By Andrea Busche
The Backyard on Amnicon Lake Offers Dining, Camping, Boating, Swimming and More
Summers here in the Northland are short, but very sweet. Everyone who enjoys outdoor activities – both locals and tourists – looks forward to “packing it all in” to take full advantage of camping, hiking, boating and sightseeing. And one great place to enjoy the full gamut of outdoor activities is The Backyard on Amnicon Lake.
Featuring camping, a sandy beach for swimming, boat slips, a bar, restaurant and more, The Backyard is truly a place to enjoy everything that summer in Northwestern Wisconsin has to offer. And the bar and restaurant are open for year-round enjoyment, too, welcoming everyone from children to seniors.
“Our bar and restaurant are appropriate for all ages,” said Amanda Nordby, who co-owns The Backyard with her husband, Chase Nordby. “We pride ourselves on being family-friendly.”
But above all, the proprietors place a high priority on relaxation for their patrons. Their mission is to “Provide guests an escape from the everyday hustle of life in a safe and fun environment.”
“We have been welcomed with open arms. And we are very grateful we get to do this with our family.”
– Co-owner Chase Nordby
“We personally enjoy camping, parks, fishing and Lake Superior,” Chase said. “So building off of that, we asked ourselves what we would like to see when we go camping. And that’s what we offer here.”
The Nordbys purchased The Backyard (formerly known as Amnicon Acres Campground & Bar) on December 31, 2020, after an extensive eight-year search for the perfect property. “We both wanted to own a resort one day,” Amanda explained. “And we also really liked the idea of being our own bosses,” added Chase.
During their search, they scouted properties in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. But this property – located at 4505 East Tri Lakes Road in the town of Summit, Wisconsin, and overlooking Amnicon Lake – was ultimately the perfect fit.
“We found this place online and it had everything we were looking for. It checked all of our boxes on everything from amenities to room for expansion and a great location,” Amanda said.
“It had everything we were looking for. It checked all of our boxes on everything from amenities to room for expansion and a great location.”
– Co-owner Amanda Nordby
Prior to their venture as entrepreneurs, the Nordbys lived in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, where Chase worked as a production manager for Cardinal Glass and Amanda was a district manager for Taco Bell. Amanda has a perfectly fitting education for operating the business; she has a bachelor’s degree in business with a focus on hospitality, tourism and entrepreneurship.
Their three children – Seth, 15, Corbin, 10, and seven-year-old Jazlyn (JJ) – have been a big help with the business, too. Seth and Corbin help their dad maintain the campground, while JJ happily helps her mom in the kitchen. The Nordbys also employ 10 other people who work as cooks, bartenders and servers.
The Backyard is a 48-site campground located on just under 58 acres of land. Currently, 38 of the sites are seasonal, meaning the same people reserve them every year from May 1 to October 1 and leave their campers on-site.
There are also five tent sites and five “transient” (brief stay) sites open to travelers. Electricity is available for all but the tent sites. The Nordby family lives on-site, and The Backyard is also home to five full-time residents who live in mobile homes on the property. The Backyard is pet-friendly, but does require dogs to be leashed.
“Camping at The Backyard is absolutely awesome. It’s peaceful when you want it to be and fun when you want to have fun.”
– Customer Bobby Peterson Sr.
Camping at The Backyard is very popular. “We currently have a waiting list of over 60 people for our seasonal sites,” Chase noted. “And once the first nice weekend hits, we start getting phone calls for our other sites. The Fourth of July is huge here. The Tri Lakes Community Center [with representation from Dowling Lake, Lyman Lake and Amnicon Lake] does a lot. They put on a parade, golf tournament, kayak races and fireworks.”
Under the Nordbys’ leadership, the business is already experiencing rapid growth. They recently received the necessary approvals to add 50-60 more campsites with a tentative opening expected in spring 2023.
The Backyard also has 16 boat slips for patrons to use that are situated across 180 feet of lake frontage. Thirteen slips are reserved exclusively for campers, but a few are always left open for lake boaters who want to stop in for a bite to eat or a beverage. The Nordbys plan to add additional boat slips in the future.
At The Backyard, campers enjoy plenty of amenities. There are coin-operated laundry facilities and a campground store attached to the bar.
The store offers camping-related items, such as toilet paper and septic tank additives, along with merchandise (t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and tank tops) and food items, including condiments, chips, peanuts, ice cream, ice and slushies in the summer. There is also a children’s playground as well as restroom facilities and a locker room-style shower house.
