Ben Allen’s back. This time, the local country singer who reaped national recognition from performing on “The Voice” TV show can take the stage at his own place.
Ben Allen’s Backyard Grill & Pub is replacing the Brooks Burgers location in Freedom Square, 12655 Tamiami Trail E., in East Naples. The joint venture, targeted to launch the last weekend in June, pairs local restaurateur Todd Brooks with Ben Allen in a collaboration focusing on live music events, a full bar and comfort food. The new destination’s grand opening will be highlighted by a performance from the Ben Allen Band, of course, which will perform there on a regular basis.
“I wanted to create not only a restaurant but a venue where local musicians can find a home,” Allen says. “It feels like going back to my roots. I stepped on a stage for the first time ever in a small venue like Ben Allen’s Backyard. We will provide a stage where artists perform close to the audience, play shows, learn what people want to hear and learn how to entertain. I want Ben Allen’s Backyard to be a place where people can go to experience the magic of that.”
Expect live music Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and some Sundays. In addition to live music and sporting events on TV, nightlife will include karaoke, cornhole tournaments, indoor and outdoor billiards, a possible comedy night and industry nights for hospitality employees.
The southernmost location of Brooks Burgers closed June 1 to transform the restaurant into Ben Allen’s Backyard, just as Brooks created a burger joint in 2018 from the former longtime China Buffet in that 4,000-square-foot endcap unit in the Publix-anchored center where U.S. 41 East meets Collier Boulevard.
The airplane décor of Brooks Burgers is being replaced with a more rockin’ rustic look. The walls will feature album covers, murals, neon lights and more than 20 TV screens. “It should have a really cool feel,” says Brooks, noting that a small stage has been built inside and the bar has been expanded.
“We added 16 more taps. We used to only have eight,” Brooks says. “And we just redid the whole kitchen because instead of doing just burgers we’ve got a sauté station, a grill station and all that.”
In addition to tripling the beers on tap, the new place will have a couple of drinks named after Ben Allen, as well as some additional libations. “We’re going to have a bunch of different bourbons and whiskeys,” Brooks says. “We’re not going to be a whiskey bar but we’ll have more than normal.”
The new restaurant will retain a half dozen of the most popular Brooks Burgers but they will kind of play second fiddle to the rest of the menu. It includes mix-and-match kebabs, finger foods, killer nachos, pizza, smoked brisket, prime rib, blackened steak tips, chicken pot pie with biscuits, and country fried steak and chicken with roasted poblano and sausage gravy. Jiffy Pop popcorn with a house-made bourbon butter sauce will provide a surprise element.
“The Jiffy Pop popcorn is going to be a blast. We are going to do that tableside and make the sauce tableside,” Brooks said. “We have some kind of cool, fun stuff going on that’s not crazy but a little different than the rest of Naples.”
That’s where the backyard comes in. Look for a 10-foot-tall steel sculpture of a guitar out back. It will be near a portable stage with lighting effects for outdoor shows and a 10-by-6-foot TV screen on a trailer to watch sporting events. An outdoor bar and pool table also are in the backyard. From a new front patio to the backyard, the venue will have more than 225 seats.