Sidecar is No Sideshow: A Foodie Mecca in San Luis Obispo?!
So I was so jealous the other night when I didn’t have the energy to join Hillary at Sidecar the night she tried the foie gras oreo and olive oil milkshake, that we made a point to go again this week. I have been so impressed every time I go. I really think they got this place right. From the foodie/speakeasy vibe, to the incredible service we always get, to the bizarro selection on the constantly changing menu. It’s a crave-worthy place that grows on me, and unlike so many other places in San Luis Obispo, beckons you back to try Chef Michael Reyes latest inspiration. This time, I didn’t have to struggle to figure out what I wanted. I knew the second the menu hit the table.
I want to start by saying that the second reason for my jealousy was that Hillary was happily texting me throughout her visit about everything she was trying without me there. How dare she food cheat on me! And even worse, as you heard from my post on the Mango Jalapeno Margarita from Tanner Jacks, I love jalapenos, and jalapeno drinks. This time I had to start my visit with a kiss from my harsh mistress, the Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita (served on the rocks) at Sidecar. It goes without saying that it was lovely. A bit light, which makes it dangerous because I could easily drink several, with only a hint of strawberry so as not to be too sweet. The jalapeno, too, was mildly delicious instead of palate-igniting like I usually like them. Again, dangerous. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the drink came to the table shortly after the truffled popcorn with rosemary they bring out to graze on. Are you kidding me? This stuff is catnip to foodies. Beware, you will start dreaming about it.
Unlike others, I’m not one to say I have to stick with one alcohol in any one evening or even seating. I drink what I feel like at the moment, and since I’m always the designated driver (pay attention kids), I never drink more than one drink an hour so as not to get in trouble – and I always do so with food. I also limit my consumption to about two in any seating. This time, I elected to follow up my delicious opener by handing Eric at the bar my iPhone with the page open to this blog in the Recipes section showing the recipe for my favorite cocktail ever – the Ninth Ward Cocktail. Eric is a master. Even though few places actually have all the ingredients for this drink, he found substitutions that are wonderful and made a delicious concoction. He loves it too, so if you go and ask for it enough, dear readers, he may be persuaded to add it to the permanent menu. He’s close. Help me push him over the edge.
Okay, next up. I have to start by saying there’s good reason I write the food reviews and Hillary writes drink reviews. I like everything. I don’t dislike any food enough to not try it in a preparation and report back to you on my findings. Hillary has more taste buds than me (it’s a scientific fact that some people do – look it up), so she is not a fan of some flavors. Brussel Sprouts and blue/bleu cheese are two of those flavors. So you would think that a dish that included both of those would be anathema to her, right? Well, when Chef Michael brought out what’s described on the menu as “Fried brussels sprouts, garlic aioli, Point Reyes blue cheese, saba grape reduction, thyme. ($10)” you would think she would hate it, right? In a foodie Mecca, everything tastes good. It’s kinda like how I imagine Heaven to be. And in this case, Chef doesn’t disappoint. Hillary really likes these, and I frankly crave them nearly as much as the popcorn. The perfect mix of char taste from the frying, sweetness from the grape reduction, and a bite from the blue cheese.
And finally for the “pièce de résistance,” that menu item that grabbed me and convinced me immediately that I had to have it: “Rinconada Farms fried chicken, biscuits & gravy, mashers, glazed carrots. Followed by a sweet, sticky cinnamon bun.” Really? You’re tugging at my heartstrings, Michael. I am such a sucker for downhome Southern comfort cooking. Whenever I have a chance at home, I cook up collard greens with ham hock, or anything with bacon for that matter. I also thought this was a great test of skill for the kitchen. Fried chicken is really tough to make exactly right. You first need the right, flavorful chicken. Check. Then you need to retain the juiciness of the bird – usually done with a cellular infusion of buttermilk. Also check. Then, the coating. The trick I use at home is to dredge it, then let it dry on a drying rack. Then do that again two more times. I’m not sure if Chef Michael’s kitchen is doing the same or not, but wow was this chicken perfectly crispy and flavorful. The potatoes were truffly (this is a theme at this restaurant), carrots perfectly cooked and not overly sweet. Fantastic.
But then again, Sidecar is beyond reproach in their skill – it’s more about whether or not you’re willing to try out the flavor combinations this foodie Mecca is willing to test YOU with. I, for one, am so happy to have a local joint that doesn’t require me to drive to San Francisco to try some top notch flavors. I know you will be too.
Also, be sure to also check out Hillary’s wine and fried chicken experience with “The Wrath of Grapes” at her post.