Guests relish everything the property has to offer. Bobby Peterson Sr. currently lives in Roseville, Minnesota, but grew up on Lake Amnicon and went to school in Superior. Peterson is an avid camper and camps at The Backyard along with his brother, Shane, and son, Bobby Jr., all summer long – from April to October.
“Camping at The Backyard is absolutely awesome,” Peterson said. “It’s peaceful when you want it to be and fun when you want to have fun. And the people are like one big family, where everyone knows everyone.
“You feel like the campground is your home away from home, and you want to help with the success of the campground,” he added. “Chase is always there if you need a hand or just need anything at all. And we all try to help him when we can. Amanda makes the bar/restaurant experience a warm and friendly one, and we always look forward to sharing a laugh and seeing her smile.”
The Backyard Bar and Grill Offers Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
The bar and restaurant are located within walking distance of the campground, and can comfortably seat 78 patrons, offering a mix of barstool seating, table seating and a large, 1,200-square-foot deck overlooking Lake Amnicon. A new addition is the pass-through serving window, which provides convenient access for food and beverages to be transported from inside to outside. “That’s my ‘fast-food mind’ for you,” noted Amanda with a laugh, noting her prior Taco Bell management experience.
“The décor is kind of like a lake cabin and it’s really homey. It’s a welcoming environment.”
– Bartender/server Jennie Kromrey
Bartender/server Jennie Kromrey explained a bit about the setting: “We get lots of campers, but it’s a really a good community bar, too. There are four TVs, a pool table and a dartboard. The décor is kind of like a lake cabin and it’s really homey. It’s a welcoming environment.” The Backyard also offers karaoke, pull tabs and slot machines.
When the Nordbys first purchased the property, pizza was the only menu item available. They still offer pizzas (made with the same original recipe), but now The Backyard Bar and Grill has a greatly expanded menu. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, including breakfast skillets, waffles, breakfast pizza, appetizers, burgers, wraps, hoagies, salads, a Friday night fish fry and more.
Some of the most popular menu items include the Jammin’ Jalapeno Burger (featuring mango habanero jam, cream cheese, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and bacon) and the Loaded Baked Potato Pizza (which has garlic butter sauce, hash browns, bacon, cheddar cheese, Top the Tater and chives).
Beverage choices abound, including domestic beers, local and
regional beers (such as brews from Superior-based Earth Rider Brewery, Duluth-based Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and many more), seltzers,
cocktails and wine. Proprietary cocktails include the Chasin’ Sunset (strawberry vodka, orange juice and grenadine) and the Honey Hole, featuring Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey mixed with cream soda.
Rick Raymond and his wife, Sandi, live just a block or so from The Backyard and visit often. “We go there several times a month, either just the two of us for a dinner, or we meet several of our friends from around the lake for cocktails,” he said. “We love the atmosphere and also love the food. Chase and Amanda are simply awesome bar openers with a lot of energy.”
Raymond’s favorite menu items are “The Works” and “Suz Favorite” pizzas, the chicken strips and the chicken wings.
“It’s located just a short drive from Superior and Duluth – It’s a hidden gem out on Lake Amnicon. Between the friendliness and great food, you’ll be back.”
– Customer Rick Raymond
“Stop on by and check this place out,” he said. “It’s located just a short drive from Superior and Duluth – it’s a hidden gem out on Lake Amnicon. Between the friendliness and great food, you’ll be back to try other menu items. I am so happy the Nordbys came to our area and look forward to watching them grow in the years to come. Their entire family, including their kids, are a perfect fit in our little community.”
The Backyard Bar and Grill is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from
9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The business is closed on Mondays.
But these hours are flexible. “We will stay open and serve food and drinks later than our posted hours if people are still here,” Amanda said. “We can legally be open until 2:15 a.m. on weekends.” Online ordering and takeout are also available.
“The Community Has Been Amazing”
The Nordbys emphasized that the relationships they’ve built and nurtured – including those with patrons and within their own family – have been a highlight of running their own business. “The most rewarding thing has been the relationships we are building in the community,” Amanda said.
“The community has been amazing,” Chase added. “We have been welcomed with open arms. And we are very grateful we get to do this with our family. This work allows us to spend more time with our kids.” PS
Andrea Busche is a Twin Ports-based freelance writer.