James Beard Award winning Chef Chris Hastings alongside of his Chef de Cuisine Patrick Brawley created The Side By Side restaurant with Alabamians in mind. The name originated from Chef Hastings favorite gun as a child, playing into the menu which features gamey meats. The menu is a medley of French, American, and Southern cuisine. The select entrees featuring game meat include rabbit, duck, and quail. The menu reads slightly different offering a much more appealing description: Grilled Duck with Hunter style rice and fried sage, Rabbit & Porcini Mushroom Papparadelle, Swiss chard and parmesan, and Rabbit Tamales served with Black beans, cilantro crème fraîche and ancho chile sauce. Having just opened in March, The Side by Side already shows promise of a becoming a local favorite.
My husband and I spent a much needed date-night at The Side By Side. The dining area was quit breath taking. The dim lighting illuminated like soft candle-light. The large open design captures different scenes. A rather large and inviting bar wraps from the lobby entrance to the main entrance. This particular evening, a group of well-dressed businessmen occupied the bar as they sipped on whiskey and locally brewed beer. A lounge area provides casual seating perfect for drinks with friends. Red accent walls, tiles and chairs gave movement to the space carrying your eyes from one focal point to the next. A gorgeous open kitchen with bar-top seating allows patrons to experience the preparation and crafting of each dish. One of the best tables in-house would have to be those circled along the ceiling-high windows overlooking downtown. The staff was prompt and friendly. Once seated, the waitress approached with a chilled water bottle and proceeded to pour while introducing herself. Before the appetizer arrived a batch of freshly-baked bread was served. The sweet smell hit us even before it was in sight. The warm, soft bread was just as appetizing as the aroma let on. Our appetizer was the Southern Cheese and Ham Plate which displayed three soft cheeses, honey, spiced pecans, green tomato chutney, and thinly slice ham. The momentum of the evening’s meal was seamless. Just as the last sip or bite was done then came the next. For the main entrees my husband and I both took advantage of the available fresh seafood. The Southern Bouillabaisse, a seafood stew, consisted of the who’s who of the ocean. Crab claws, muscles, shrimp and more marinated in a seafood broth. On my plate rested a gorgeous piece of grouper sprinkled with capers, lemon butter sauce and blue crab meat tossed in a butter vinaigrette. Hidden under the pan seared grouper lay onions, roasted potatoes, carrots, and romanesco broccoli. The grouper was tender with a mild butter flavor and slight pungent taste from the capers. The non-starchy vegetables were prepared wonderfully. Their vibrant color was still intact and each bite offered a crisp texture. For dessert, we chose to share a piece of coconut cake. A beautiful white and yellow layered slice of cake was served. My husband and I literally had no words. We sat in awe and took in its beauty. A delicately hand-crafted sugar mold sat effortlessly on top. Each light and fluffy bite brought so much flavorful. As we contemplated licking the plate our ticket was sat on the table in none other than a shotgun shell box. The ticket consisted of a three-course meal with cocktails for two. After a fair tip the evening’s meal came just under $150. Pricey, yes. Though after one bite of their savory coconut cake, you just may be willing to sell you soul for another.
The Side By Side restaurant is located on the ground-floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel on the corner of University Blvd and Queen City Ave. Hours of operation: Monday through Sunday: 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Limited parking and valet is available. Reservations are accepted and walk-ins are welcome.

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