The Star Bar in Ballpark proudly serves no food whatsoever, paying more attention to compiling a robust list of local brews and spirits -- and a pile of regulars. It's been successful enough that it seems like a decades-old juice joint despite its relative youth, perhaps because that's exactly what it was before Justin Lloyd bought the place in 2010. Meanwhile, in a homey space on 17th Avenue (literally, it was once three houses now stuck together), Star Bar owner Justin Lloyd is shooting for the same feeling, but with a kitchen this time. The BSide is an offbeat comfort food destination with a happy hour to match its personality, served from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
With a handful of bar games, a pinball machine, tons of space and plenty of TVs to watch the Broncos, the BSide is a party waiting to happen. Early on a snowy weeknight, however, the party wasn't happening; it was just a few folks looking for hot food and a chilly defeat for the Bengals. No matter -- if the grill is fired up and the fryer is hot, that's all the party I need.
The BSide is big on fried chicken -- coconut milk-brined and pressure-fried chicken, with gluten-free flour and no doubt a secret recipe of herbs and spices. I went right for the bird and got handed a bucket with a breast of fried "icebox" chicken ($4). What is icebox chicken, you ask? It's chicken that's been fried and then stuck in the walk-in cooler to chill before serving. My bartender likened it to cold pizza -- but the only thing better than cold pizza is hot pizza. Same with fried chicken: It seemed a shame to start with wonderful, juicy bird robed in a thick, still-crunchy skin, only to have to gnaw through ice-cold meat. The chill sucks out a lot of the flavor.
Despite this inexplicable culinary choice, BSide is right to crow about their chicken. A non-happy hour order of the fried chicken sammy ($10) proved that the expertly cooked fried chicken, paired with spicy mayo and a tangy apple slaw, is worth the trip. And while meager happy hour salads are usually only for madmen and repentant sinners, the greenery salad ($5) was a full-size bounty of fresh greens, sauteed red onions and a surprisingly complex cumin vinaigrette. More than a Hail Mary to absolve myself of grease, this is a worthy dinner salad.
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SHOW ME HOW
The Star Bar team have imported their beverage know-how to the BSide bar, with an impressive list of microbrews and a cocktail list that sums up the restaurant quite well: jokey names and themes paired with serious booze knowledge. After a brief panic over missing ingredients, A Bender with Kevin Burke ($5) included rye, Bonal aperitif, Cocchi Rose and Angostura, with all the nose-tweaking tang that those ingredients should provide. With a friendly staff, exotic liquors and cheap, good eats to go alongside, the BSide has a shot at being a craft cocktail destination.