Bay Area.
My family and I tried many of the items on the menu, and were very impressed by the strong flavors and diverse options.
Our favorites include the Jerk Pork and Beef Oxtail Combo, Jerk Chicken, Jerk Salmon and Mixed Green Salad, and the Vegetarian Jerk Tofu Salad.
The Jerk Pork is flavorful, but fatty, and the beef oxtail is tender and easily falls off the bone. The Jerk Chicken is a solid option that still has the same flavor as the others and the meat is leaner. A lighter option with fish and great flavor is the Jerk Salmon and Mixed Green Salad, and an option without any meat that is also delicious is the Vegetarian Jerk Tofu Salad. Trujillo also said that in addition to these items, “the Curry Goat is very popular.”
Jerk Salmon and Mixed Green Salad
Jerk Pork and Beef Oxtail Combo
Vegetarian Jerk Tofu Salad
Sides that come with the combos are the rice and beans, which have a hint of coconut flavor and complement the Jerk seasoning really well. For reference, Jerk seasoning blend is a fusion of common herbs and spices, as well as hotch bonnet peppers. Moreover, the fried plantains are a must- I recommend getting extra on the side if you aren’t getting a combo.
The cornbread is fluffy, and the texture has even more depth because of the added corn pieces in the mix. For a side of vegetables, the collard greens are a great option because of its distinct, tangy flavor.
As for drinks, the two that stuck out to me the most and certainly delivered were the authentic Jamaican pineapple soda and the freshly made Mango-Passionfruit juice. Keep in mind, however, that both of these beverages are very sweet, which in turn aids the heat from the Jerk seasoning.
An anonymous customer said, “I haven’t been here in a while, but if they had a pop-up in downtown Menlo Park, I’d eat here every week.” She added that she “probably recommended this place to 50 people.”
Another important thing to note is that due to COVID-19, they don’t have a lot of room for dine-in eating, so getting take-out is generally more accessible.
She said that she usually gets “the pork and chicken jerk combo, and the sweet potato coconut pudding for dessert. The greens are good, the mac and cheese is good, the combo with the sides is two meals, which can be helpful to have in my house.”
Back A Yard is a hidden gem of East Menlo Park. Although it has been around for a while, it needs more attention from our community!