Happy Hour at Bacon Social House Means More Than Meat Candy

In 2010, we all felt fly "like a G6," incessantly tooted our vuvuzelas and pretended to be outraged at many a natural and manmade disaster. Harnessing our nostalgia for the end of the aughts, Hollywood has already made the Wikileaks and Deepwater Horizon movies, but has yet to cast a film about the defining movement of our age: the bacon craze. Somehow it took us centuries to realize that fatty pork strips were God's own bounty, touching off a cultural frenzy that's only recently bringing a backlash. A bit like the gastropub Argyll, Bacon Social House in Sunnyside is embracing a bygone trend and claiming it as its own.

Behind a blind turn off the 44th Avenue sidewalk, Bacon Social House sits on a quiet street that's simmering with potential. Brown paper covers the windows of storefronts all around it, promising a retail revival. But Bacon got in early, opening last November with a thoroughly modern buildout, resplendent in aqua banquettes and a pop-art mural stretching around the space. Judging by the crowd at happy hour, offered from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, the Social House has become a neighborhood haunt for families, singles and everyone in between. While executive chef Brian Crow had helmed the burners at Devil's Food Bakery & Cookery for a number of years, this is the first culinary concept from owner David Dill, and it comes in with a bit of swagger — but not in a gross, macho way. The menu is eye-opening, with plenty of fat — starting with an array of six different kinds of bacon. But there's also a tasty build-your-own salad option with a fantastic fleet of dressings (black-garlic Caesar, pickled-shallot vinaigrette, for example), and even helpings of quinoa and kale.

It's the same deal at happy hour, which is surprisingly heavy on veggies and light on bacon, with the exception of the bacon-and-beer combo ($10), pairing a draft special with candied bacon and sweet-potato fries. Hey, it's practically a meal in itself, if you have remarkably poor standards for nutrition. The Tender Belly bacon is nuclear-reactor hot, clad in a sticky glaze and popped on top of a vase of fries. Considering its top billing, the strips themselves are a bit thin and disappointing, and when compared to the restaurant's other variations, like the garlic and habanero, I felt like I got the short end of the fatback. That said, this bouquet offers the only sweet-potato fries I've ever loved, thanks to great kosher salt distribution and sweet bacon drippings, and the draft selections ($5 solo) included cool brews like the refreshing Orabelle tripel from Great Divide Brewing Co.
Such decadence requires atonement, and the house salad ($5) fills the bill. Built on tasty greens and spinach, it's decked out with finely crumbled blue cheese, beautifully candied pecans, apple straws and bacon-maple vinaigrette (they had to slip the pork in there somewhere). It's more modest than much of what's being offered here, just a really fine example of a palate-cleansing salad with solid mix-ins. This and the quinoa slider ($3) mean happy hour needn't be off limits for vegetarians (with a dressing swap, of course), if the smells wafting from the kitchen don't tempt them to the dark side.

With social hour in the rear-view, I looked to dessert for another thrill. The brown-butter blondie ($7.50) supplied it, even though lard might have been a more appropriate additive. The brown butter and  salted caramel drizzle add some bite to this cloud-soft confection, and yes, you can get it topped with bacon-whiskey ice cream from Little Man.

Bacon Social House is still a young restaurant with a few glitches in the system. Bar service was good, but a request for a lamb slider ($3) went unheard, and a half-eaten salad was whisked away before its time. None of it dampened my desire to go back; there are just too many tempting dishes for dinner and happy hour alike — plates more ambitious than the expected bacon-wrapped grotesqueries, but still served with a touch of sin. 

Perfect For: This restaurant has "bacon" in the name. You know who you are.

Don't Miss: "Breakfast at Night." Why don't more restaurants do this? Bacon retains brunch all-stars for dinner service, like pork-studded shrimp and grits and blood-orange crepes that entered my dreams as soon as I learned of their existence.

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