Gabe Stulman, the restaurateur behind small and mighty Little Wisco restaurant group, doesn't sit still. As he demonstrated with Montmartre, when there's a problem, it typically gets fixed. At Jeffrey's Grocery, he realized the actual "grocery" element to the initial incarnation was simply unnecessary. Chelsea Market and Eataly do that pretty well, and have a little more space. So he got rid of it, and opened the cafe up into a real dining room, taking advantage of that restaurant's beautiful space.
We were big fans of Chez Sardine; a funky Americanized version of a Japanese Izakaya that served experimental, ambitious cuisine like fish heads and chopped beef with sea urchin sushi, but something apparently wasn't right. Stulman recently shut the place down and flipped it into the more casual Bar Sardine. Our guess is that there are better margins on cocktails than there are on salmon heads. Either way, we were excited to check out the latest iteration of Sardine, to see what all that fixing had in store for us.
Bar Sardine retains all of the cozy, I want to be inside you vibes that the original space had, but until you're in there, you forget how truly tiny this place is. There are eight seats at the tables, a bar, and a corner of seating by the window. That's it. The menu is small too, but comes loaded with food items that pair well with booze, highlighted by the single best new burger we've had in 2014.
Being that this is a bar first, restaurant second, we were worried that maybe the EEEEATS would be an afterthought. They most definitely aren't. Bar Sardine may not have pancakes with fish roe on the menu, but we've really liked almost everything we've eaten here, and even the simplest things have a few elevated elements that make them memorable.
At the end of the day, even though we liked Chez Sardine and it's miso glazed salmon head quite a bit, we're happy the simpler, easier Bar Sardine is here. Also, "Flashback Fish Head Fridays" should be a thing. Consider that a submission for the suggestion box.
Big balls of lightly fried dough, filled with cod. These are light and delicious.
You know what looks disgusting in when you turn it black? A Hamburger. You know what looks weird, but actually tastes pretty damn good? Soy and Black Garlic Deviled Eggs. A fun, unique spin on a classic. We approve.
We like the creativity here. You can get tuna or steak tartare anywhere, but not so often do you see it done with arctic char, and you definitely don't see it with everything pretzels. Order it.
I'm really into salad. As a matter of fact, if I had to choose only one food to eat for the rest of my life, it'd be the leafy geenz. Why am I telling you this? Because this salad is awesome. Big hearts of little gem are smothered in an amazing Greek Goddess dressing and parmesan, with crunchy croutons, caramelized cauliflower, and a bunch of other goodness in the mix. Go with the tartare, this salad, and a burger, you'll be in great shape.
This was the one item we sampled that we didn't like. It's a cold, pulled chicken spread that just doesn't have a ton of flavor. Skip it.
OK, so this burger right here is this crown jewel of the menu, and the main reason you should be eating at Bar Sardine tonight. Holy sh*t, this is a juicy meat sandwich for the ages. The burger is smothered in a BBQ mayo special sauce, smoked cheddar, thin crispy potatoes (on the burger!), thin onions, and cucumbers. The toasted bun almost looks like it's two tops, instead of a top and bottom. The is somewhere in between a challah bun and a potato bun, with a firm, but soft texture that holds the business together well. The only other burger we've had this good recently comes from Fritzl's Lunch Box. Bar Sardine is in good company.