By almost any measure — size of space, scope of menu — the forthcoming restaurant next to the Red Apron outlet in Merrifield won't compare to the sensual, meat-centric smorgasbord known as the Partisan, the first full-service eatery connected to Nathan Anda's small chain of sandwich and butcher shops. Perhaps this explains why the Neighborhood Restaurant Group is calling its new place the B Side?
If you'll recall, NRG co-owner Michael Babin originally considered the B Side moniker for the restaurant aligned with the Red Apron on D Street NW, where the Partisan now offers a roasted pig's head, double-cut pork chops and a bone-in ribeye large enough to feed a pack of hungry mongrels. Babin liked the word play: B Side would suggest the restaurant's complementary role to Red Apron, while paying homage to Babin's own love of record collecting. But the owner ultimately rejected the name, opting instead for the Partisan. He figured millennials, a generation weaned on digital music, not vinyl, wouldn't appreciate the resonance of the term.
So why the reversal for the 840-square-foot Mosaic District restaurant?
"Nate is a huge music fan and references to that have been part of Red Apron from the beginning," Babin offered in an e-mail statement. "People who listen to vinyl 45s know that some of the coolest, rarest songs can only be found on the B Sides, and we thought — with all of the great offerings we were packing into this tiny space, and with the relationship of the place to its next door neighbor — the B Side was the perfect name."
Like those old 45 singles, the B Side will have its own personality, similar to but separate from its well-regarded sibling, the Partisan. The 50-seat B Side will be more of a bar, with beer, wine and cocktail lists drawn up by NRG's trio of liquid savants: Greg Engert, Brent Kroll and Jeff Faile. It will also have a more concise menu, about 10 to 12 items, along with a rotating nightly special.
Among the items Anda has planned for B Side is its own designer burger, a riff on the triple-stacked beauty at the Partisan. The B Side's version will feature two small, dry-aged patties, just like the Partisan's burger, but will replace the chorizo, bacon-braised onions and American cheese with provolone, Italian beef and giardiniera. And, yes, Anda's team will dunk the bun first, then toast it on a griddle to caramelize the juices.
"It sounds gluttonous and amazing. . .but it’s not that big,” says Anda, noting the patties are three ounces each. "It’s kind of fun to eat it.”
B Side's menu will have some carryover from the Partisan, like the house-made charcuterie (expect a smaller list at Merrifield than at D Street) and the rotisserie fried chicken, which was first developed at the Mosaic District location of Red Apron. "It’s never been sold there," Anda adds, "but I played with it the first time in that kitchen. So it’s natural for it to go home.”
The Merrifield restaurant will share its kitchen with the Red Apron location, which means that when the B Side is open, the butcher shop will likely have a reduced menu. The kitchen is not large enough to produce full menus for both operations, Anda says. Despite the compact work space, the B Side will offer nightly specials, such as "Breakfast for Dinner" and Taco Tuesday.
But what about those lard-ilicious tigelles? Will the muffin-like rounds make it to Merrifield?
"As of now, no tigelles," Anda says. "We're going to do another play on the bread. It's a flatbread." But, Anda quickly added, the dough will be similar to the one used in the tigelles.
Located at 8298 Glass Alley, Suite 105, in Merrifield, B Side is targeted to open Sept. 20. Phone: 703-676-3550. Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m.