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Thursday, June 26,2014

Bite-sized

The Bitter Bar ditches its menu for finger food

By Josh Gross
Maalikah Hartley

Though downtown Boulder has its share of classy joints, when discerning Boulderites are looking for somewhere to wear their dress North Face jacket, or that little black dress that perfectly matches their nice Chacos, they head downtown to The Bitter Bar — this year’s Best of Boulder winner for “Best Bar” — and soak up the swank.

But after an ownership change earlier this year, The Bitter Bar closed down briefly to revamp itself as more of a neighborhood kind of place.

What’s changed?

Not much. The dark lounge vibe is virtually unchanged, and there’s an equally stellar cocktail menu.

The only thing that really changed was the food, which is largely gone. The Bitter Bar’s full menu has been paired down to a handful of items, all of the snacks persuasion.

There are marinated olives, cheese and meat plates, and a smoked salmon pâté, as well as some rotating desserts. And that’s it.

The change was largely one of convenience. Owner James Lee rented The Bitter Bar’s kitchen facilities to Hosea Rosenberg, winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Season Five, who uses the space to prepare food for his company, Blackbelly Catering, and prepares the snacks, freeing Lee to focus on the sweet, sweet booze. The cured meats ($14), which include slices of Napolitana (a coarsely ground, spicy pork salami), Coppa (a cured and spicy pork shoulder) and a six-month aged prosciutto, are all from Blackbelly’s farm. Served with crackers or bread and a portion of seeded mustard, each is a salty delight.

The cheeses in the Trio of Cheese ($14) are not from Blackbelly Farm (one is in-state and the other two are imported from Spain), although staff at The Bitter Bar told Boulder Weekly, that is something Rosenberg is working towards. But there is a nice variety of wedges, including cheese from cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk, and a delicious apricot compote to go with it.

Both platters are nice finger food that serves as an excellently salty companion to the sweetness of The Bitter Bar’s signature cocktails. They’re perfect for sharing amongst a table, but neither is very substantial as a meal, especially not for the price.

The best deal on the menu is the olive plate ($3). Not only is it the cheapest item on the menu, but it’s a lot of freaking olives, more than enough to keep you throwing them in the air and trying to catch them in your mouth like your weird uncle at a holiday meal for some time. And with a mix of varieties, all marinated inhouse as well, it makes for yet another adventure in salting your tongue. But fair warning, they don’t come pitted, so be prepared to nibble.

If the chow just described sounds delicious to you, there’s one problem: according to Lee, it’s temporary, as Blackbelly Catering will be moving on from the space in the fall, when it begins running its catering business out of a brick and mortar restaurant it will be opening in East Boulder. Lee says he already has a line of other chefs and caterers interested in the space, and he’s interested in the idea of renting it to a patisserie so The Bitter Bar can feature faboo desserts. Which means that Boulder Weekly may have to return and review the new delicious offerings again soon, a tragedy on par with getting a puppy for your birthday and then living happily ever after. Darn.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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