They’re not starters, not snacks and definitely not afterthoughts. They are what Louise was to Thelma, and Ernie to Bert. The sine qua non of a perfect pairing. What would a cheeseburger be, after all, without that side of hot, crispy fries? In the American South, it’s still common to find menus that offer “meat and three,” of which the sides could include favs such as potato salad, mac & cheese and coleslaw. In Italy, sides are called contorni, and they are the traditional fifth course, before dessert (dolce). Whenever you desire them, these fine establishments are known for their exemplary sides and beyond.
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At this renewed historic hostelry, Tiny Lou’s, a hip-yet-retro French brasserie named after a 1950s burlesque dancer who strutted her stuff downstairs, offers an a Partager (to share) section on its dinner menu with the likes of 36-Month Comte Crepe, with local baby carrots, pistachio oil, beets and popped sorghum, and a gratin of sunchoke and spinach.
It’s not officially on the “accompaniments” menu anymore, but ask for Old Homestead Steakhouse’s signature red-meat potato pal, Tater Tots with Fat Boy Sauce. These bite-size nuggets of deep-fried, shredded spuds are accompanied by the quintessential baked-potato topper, a sauce of sour cream, bacon and cheddar. Or go with the Truffle Mashed Potatoes.
The side that screams Minnesota? Fried cheese curds. FireLake Grill House at this hotel, which creatively showcases the work of local farmers and fisheries, has ’em. It gets curds from the city’s venerated cheese shop, Eichten’s, and pairs them with house-made “snowshoe sauce.” Another great option is cider-braised red cabbage with bacon and fennel.
This AAA Five Diamond resort, high on a bluff above the Pacific in Southern California, showcases fine-dining, market-driven cuisine at A.R. Valentien, a jewel box of American Craftsman design. To accompany Vermouth-braised White Sea Bass, why not order a side of Cauliflower Steak, which comes adorned with capers, sultanas, shallots, parsley and pine nuts?