By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Sep 25, 2020 at 7:01 PM

Looking for Milwaukee patios and outdoor places where you feel safe and relaxed? We are too – so here's our new series, Patio Picks, where we share our personal experiences at local patios and bars that are doing comfort during COVID right.

Tired of your own backyard? Why not pop over The Backyard, an easy-going open-air escape on Bay View's main drag that's both pleasant and a party in the same space – all while pandemic patio-approved. 

Even before outdoors options became just about our only oases, The Backyard – found at 2155 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. – served as a hidden-in-plain-sight gem of a neighborhood locale to soak in some drinks while also enjoying some gorgeous weather. Sure, there was the cozy bar space inside (which is also open now, with masks and distancing required), but the spot's not called The Indoors. It's called The Backyard – and its titular feature was already indeed impressive, featuring a large beer garden-esque gathering space witth a small paved patio around a firepit and outdoor bar, bag toss courts, a large projection screen blasting movies and skate videos, and a row of grills open to the public for those hungry to cook up their own tasty soaker pads. 

The Backyard, however, took advantage of the early pandemic shutdown to make its featured element even more of a standout with a new container bar set-up.

The grills, bag toss courts and big screen all survived the transition, as well as the bar's menu of seltzers, mixed drinks and canned brews, all working people's prices. (During a recent afternoon visit, two Hamm's tallboys were $3.) Gone, however, is the firepit, now replaced with three new customized container spaces: one for a new outdoor bar (complete with a bonus TV inside), one covering a long activity table with The Backyard's jumbo Connect Four and space for other games, and one further back toward the screen available for private rentals.

The new layout renovates and fortifies certain elements, such as the new outdoor bar, and helps weather-proof itself while both opening and organizing its crowd a little better with spaced seating scattered throughout (slightly limited now with the pandemic, of course). And speaking of 2020 safety precautions, masks are also required for entry and when away from your table or ordering drinks at the outdoor bar, which also no longer offers seating.

What hasn't changed, though, is what's most important for a neighborhood bar: a comfortable, conversational vibe that's so relaxed that it feels as though you truly are just at a party in a friend's backyard, lively without becoming ludicrous, bustling but rarely overly busy. Basically, it feels like a night at the bar from back in the days when there was such a thing as a normal night at the bar. 

The Backyard is still food-friendly, so if you're feeling peckish after pounding a few back and you didn't bring any burgers or brats to grill up, you can bring in takeout orders from one of the many, many tasty spots just down the block in downtown Bay View. It's still dog-friendly, allowing pooch-owners to bring their pets over to the bar for a breathe of fresh air (and maybe a sip of your brew if you have a literal boozehound). It's still events-friendly. On Sundays over the past month, the bar's teamed up with FM 102/1 and La Crosse Distilling Company for drag queen bingo and B-movie nights, featuring outdoor games and screenings of cult hits like "Reefer Madness" and "Plan 9 from Outer Space." The Backyard's also hosted some distanced live music and DJ performances to create a fun, energetic atmosphere like in the past but without the packed crowds. 

And, in particular, The Backyard is sports-friendly. I've personally used The Backyard's wide open space as my local sports bar during these unconventional 2020 seasons, as thanks to its two outdoor TVs – small but visible from most tables with a solid sound system – the Bay View bar is one of the few places in Milwaukee where a fan can still watch a game with people in a safe, outdoor setting while the more typical indoor sports bar options can feel like touchy territory. I was feeling a lot of ... unpleasant feelings during the recent Bucks-Heat playoff series, but when I watched the games at The Backyard, unsafe was never one of those them.

And above all, The Backyard is still just plain friendly, a nice neighborhood bar even if you don't feel like stepping foot into an actual bar quite yet.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.