The newly established Sidecar Gastrobar, located in the former Velvet Lounge space up in Market Square, has beer flights. Really good beer flights. If this isn’t enough for you, they also have a huge menu of good craft beers, beer-based cocktails, and well-executed versions of (non-beer-based) classic cocktails. (The latter category includes four different kinds of sidecars—perhaps because, having named their business after a classic cocktail, they wanted to preempt any charges of falsity in advertising.) There are also some wines, and a surprisingly deep sake menu, a happy result of their connection with Kitcho Sushi next door. Put it all together and there are few places in town I’d rather go for a drink. Which is fine by itself, but the really fortunate thing is that Sidecar also happens to serve some of the best sandwiches and other fancified pub food I’ve had in town. Or anywhere else in Florida, for that matter.
I really can’t stress the quality of their cocktails enough. The picture above shows their excellent version of a Pimm’s Cup (in the rocks glass) and a Spicy Sidecar (dressed up with a ginger liqueur in the tall glass). The Pimm’s Cup was tart and flavorful, and so silky smooth that if you handed it to a stranger and didn’t tell them it had alcohol in it they might think they were drinking some kind of fancy, gingery Arnold Palmer rather than booze. The Spicy Sidecar substituted bourbon for the traditional cognac, which mixed so well with the ginger and lemon flavors that I polished it off in about a minute.
Fortunately, you won’t have to drink on an empty stomach for very long. We had just three dishes on our first visit, and all were stellar. The frites were shoe-string thin and served with a side of mixed ketchup and sriracha. (By the time I was drinking four different beers at once and eating fries dipped in rooster-ketchup, I decided to love this place forever.) And then they brought us our sandwiches. They were out of corned beef, but Sarah had been really excited by the reuben, so our awesome server suggested that she order a Frankensandwich, consisting of the reuben’s pretzel bun and fixings with one of their delicious sliced bratwurst inside as a substitute. It came with delicious cornichon and a tiny mug of jus on the side. (The jus may have been for dipping, but we drank it like a consome and had a fine time doing so.) I got the pork belly BLT panini, which piled thick layers of fatty, crispy pork, crispy veggies, sweet tomatoes, and arugula into its lovely toasted interior, with a fried egg and a little mug of spicy tomato soup on the side. I wish I had ordered a second one to have for breakfast the next day, because it was that good.
If, by this point in my review, you aren’t already making plans of your own to visit the Gastropub, there is probably something wrong with either your brain or your soul. But on the off-chance that you could use more convincing, here are a few bullet points:
- The service was some of the best I’ve experienced in town: knowledgeable and friendly in a casual and relaxed way. Every suggestion that our server made turned out to be inspired, and she often seemed to know what we needed before we did.
- Because they are connected with Kitcho next door, you can order the best tempura udon in town, if that strikes your fancy more than Sidecar’s pub-grub. You can also order some of Kitcho’s sushi, but you shouldn’t.
- If you can possibly save room for dessert, Sidecar offers a grown-up version of the classic root-beer float: Coffee ice cream, floating in a glass of milk stout.
- If you saved room but wish to have a dessert experience that speaks more directly to your inner child (or just want more options), you can stroll over to the nearby Lofty Pursuits for some of the best sundaes and shakes in town.
The only negative thing I can say about this place is that their seating is pretty awkward; you have the options of (A) sitting at a bar, (B) sitting at some vertigo-inducing high-top tables on rickety chairs, or (C) sitting on a low-slung set of couches and eating your food off of an even lower coffee table. None of these options are exactly ergonomic, but that won’t be enough to keep me away from Sidecar.