If there's one thing Barbara Mulas and Mark Drazek know, it's how to please a bar packed with locals on limited budgets. Sidebar's chef/owners preside over a menu of simple, bright-tasting bistro dishes made with skill from good ingredients. Prime example: the Sidebar hamburger. Unlike burgers that serve as excuses for piling on bacon, caramelized onions, and tomato jam, Sidebar's finds virtue in restraint: a simple, well-seasoned and carefully cooked patty, on a grilled bun brushed with chipotle-spiked Thousand Island. The excellent, thin-sliced cucumber and onion pickles are house-made, and you get a bonus stack of Sidebar's thick, skin-on oven-baked fries. Cost: $11.50 (75 cents more if you tack on cheese). Seated at the three-sided bar, a Manhattan made with Alameda-distilled St. George single-malt whiskey on one side of you, a burger on the other — together clocking in just slightly north of $20 — is our idea of a weeknight out.
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