3029 East Main St.
$5 – $18
What is it about bacon? Is it that in-your-face smokiness, the saltiness it imparts to any dish? Or do we love it just because it seems a bit naughty?
When posed the same question, Chef Tim Kilcoyne of the Sidecar Restaurant says, “I think bacon is kind of the perfect food in meat terms. With the blend of sweet and salty, the softness from the fat and the crunch — everything that we chefs try to balance out — bacon already has it.”
With the growing passion for bacon all around us, Kilcoyne is now offering Bacon and Beer Sundays. In addition to his regular menu, on Sundays diners will find a reasonably priced menu full of dishes centered around bacon, each with a suggested local beer pairing. “We wanted to offer a menu at a price-point good for locals and good for the neighborhood,” he says. It also gives him the opportunity to showcase two local beer companies: Ouroboros Ales and Surf Brewery.
one of America’s favorite indulgences
to a new level with his 50/50 burger,
with mixed ground beef and ground bacon
topped with a fried egg.
For those who’ve never dined at the Sidecar, the restaurant sits in an old train car on Main Street near the Pacific View mall. The atmosphere oozes old-world charm, with low lighting, dark carpeting and a cozy fireplace. The vibe is classy without an ounce of pretense, and seeing Chef Kilcoyne wander out of the kitchen occasionally to chat with his customers adds to the comfort of the place.
Since we were on a mission to check out the beer and bacon menu, on this particular night, we stuck with the special menu. We started with two appetizers: the minibacon corndogs and the coffee-crusted bacon steaks. To go alongside, we chose the Ouroboros Brown Ale, an easy-drinking dark beer made by local brewer Nick Velasquez.
The bacon steaks come two to an order, each a small piece of thick-cut bacon rubbed with Kilcoyne’s spice rub (made with Ventura Coffee Company coffee and brown sugar) and cooked slowly for six hours in the oven. Though the coffee flavor was hard to detect on this particular night, the bacon offered a truly addictive balance of sweet and smoky.
While the steaks are dark and brooding in appearance, in contrast, the corndogs are more whimsical and festive on their little wooden sticks. Pieces of hot dog are dipped in a thick, sweet batter that is subtly flavored by bits of cooked bacon, conjuring up flavor memories of good Southern cornbread cooked in bacon grease. We enjoyed the corndogs dipped in the house ketchup, sweet and hopped-up with the flavor of clove.
For entrees, we chose the fried chicken and waffle and the 50/50 burger. The fried chicken is covered in a thick batter, flecked generously with black pepper, and fried to a dark golden brown. A very generous three pieces sit atop a bacon-sage waffle, and the whole affair is drizzled with a bacon maple syrup. This dish is an experience of culinary delights, the embodiment of the magic that happens when you combine sweet and savory.
The burger is made with a mixture of ground beef and ground bacon, topped with bacon jam, lettuce and a fried egg. Beyond moist, the burger is infused with the smoky flavor of bacon, and the whole sandwich elevated to another level of richness as the egg yolk slips throughout. It is served with the Sidecar’s signature fries.
We enjoyed the burger with the Surf Brewery Black IPA, an unusual dark beer packed with the hoppiness of an IPA, a great complement to the richness of the burger. When asked how he went about pairing the beers with the food, Kilcoyne says it’s all about balance. For example, with the chicken and waffle dish, he suggests Surf Brewery’s County Line Rye, as the hops of the beer balance out the intense sweetness of the dish.
We finished our meal with a slice of the bacon and Ouroboros Brown Ale cheesecake. This unusual dessert is made by reducing the beer down to a thick syrup, a replacement for the typical vanilla flavor of cheesecake. We found it fun to have a dessert that wasn’t overly sweet, allowing the tanginess of the cream cheese, the flavor of the bacon and the malt flavor from the beer to truly shine. It was finished with a drizzle of caramel sauce, offering that subtle reminder that this was dessert after all.
Though we opted to sample most dishes on the bacon and beer menu in one evening, Kilcoyne does encourage moderation. “I want people to eat healthy … you don’t have to order everything in one sitting,” he says. So the same menu will be available each Sunday, giving regulars a chance to try a different bacon-centric dish each week, or mix and match between both menus.
Check out my food tasting tours at www.venturafoodtours.com, where you’ll find information on our walking tours, gift certificates and upcoming special events.
Note: Sidecar Restaurant will be hosting Ventura’s Original Farm-To-Table Restaurant Sunday, Sept. 16, 12-8 p.m. The event will feature a whole roasted pig, Meyer lemon chicken, baby back ribs, grilled vegetables, mac and cheese and more. The event costs $30 per person. Bacon and Beer Sundays will resume as usual, starting Sept. 23.