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.

the house burger // photo by david kovaluk

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 frito bandito // photo by david kovaluk

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.