Once you learn that the team members behind the newish B Side are music fans, their watering hole next to the Red Apron butcher shop in Merrifield’s Mosaic District makes perfect sense.
“B sides of singles were often where bands would release cuts that were left off” albums, says Michael Babin, owner of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which wrote the score for both enterprises. For music fans, they were “where a lot of the rarities could be found — the hidden gems.” B Side, the restaurant operator says, links the meat market to the 50-seat eatery, “which is right ‘beside.’ ”
Dig it, too. B Side, like other gems in the NRG collection, benefits from the cooking skills of chef Nathan Anda and the liquid expertise of Jeff Faile (spirits), Brent Kroll (wine) and Greg Engert (beer). The cocktails, whipped up below rafters and behind a bar that glows chartreuse, might ring a bell with music junkies; all 10 drinks are named for popular B-side songs. “Love Street,” which honors the Doors’ flip side of “Hello, I Love You,” is based on Citadelle gin and resonates with background notes of basil, lemon and peppercorns.
The one-sheet main menu favors carnivores (no surprise). Aside from the house salad, a pasta and a few side dishes, B Side’s selections revel in meat: steak tartare, pork schnitzel, hamburgers sometimes made with bison and flavored a la beef bourguignon. The snacks, sandwiches and small plates originate from upwards of 80 raw, cured, smoked or cooked products from Red Apron. “A big cupboard to draw from,” says Anda.
Crisp croquettes flavored with bresaola come stacked in a tiny black skillet along with a salsa verde spiked with red chili flakes and champagne vinegar. An order of Pig Wings, a spin on chicken wings, brings a stack of spare ribs that are grilled, braised and finally fried and draped with a hot sauce that’s finger-lickin’ good and also wicked hot. Intense and delicious, the unconventional starter is a favorite way to begin a meal at B Side. And any meal is richer with a thatch of crisp golden french fries cooked in beef fat and seasoned with rosemary and garlic.
Lighter dishes tend to be lesser pleasures: Brussels sprouts lack much sign of their promised lemon, garlic or even heat. An exception, poppy seed angel food cake, is exactly what you want after meaty treats. (The dessert also prompts a question: Why isn’t angel food cake served at restaurants more often?)
Like one of its siblings in Washington, the Partisan, the bar distributes a long list of excellent house-made charcuterie embracing garlicky kielbasa, lardo laced with rosemary, and smoky liverwurst.
The point: B Side, watched over by some of the most engaging servers around, can be whatever you want it to be: a snack, a full dinner, possibly a party.
Selfishly, I want the place to be closer to where I live. Music for your mouth, B Side is a hit that merits frequent play.
8298 Glass Alley, Fairfax. 703-676-3550. bsidecuts.com. Burgers and main courses, $10 to $32.