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Voyages: 2 Doors Down Bar + Bites

Voyages: 2 Doors Down Bar + Bites

Just when I thought Barrington Street had reached the saturation point for bars and gathering places, I got word that 2 Doors Down Bar + Bites had opened their doors with every intention of becoming the new watering hole for the local downtown crowd.

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Chief mixologist Steven Cross is just getting off the phone as I walk in, so I take some time to look around a bit. A small cozy space with plenty of breathing room, it doesn’t take much to acquaint yourself. Shortly after, Cross straightens out his apron and introduces himself. For a guy with a serious background in cocktails and bars, it’s no surprise that he is highly conversational and extremely friendly.

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When the property in between 2 Doors Down and Craig Flinn’s flagship restaurant Chives opened up next door to them, the crew jumped at the chance to build a venue for some serious bartending. Make it a date spot or a happy hour joint, Cross wants Bar + Bites to be a gathering place for everyone.

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It is called Bar + Bites after all, so the craft cocktail menu is only half the battle, and while I wait for some of the farm-to-table small plate dishes to come out, Steven chats me up and serves me three drinks. The bar features a lot of local flavours and he quickly steps up to offer a crash course on what to expect.

First up is Blue Steel ($10) – Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Blue Curacao, agave syrup, and pressed lime. It’s shaken well, served in a Nick and Nora glass, and garnished with a dried lime wheel for a little pizzazz. One sip of this baby and I feel like I’m on a white sandy beach having a barbecue somewhere far removed from the Nova Scotian winter. The blue curacao really takes hold of my tongue; sour and then sweet. There are hints of honey and vanilla in the aftertaste, but I also detect cinnamon. Fruity, spicy, tart – there’s a lot of flavour to unpack. It’s fun to sip thanks to the agave syrup, but what makes this bold cocktail really stand out is the dominating smokey taste of the mezcal.

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Next up is the Rhubarb Bliss ($10) – Citadel Gin, egg white, rhubarb syrup, and Ironworks Rhubarb and Strawberry Liqueurs. Both liqueurs are double shaken dry then wet before being strained into a coup glass and finished with a dash of rhubarb bitters and house candied rhubarb garnish. There’s a subtle tension between two contrasting flavour profiles here as I take a sip. The egg white is foamy and thick, while underneath are fruity, sweet, and tart notes from the local liqueurs. This drink tastes like the first fallen leaf of a crisp autumn day in the south shore.

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Last but not least for the drinks, and my personal favourite, is the Maple Run – Wild Turkey Bourbon, pressed lemon, and house maple & rosemary reduction is shaken well over ice and double strained into a rock glass with flamed rosemary for garnish. The only way I can describe it is like Christmas in a glass. It’s essentially a whiskey sour, but with a few twists. The simple syrup is substituted with maple and torched rosemary is added to provide a whole other dimension of herbaceousness. You can really let your imagination go when you sip this drink. You are there sitting by the tree, you’ve got your coziest sweater on, and, you suddenly have a cocktail in your hand? Christmas is looking pretty damn good this year.

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Meanwhile, Sous Chef Vedhas Deshmukh has prepared my dishes and stops by to have a brief chat with me before I dig in into the Fried Pork Dumplings ($7). Consisting of three crispy dumplings topped with hoisin sauce and confited green onions, these badboys pack a serious punch inside a tiny package. There’s a crunch to the outer wrapping, and the hoisin drizzled on top adds a dark and salty flavour. The pork is really sweet with just the perfect hint of spice. Add a touch of green onion for freshness and you’re good to go.

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Before I can even see what’s coming, the pungent aroma of Chicken Tikka Paratha ($8) fills my nostrils. Chicken thighs are marinated in cumin, coriander, and cloves before being chopped into bite-sized pieces, drizzled with cilantro yogurt chutney, and topped with pickled red onions. All of this comes piled high on top of flaky paratha flatbread that has been dusted with a coating of chaat masala, a tangy Indian spice blend. I love the Indian vibe – it’s absolutely incredible. The grilled chicken is cooked to smoky perfection and the spicy, sour, and savoury flavours of the toppings invade my mouth from every direction.

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Last of all, I get to the star of the show – the Korean Chili Cheesedog ($8), but hold onto your hats folks, because this is one eccentric ingredient list. A Bavarian Meat Shop frankfurter is topped with gochujang-infused red dragon pork & pepper chili before being slathered with creamy cheese sauce and sprinkled with scallion and toasted sesame seeds. I taste the sweetness at first, but that is quickly overtaken by a whopping mouthful of melty cheese. The Korean twist to the dish is definitely evident – you can taste it in the gochujang melding with the chili, and the ground pork adds another dimension of taste in the meat department too. It’s spicy enough to enjoy, but not too spicy that you’re gasping for water after every bite. Although the spiciness does stick around in your mouth for a little ways after, somehow it’s not unpleasant. To finish it off, a beautifully crusted and perfectly sized bun anchors it all together nicely.

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Walking into Bar + Bites, Steven Cross and his team are quick to win me over with their artisanally crafted cocktails, but in the end, I find myself just as delighted with the food as I am with the libations. These elevated small plates are just the right amount of filling to fuel me up for the night ahead without having to pay the consequences of digestion. With its unique and innovative cocktail recipes, creative snacks, and no-nonsense attitude, Bar + Bites is a must-stop destination for any night on the town.

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