The ambigous name “Yard” can lead to a fair amount of speculation. Does the name refer to the grand old ball yard just up the block? The half-yard glasses that some taps are served in? The unique backyard patio? Or maybe “yard” simply refers to the relative size of the bar itself. Whatever the meaning, the cozy confines of Yard offer an interesting outdoor space, excellent beer selection, a haven for Illini fans and a moderate change of pace from the usual Wrigleyville wackiness.
Brought to you by the folks behind Underground Lounge around the corner, you’ll find Yard in the space formerly occupied by the beloved Pepper Lounge, wedged between upscale sports bar Dark Horse Tap and, dive extraordinaire, Nisei Lounge. Beneath large gold-lettered signage, a tiny three-table sidewalk café sits in front of the over-sized hinged front windows that occupy virtually the entire façade in what takes up half of the first floor of a three-story brownstone.
A look inside the one-room tavern reveals a small space that is pleasantly understated compared to many neighboring watering holes, which seem to think that having memorabilia plastered on every square inch of wall space somehow increases their sports bar cred. My favorite interior feature is the classy beer board behind the bar which clearly lists the available brews, their country of origin and, most helpfully, their alcohol content. Otherwise, dark wood and exposed bricks are the dominant design elements, with a few Fighting Illini banners adding to the mix. Exposed ducts hang beneath the raised ceiling, which acts to keep the space from feeling as cramped as it might otherwise be. There are a few cocktail tables just inside the window and a leather banquette running along the southern wall. Add the smallish bar to the mix and Yard can comfortably seat 40, maybe—if you scooch over a little bit. As measured in Wrigleyville terms, there are “only” five flatpanels spread around the room, but if you’re looking to watch a game, there’s really not a bad seat in the house. My only complaint about the interior is the annoying video advertising screen just above the front windows that simply needs to go.
The rear beer garden is, or will be, Yard’s featured attraction. Soon to be a covered year-round space with its own service bar, the space features three 10’x10′ converted horse stalls, which are used as cabanas for groups up to a dozen. Once finished, the beer garden will be a major draw for Yard besides their excellent beer selection.
Yard proves that a bar doesn’t need a beer list a yard long to have everything a beer lover could want. Bud and Miller products are pretty much a requirement for opening a bar in the area, so you’ll certainly find those on hand, but Yard goes a step or two beyond for those who like the taste of actual beer in their beer. Of the 40-45 selections, 15 are on tap with the rest available in bottles and over-sized cans, including some lesser seen entrants like Fin du Monde and Beamish Stout. Prices can run from reasonable to “that much for a beer?”, but any cost issues are solved on Wednesdays when every beer $6 or less is available for $3 and anything over $6 is 25% off. Never tried a Delirium Tremens? Now’s your chance. Yard does have a full bar menu of the usual suspects and $0.30 wings are the draw on Thursday night.
Service was both friendly and attentive, with the bartender actively working both sides of the bar and earning every penny of her tips. The vibe inside Yard seems more laid-back than at the majority of Wrigleyville haunts, where you’ll frequently find groups celebrating someone’s 21st birthday by acting like they’re 11. While this may change on Cubs game days, it was refreshing to walk into somewhere in the area and not be assaulted by the 20-year-old sounds of C&C Music Factory.
If you’re looking for an intimate spot to try some craft beer or a place to watch a U of I game surrounded by fellow ILL-INI fans, Yard is definitely worth a look. If you like Yard, you might want to track down Mickey’s (Lincoln Park), nearby Rebel Bar & Grill or maybe Small Bar on Division. If you need more information, give Yard a call, because I’ll be damned if I could find a website on “The Google”. Cheers.