First Look: BSide Brings Fried Chicken and Community to City Park | Cafe Society | Denver | Denver Westword | The Leading Independent News Source in Denver, Colorado

First Look: BSide Brings Fried Chicken and Community to City Park

Way back when record companies issued 45 rpm records in advance of a full album release, those little black discs had two sides; the A-side was the radio-friendly song that the producer hoped would become a hit. Songs on the B-side, however, weren't always considered a band's best work. But...
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Way back when record companies issued 45 rpm records in advance of a full album release, those little black discs had two sides; the A-side was the radio-friendly song that the producer hoped would become a hit. Songs on the B-side, however, weren't always considered a band's best work. But those B-sides featured songs that revealed a band making music because that's what they loved to do, and not necessarily for those songs to become hits. That's the tune that reverberates through the City Park neighborhood's newest restaurant, BSide, opened -- along with partners Ken Himel and Jonathan Bush -- by Star Bar owner Justin Lloyd. Lloyd says that philosophy touches everything you'll experience when you walk in the front door -- the cocktails, the beer, the food, the decor and the service.

See Also: Star Bar Shines Again on Larimer Street

Lloyd opened Star Bar four and a half years ago on upper Larimer Street, and its casual, comfortable, accessible tone turned it into a popular gathering place. Two years ago, he started looking around for another location, but nothing felt right. Then he found something on the corner of 17th and Humboldt.

"I looked in different parts of town, but nothing ever materialized," he says. "This fell out of the sky a little bit. I checked it out and realized that the neighborhood was great and had a ton of potential. It actually reminded us a lot of Star Bar. I thought, 'Here's a great location. Here's a place that's been a little bit run down for a little while.' It just needed some love. It needed a vision, and a really strong purpose."

That location was home to pizza joint Serioz -- and Pasquini's before that. It was an old building with a lot of character; it wasn't flashy, or glamorous, or sexy. It was exactly what he was looking for. It was a B-side.

"It's actually three old houses that were all joined together at one point in time," Lloyd explains. "There were some intricacies and some quirkiness about the building just because of what it was and what it became. So, the transformation for us was really changing it from a pizza place to a restaurant and then realizing the different spaces and realizing how you could make the different spaces work."

"The thing that struck me the most was the way the bar was set up," he says. "It's the focal point, the middle of all the three house, and because of the way it was set up, I immediately thought 'family room'--something comfortable, something familiar, something nostalgic."

Keep reading for more on BSide, and for more photos...

The new owners installed a brand-new draft system for the 32 beers on BSide's Colorado-heavy tap list and two kegged draft cocktails. One is a Paloma with two tequilas, fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit, and grapefruit soda. The other is a whiskey punch with Breckenridge bourbon, black tea, lemon juice and simple syrup, topped with a hoppy beer. The smaller back patio bar will also serve a drink called Melodious Melonade -- a snow cone of shaved ice drizzled with a mixture of Hendrick's gin, honeydew melon and fresh lime juice.

"Another cool thing we're doing with the cocktail list is a chooser wheel," explains Allie Geppert, who tended bar at Star Bar, and is now a Director of Operations for both locations. "The cocktail wheel will be based on what you're feeling like at the time; light and bubbly, dark and mysterious, mischievous. It will change based on seasonality." The wheel will allow you spin a circular card to match your mood: if you're feeling "flirty," for example, your cocktail-of-the-moment will contain gin, raspberry brandy liqueur and Lillet Blanc.

Geppert also networked with bartenders across the country to add their local cocktails to her drink menu, a move which highlights the sense of community that is a part of the BSide vision. "I've been wanting to do this for a while," she says. "We just asked people if they wanted to be on our menu. We're kindred spirits with their bar, wherever they are, and if they understood what we do here, maybe it would be cool to just ask, instead of copying their drink." So, you can drink a cocktail at BSide that's also being served in Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles, or San Antonio.

Just the fact that Geppert was able to step up and become such an integral part of the operation is a testament to BSide's philosophy. They recongnized her passion and created a job for her. "It's really amazing," she says. "That was something that I never thought would happen in this industry, and I had almost given up on that. It's refreshing to people who work in this industry, who just get jaded by the corporate style."

"It's very much like Star Bar in that way. It's really cool to just honor what you do, and do it well and really not care if you get blown up, or selling out. This has soul. It has character."

"The themes that we really tried to focus on were quality, fun and community," Lloyd adds. "It's much more about setting that tone of the 'basement' or 'really fun living room' to where it's all about community and sharing."

"There's a ton of great new restaurants opening up," he continues, "and instead of trying to do something that maybe somebody else was already doing, it was more about what people really like and what people really want, especially in a comforting style of food, maybe kinds of retro-comforting food.

Lloyed loves cold fried chicken. So, during BSide's late-night happy hour (daily, from 10 pm to 1:15 am), the kitchen will serve buckets of cold chicken, as well as kitschy comfort food such as fried bologna sandwiches ($6), and a pickle and vegetable plate ($4). The daily happy hour (Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 pm), has the same focus: meatballs ($5), a beer and cheese plate ($7), and chicken chicharones ($6).

BSide's chicken is raised locally by Red Bird Farms and comes not only in buckets, but as the main course on one of BSides's signature TV dinners. It's also gluten-free. "It's brined in coconut milk," Lloyd sasy, "and we pressure-fry it -- there's actually a pressure fryer just for the fried chicken. That fryer really locks the crust onto the chicken and locks in the moisture and the flavor. It is an absolutely incredible product."

The fried chicken dinner ($15) is served on a tray with little compartments for your choice of two sides, and one for the dessert: butterscotch pudding. Other dinners include Meatloaf Wellington ($14), Salisbury Steak ($15) and Salmon Florentine ($16).

"The idea behind the BSide in general was the back side of the record," Lloyd says. "It's about doing what you want to do, not necessarily what the producer thinks will sell. It's kind of the artist's take."

What's ironic is that, in many cases, an artist's B-side went on to become the hit, despite all the hopes for the song on the opposite side of the record. Elvis Presley and The Beatles, or example, had unexpected B-side hits. Perhaps that's because they let their own character shine through, doing what they did best--make music they loved.

"We're doing good stuff because it deserves to be done," Lloyd says, "not because it's going to be popular."

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