A bite at the Barnyard is tasty, and that’s no bull


Courtesy of Mikhail Maryakhin

Barnyard in South Burlington, Vermont

Barnyard Wood Crafted Pizza is a Vermont restaurant and bar that specializes in handcrafted pizzas and calzones, sandwiches, and craft beers.

It has two locations – one in South Burlington and the other in Essex Junction – and I recently visited Barnyard for the first time while spending the day in Burlington with my friend.

Upon walking in the doors, my friend and I were greeted by the hostess and immediately led to a booth in the middle of the row that ran along the front wall of the building. We were surprised by how comfortable the seats were; the new-looking leather material covered a generous layer of stuffing that was not immediately compressed upon sitting – instead, the benches stayed rather puffy and comfortable for the entirety of our meal.

The view outside the restaurant was unspectacular, just the road and the other businesses across it, including the Wayside Diner.

Inside the restaurant, however, was a different story.

The floors and parts of the walls and ceiling were covered in a shining hardwood, and there was a great view of the pizza ovens from where we sat. Various interesting objects decorated the dining room, ranging from whimsical comments on the name of the establishment – such as a pink pig seeming to be made out of tin – to quintessentially Vermont items – such as large syrup jugs.

The hostess placed the menus on the table when we arrived and we were given a couple of minutes before being approached by a server with a bubbly personality, who asked what we wanted to drink.

There was a bit of confusion when I asked for a root beer and was told that there were a number of draft beer options, then given a couple of more minutes to peer at the drink menu (she was right – there were quite a few options). My friend and I shared a laugh and a somewhat confused look as we – both under legal drinking age – jokingly looked at the list of alcoholic beverages. In the end, we decided not to push our luck and both ordered a mug of hot chocolate ($3.50 each) when she returned a few minutes later.

The menu listed a number of appetizers such as poutine, hand-cut fries, chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, two kinds of chicken wings, and garlic cheese bread. In addition to the appetizers, there were lists of five different salads, 10 different sandwiches and burgers, five different calzones (including “Create-Your-Own”), six white pizzas, seven specialty pizzas (including “Create-Your-Own”), and seven Barnyard pizzas (i.e. the kinds of pizzas you would find at most pizza places, plus fun new names for a few, like “The Whole Barn” instead of meat-lovers).

My friend and I asked for an order of hand cut fries ($7.99) to start, then ordered the main event – a 16” cheese pizza ($16.99), subsequently settling into our seats as the server took our menus and headed toward the kitchen.

We had noticed a TV screen on the wall beside us soon after we had been seated, and were very content to tilt our heads slightly up to watch Bob Ross create masterpiece after masterpiece while we waited for our food. Though Bob certainly seemed to think his process was very simple, we gawked slightly as we watched him work, glancing down at our own hands every now and again as if to say “No. No, mine don’t do that.”

The server returned to our table about ten minutes later and apologized profusely as she explained that she had forgotten to boil the water for our hot chocolates, also sharing that she had set it up just before returning to the table.
We reassured her that we were in no rush, thanked her for letting us know, and returned to our viewing of the creation of happy little trees as she left our table again.

She brought our drinks to the table about five minutes after that, and our rather sizable basket of fries arrived a few minutes later. With the arrival of the latter, we finally tore our eyes away from the master of “happy little accidents” that really always end up looking quite purposeful, and resumed more continual conversation with each other.

The fries were golden brown and served just slightly hotter than very warm. The outsides of the fries weren’t exactly crisp, though they were considerably more firm than the somewhat fluffy centers. The taste was, overall, very satisfactory, though the texture did feel a bit dry.

My friend ordered some ranch dressing on the side to go with her fries, and she was surprised by how pleasant the flavor was. She had expected run-of-the-mill dressing such as that which you find at your local grocery store, but was instead she encountered a more intense, tangy flavor that seemed to bring her fries to the next level.

The televisions that were set up throughout the restaurant had been muted and while the one situated at the end of our booth displayed Bob Ross, others showed various sports games from soccer to football.

A soft chatter spread throughout the restaurant, so quiet that it was hardly noticeable unless you went silent and really focused on the sounds of the restaurant. This created a sense of peace that made for a very pleasant experience.
It really felt as though my friend and I were alone, despite the four or five families scattered throughout the room.

Before we had even had the opportunity to finish the basket of fries, our server returned to our table, an aromatic pizza with cheese so golden-brown it seemed to glow, held in her hands. With a smile and a genuine-sounding “enjoy!” our server left the table again. My friend and I grinned at each other as we both reached toward the savory treat in front of us. 

The first bite tasted very strongly of herbs that overpowered all other flavors, which was, at first, off putting. Still, the herbs tasted fresh, so I took another bite, and was immediately glad that I did. The taste of herbs still lingered in the background, just present enough to make the rather greasy meal feel somewhat fresh and fool me into thinking that it was healthier than it probably actually was.

A big pile of flavor (courtesy barnyardvt.com)

After the first bite, the taste of the tomatoes in the sauce was allowed to shine through more strongly, and I was able to appreciate the salt of the cheese and the way it complemented the very slight sweetness brought out by the crust which formed the base of the pie.

The crust was not firm enough to hold itself upright, but was just crisp enough to be able to provide a small crunch that contrasted the soft texture of the sauce and cheese rather well.

The cheese itself stretched just a bit with each bite, but not so much that taking a bite caused it to be pulled away from the rest of the slice. The somewhat chewy mozzarella and parmesan were rather salty, and the sauce was not sweet enough to contrast this. Still, the mild flavor of the crust provided just enough balance to prevent one’s lips from puckering at the salty taste.

Overall, I was pleased with the experience that I had at Barnyard Wood Crafted Pizza. While the food wasn’t perfect, it was definitely more than satisfactory, and I really enjoyed it. All of the employees were kind and did their best to make sure that our experience was pleasant and they succeeded.

We left the restaurant with full stomachs and smiles on our faces (and an excuse to spend the day in Burlington – certainly a plus).

The South Burlington location (802-489-5982) is at 1705 Williston Road and is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Essex Junction location (802-662-4883) is at 1 David Drive with the same hours.