Review: The B-Side on Cherokee Street
The B-Side on Cherokee Street invites you to order a pitcher of beer and offer yourself to the whims of the night. It’s refreshingly simple, delightfully unpretentious and casually intimate – in other words, almost a dive bar but not so rough that you need to fumigate your entire person upon leaving.
With only one beer on tap – Stag – and a food menu consisting of exactly four dirt-cheap items, this place is gloriously unconcerned with the trendy. It’s like that friend who doesn’t give a shit if you like him, which somehow makes you adore him even more. If Stag just won’t cut it for you, a small selection of bottled and canned beers is available, and there’s a full bar. It could depend on who’s working, since there’s no cocktail menu, but the bartenders turned out perfectly respectable drinks on my visits.
The B-Side has only been open since late 2016 but feels comfortably broken in. A red neon B lends a retro glow to the small space, which is decorated with a kitschy assortment of artwork and old-school miscellany like a cigarette machine and a mysterious bass propped up against the ATM (for the cash-only bar). A few arcade games line one wall, providing cheap entertainment and an invitation to stretch the night a bit longer.
On warmer evenings, the door is propped open, letting the city sounds of Cherokee Street waft in gently. The back patio feels like a South City backyard with a fire pit, string lights and an assortment of chairs. Music – at just the right volume to inject a buzzy energy – propels the night forward with an eclectic mix of everything from hip-hop to blues to psychedelic rock.
The thick wooden bar offers plenty of space for a diverse cast of characters – some burrowing down for a long night, others running in for a bag of burgers and a quick chat with the jovial bartender. As evidenced by the couple heavily making out at the bar one night I was there, people clearly make themselves at home. You’ll find hip urbanites, college kids, washed-up rockers and impossibly cool biker types. It’s never so crowded you feel smothered but never so empty you feel like you’re drinking alone.
The food here may be the opposite of the small-plates, vegetable-forward cuisine du jour, but damn does it taste good after a cold Stag – especially since everything is less than $5. The house burger is a juicy patty with comeback sauce, American cheese and grilled onions stacked between a soft sesame seed bun. The vegan chili – smart move to offer a meat-free option – is surprisingly rich and complex. The Frito Bandito combines the chili and a chopped burger with a glorious mess of Fritos, Stag-marinated onions, jalapenos and comeback sauce.
A small caveat for those who prefer more refined watering holes: There may be some aspects of The B-Side you won’t find so appealing. A few of the chairs were broken, and I think the manager swiped my cocktail (the Hanky Panky: a sultry concoction of gin, sweet vermouth and Fernet-Branca recommended by the bartender) before it was delivered to me one night, which meant a longer wait. I didn’t mind a bit – it’s all part of the divey charm – but some might. Frankly, The B-Side doesn’t care. It knows its tribe, and I hope it never changes.
Stephanie Zeilenga is a contributor and food critic for Sauce Magazine.
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