There's a bar in my past that I still miss.
The Office Lounge was a neighborhood bar in a college town, tucked away from the rows of student haunts. Dimly lit, full of adults sipping highballs, it was home to friends having conversations, a few affairs and people needing a three-hour pass from the world outside. It was a classic bar. Not a pub, tavern or club but a bar.
A fire, followed by time, made it a forgotten place. It surfaced in my memory while I was sitting in the B-Side Lounge in Carrboro on a recent night. The B-Side is superior—better beers, nicer décor and much grander food (the most popular menu item at The Office was free popcorn)—but it has the same comfortable bar vibe that makes a drinker feel at home upon entering, especially if you go midweek.
Located around the corner from Venable Bistro, with which it shares a kitchen, B-Side is tucked away like the best hangout spots often are. Inside, you won't find bright neon or some perky, trendy color scheme. Wood and brick make up the interior. Virtually the only shiny object to be found is the metallic row of tap handles on the wall behind the bar. Written by hand on the surface above the tap are each tap's offerings. The three on the left dispense wine. The five or so to the right are for beer.
The place is small, intimate. A group of four chat at one table. Three other people sit a table or two away. Three guys talk at the corner of the bar. At the end of the bar a guy sits alone, sipping a beer, texting on his phone. The woman behind the bar serves them all, coming around to check on the tables, ferrying food from the kitchen, pouring drinks. She's welcoming, friendly. A trip to one of the tables turns into an extended conversation. She offers an enthusiastic "Good choice!" after a food order. She smiles with sincere pride after a compliment to the bar's music playlist.
It was a playlist that deserved compliments. That night it consisted of deep R&B, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band doing the best Nirvana cover you've ever heard ("Stay Away"), timeless soul and "Superfly."
That would be sufficient reason to hang out at B-Side, but the bar has more than vibe to recommend it. Along with the aforementioned handful of wines and beers on tap there is a robust selection of bottled beer. It includes such options as Left Hand's Milk Stout Nitro and Polestar Pilsner, Great Lakes' Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Southern Teir's 2X IPA and, if you want to splurge, the $27 Dogfish Head Red and White, which is 750 ml of Belgian wheat fermented in Pinot Noir and aged in oak tanks. There is a reasonably lengthy list of wines by the bottle as well with such labels as Arcadian, Joseph Drouhin, Barrel 27, Bodan Roan and Elk Cove represented. Being a proper bar, there are also, of course, cocktails available.
B-Side may share a kitchen with Venable, but its menu is different, focusing on a small and intriguing group of small plates. Ceviche with house made chips; dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon; Indian curried squash and chickpeas with naan; and a salami and cheese selection with house-pickled veggies all elevate the menu beyond typical barroom fare. A particular standout was the grilled flatbread. It arrives covered in arugula, prosciutto, Sotto-Cenere truffle cheese and fig jam, which proved to be a stimulating combination. (Although I confess that as I began to feel full, a few ingredients were pushed to the side and I finished with just the fig jam rolled up inside bites of the flatbread.)
The space is small, and can take on a different personality when crowded, but for my money, the B-Side Lounge is on the A-List when you want a quality evening of comfortable imbibing.
INDY. For more on the Triangle food scene, follow @IndyWeekFood on Twitter.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Nothing secondary about B-Side"