Sidecar: Beer, Burger, Bar

The previous post was also about Sidecar, but last night, we actually ate there. You’ll recall (or scroll down to see) that they are ‘closed Mondays.’ We arrived a little early last night, after rescheduling our plans with dear friends Emily & Orson, so the Gourmand and I sat down at the bar and had a great conversation with Philip the bartender. As Philip and I were comparing medical notes (I’d had a slightly traumatizing experience at the otolaryngologist earlier in the day) I see over his shoulder in big, rainbow-chalk letters: “Gumbo Mondays!”

Huh? I asked Philip what the deal with Monday nights is. He said its Gumbo night and I said “according to your voicemail, you guys are CLOSED on Mondays!” Philip, a comment on his banter and equally matched sarcasm sparring, replied that I’d listened to the old recording and therefore the wrong recording. Coming from lots of people I’d be annoyed by this response, however there is something in the laid-back charm of the place that I actually thought it was a funny response. After all, I was there, enjoying a beer in an ice cold glass pulled from the fridge, and truly, what more could I have asked for at that point? I’m not even sure I like gumbo.

Sitting at the bar, I drank a pint of Captain Lawrence Pale Ale. The story, as told by Philip, was that a brewer at Sierra Nevada splintered from that company to start his own brewery, creating a smoother, cleaner version of Sierra Nevada fame. Success! The beer was perfect: refreshingly bitter – like the bartender’s banter. The Gourmand had an Old Pal, mixed of bourbon, dry vermouth and Campari. It was an exceptionally manly pink drink, served in a dainty, stemmed cocktail glass. All he needed was a monocle and a pinky ring.

When Emily & Orson arrived, we took a table. The Gourmand and I had already decided to combine forces and order two sandwiches from the menu and ask the chef to cut them in half. In many restaurants, this request is met with a “what? are you on a diet?” shaped raised eyebrow. At Sidecar, the waiter/part-owner said “That’s the best way to do it!” Big points for that!

The food is prepared in an open kitchen, behind a second bar, where you can order oysters and the rest of the menu á la carte. The chef, the other part-owner and our waiter’s brother, prepared for us a cheeseburger cooked a perfect medium with melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato and red onion paired with salty, crispy shoestring french fries. I say this with the highest compliments: THIS is the burger that McDonald’s aspires to recreate. There were minimal spices added to the ground meat, which was grassfed, making a huge impact on the resulting taste and texture. The outside was charred and salty, the middle bright pink. Here’s my favorite part: unlike most restaurant burgers one bites into, I wasn’t greeted with fat running down my wrists. I know many a burger aficionado refers to this as “juice.” I think of it as grease and the absence of it pooling on my plate allowed me to put Sidecar’s burger down between bites and savor the experience, without worrying that my roll would turn grey and soggy and therefore forcing me to eat my meal in one take.

The other half of sandwich I enjoyed was a Vietnemese Bahn-De. Spicy ground pork on a ciabatta roll, which truthfully I wish had been just a bit crunchy on top. It was soft, though, and spread with mayonnaise and topped with cilantro, like it was lettuce and shredded carrots. Served with a shot of cucumber juice and a beet cut into sticks, we dunked and drank the green juice and were told by the waiter that if we’d ordered our sandwich ‘spicy,’ we’d have needed the shot to cool the heat. Next time, I will take him on the challenge.

Actually, next time, I think I’ll try the oyster bar and the buttermilk fried chicken. Maybe tonight…

  • Bill Hauser

    Hi Mark: 4/13
    Aaron is now waitering at a new place in Village Gate, Gate House Cafe. They have great burgers, including some Kobe Beef, gourmet pizzas, and interesting salads. They also have a fine beer and wine list including Mad Hatter #9 on tap. If you ever come this way, it is worth a visit. It is where Salena’s used to be located and it is now closer to Goodman in a larger space.
    Cheers, Billo