Save Newberry lunch trip for special occasion
By Jon Roosenraad, GLOB Historian
ED NOTE: Dr. Jon Roosenraad is a University of Florida Professor Emeritus of Journalism who loves sports, a good cigar, and the smart economy of a cheap, tasty lunch special.
Rocky Voglio Sr. had a nice restaurant when he owned Rocky’s Ribs in the Oaks Mall Plaza in the 1990s. But like many men, he always thought the best barbeque was what he could cook up in his own backyard. So in 1998, he left the big city of Gainesville and moved west to Newberry and opened Newberry’s Backyard Bar-B-Q and has been doing great ever since.
Newberry began as a mining town after phosphate was discovered in the western part of Alachua County in 1889; and, the town was located along the route of the Savannah, Florida, and Western Railway, that in 1893 was extended southward from High Springs. In 1896 there were fourteen mines operating nearby. With Germany being the mines primary customer before World War II, the war moved the community into the fields, farms and agriculture. Newberry was particularly successful at producing watermelons
For Tea Party GLOBers Newberry holds the distinction of being one of the few debt-free municipalities in the state of Florida, and for levying the lowest tax rates in Alachua County. Newberry also lays claim to ownership of its own fire department, water plant, waste water plant and sanitation department – with savings passed on to its residents. It is one of the few remaining cities that purchases electric power and then resells it.
There is no doubt The Backyard serves tasty BBQ, and it is not uncommon for folks here in town to take a “road trip” to enjoy it. And a road trip it is. The GLOB Master and I took off from downtown and headed west on University Avenue/Newberry Road. Seventeen miles later we landed at the front of the Backyard. So the question is – is it worth the drive?
First off, just about everything is enjoyable. The building is authentic and has the feel of a nice old Southern place. (Although as an aside, having busy State Road 26 as the main street of Newberry is preventing that town from having the same cozy feeling as Alachua or High Springs, for instance.) The menu is extensive – from salads to traditional BBQ to steaks to yummy desserts. Service is friendly and attentive but a little slow; the menu does warn patrons to be patient because “quality is our #1 priority.”
As typical with many BBQ places these days, one could make a meal of the fried starters – ravioli, cheese sticks, mushrooms, green tomatoes, or even pickle chips. But unique to Backyard is the Foot of Onion Rings. Looking like a miniature Christmas tree, these things come in half- or full-foot sizes that contain seven or 14 delicious, one-inch thick rings. Order one immediately when the server (ours was a most pleasant Shelby) takes drink orders. If the food takes a little long in arriving, the rings will hold you over until lunch is served.
Speaking of drinks, any place where the price of a draft beer ($1.99) is less than that of a soft drink or iced tea is all right with me!
The GLOB Master had his standard BBQ order of a pulled pork sandwich with a side of slaw. The slaw was a potato substitute since he already had devoured enough fried food for the day. A plus and a minus considering his preventive heart constitution, or lack of it – the Carolina-based mustard sauce was excellent but, being served on garlic toast instead of straight Texas toast, detracts from the taste of the pork.
I went with the smoked turkey mid-day meal with two sides, one being mac ‘n cheese that was excellent. Enough for dinner, and two dollars less than the dinner selection.
What may be worth the drive, however, is the Newberry Family Feast for Four. It includes four meats, including spare ribs, all the sides and garlic bread and, at $44.99, is a great price to stuff four people!! And it is fun having a huge pile of food placed in front of you like the banquets of old.
So, the answer to your ultimate question. Would we return for lunch based on the quality of food and prices? A definite yes. Would we drive 17 miles from downtown Gainesville just to do that? No. But as a special road trip or to take on the BY BBQ Feast, absolutely!
The Pluses and Minuses of Back Yard B-B-Q
Back Yard BBQ + Indicators: Great choice of meal items, authentic BBQ flavor and atmosphere, prices.
Back Yard BBQ – Indicators: Bread choice for sandwiches, distance to drive.
Latest from Mike S. GLOB Master
Celeste Friday, 16 October 2015 16:24 Comment Link
Rocky hasn't been involved with Backyard BBQ for years (he's at Bev's Burger Cafe in Alachua) and it shows. The food is so luck of the draw now at Backyard BBQ that my family and I don't go there. Maybe they cook it fresh at lunch and it sits around, because after the last two dinners I've eaten there, I've given up.
P.Scully Friday, 27 January 2012 15:33 Comment Link
Very interesting. Thanks for the tour - enjoyable.
Richard Bice Sunday, 22 January 2012 12:20 Comment Link
Speedy, friendly service and great food. Baby back ribs are my favorite. Cole slaw and potato salad are close behind. The atmosphere is informal and the restaurant is easily accessible. The prices are reasonable especially when you get an "all you can eat" special.
Tim Sunday, 22 January 2012 11:58 Comment Link
Good article. Backyard BBQ is a very nice place. We like to go out there for Trivia on Thursday nights. My favorite is combo platter 1 with baby back ribs and sliced pork. They have the best beans around as well.