By Kelly Archer
B-Side Lounge faces pretty stiff competition within a stone’s throw of its somewhat hidden location as a choice for a night out of casual drinking — but it doesn’t seem to care much. Located on the “flip side” of Carrboro’s Carr Mill Mall, the cozy-but-modern bar has its back turned to the rest of downtown. Before I sought the lounge out, I asked a friend, Maria Oviedo, why I should go to B-Side instead of another bar in the area, and after a thoughtful hum, her answer was surprisingly specific — “You’re with a group, you’ve already eaten, you have different preferences in drink and you want to be able to see everyone at once.”
The bar is set up to accommodate small groups, with a large round table in the back and an array of leather and hard booths. However, depending on what night you go, the space can say more “date night” than “gathering of friends,” with the low lighting and intimate corners. The bartenders are friendly, though a little quiet, and if you stay long enough, the bartenders usually join a table full of friends for a post-work drink, turning the relatively stiff vibe into a neighborhood-bar feel.
The first thing anyone will tell you about the bar or its menu is that there are wines on tap — a special feature designed to keep the pour fresh but also to look cool. There are many beers on tap, too, as well as a long list of bottled selections that will put any beer aficionado at ease. The cocktails didn’t strike me as particularly noteworthy, another way in which they are decidedly not trying to compete against nearby mixologist-inspired bars such as The Crunkleton and Peccadillo. I split a bottle of wine with friends who also got cocktails; the bartender was able to describe the drinks succinctly without losing any of us in cocktail jargon.
The food menu is tapas-inspired and designed to share with the table. It’s also good for wine or beer pairings. Despite the fact that B-Side shares a kitchen with Venable Rotisserie Bistro — a Carrboro restaurant that serves predictable but delicious high-end, Southern-inspired food — the menu is anything but predictable, with dishes ranging from dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon to Indian- and Italian-inspired dishes. Not your standard bar fare, for sure, but take note: Once the kitchen closes, the late-night menu is limited. However, this late-night menu does include a dessert menu (it’s never too late for dessert), which is short and sweet. Pun intended.
The name “B-Side” refers to the flip side of a record, and the bar tries to position itself as one such hidden gem, featuring wine on tap and a record player that supposedly plays bar none queues. But I didn’t see the record player, and the songs playing were mostly familiar tunes. You might catch yourself paying more attention to the wall lined with huge photographs of figures on a white canvas (while they lay on the ground and contemplate the ceiling). But the contemporary flair and somewhat distracting decor still makes it worth visiting.
Dark and with an aesthetic that can best be described as wood and brick, it’s not really the place to come before the sun sets. I would recommend coming here with a group after eating in downtown Carrboro, when you still want to chat over drinks. It’s a great place to escape the growing number of huge bars centered around having a good view of the TV. B-Side Lounge is tucked away from student life, which dominates Chapel Hill bars as football season gains momentum. As fall creeps its way in and patio dining is tabled in favor of cozy booths, I predict the little lounge will pick up in popularity.