From Irish pub to gourmet take-out, the railroad style storefront at 16 Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs has embodied a diverse rotation of eateries over the years. But until now, the space just hasn’t lived up to its full potential. With its crooked brick patio sheltered from the street by a mere web of lights, the Sidecar Cafe and Bar would be right at home in Boston’s South End or New York’s East Village. The door is usually open, inviting passers-by to have a peek inside.
The long narrow front room is snug without being cramped. It’s dotted with red tables and black chairs. A chalkboard revealing the day’s specials and the ever-changing wine list covers nearly half of one wall. In the back, the bar comfortably seats about a dozen patrons. Beyond the bar, a second room contains only one table for up to eight guests. While some may prefer to dine amongst the action, scoring this private table makes me feel like I made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. The playful prints of Leonetto Cappiello are displayed on a corner shelf at the entrance to the intimate back lounge where the 20s music lends to the speakeasy style.
Since the Sidecar’s inception, owner Scott Mullin has made valiant efforts to use local products. But in 2009, when Chef Kyle Garell came on board, he brought a passion for sustainable living some might consider obsessive. He begins most days contacting smaller, lesser-known farms to find the freshest ingredients. Right now, they’re using rainbow chard and mixed greens from Fiddlehead Farm, nasturtiums from Big House Farm, beets and carrots from Breezy Pines Farm, blueberries and baby arugula from North Tabor Farm, potatoes, calendula and vidalia onions from Old Town Gardens, podding radishes from 7a Farms and honey from Katama Apiary.
Deciding what to eat is the only snag here. Their salads are never boring. The warm spinach salad with candied walnuts, dried cranberries, bleu cheese, and pancetta vinaigrette is a symphony of flavors. The menu encourages sharing with its “for the table” section which includes such friend-making favorites as sweet potato fries with chipotle lime aioli, roasted elephant garlic puree, and olive tapenade with crostinis, and codfish cakes on house greens with scallion-mustard remoulade.
Although the burger here is sensational, it’s hard to resist the more creative offerings like oven-roasted jumbo scallops with carrot, orange, ginger sauce, and scallion risotto. On a recent visit I chose one of the specials — pan roasted duck breast with local butternut squash puree, baby sweet potatoes, wine demi, and local shiitakes. Each component stood up on its own, but together they formed an irresistible collaboration.
If you’re not out for a big meal, the Sidecar bar is a casual yet sophisticated place to stop in for a drink and some socializing. Scott regularly makes changes to the wine list, carefully selecting a variety of styles to complement meals and please any palate. The specialty drink menu includes martinis, cocktails and dessertinis — a delicious way to end any evening. The Beetlebung Bark is Baileys, Amaretto, creme de cacao, chocolate, and whipped cream. Now that’s what I call a nightcap.
Just be sure to get in while you still can. Sidecar will be open seven nights a week through Columbus Day weekend, but after that, we’ll have to wait until May.