Our judge rules Sidebar delicious

Sidebar, the latest about-to-be-hot spot in the Arena Zone, a hip bar and grill with a legal theme, is set to open to the public any day now. This week it’s been serving “VIP” guests in soft openings, something I generally avoid, so I invited HotBytes correspondent Antonia Lindauer to check it out. She likes the looks of the place, and offers us this quick preview:

Wedged into Whiskey Row in the shadow of the Second Street Bridge, Sidebar will specialize in burgers, bourbon and beer. Think upscale burger joint, with a focus on the law. No, really — the first thing you see is the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution splashed across the wall in bold paint. It’s casual, though. While sitting at the luxe cushioned banquette, I had a good view of four large plasma screens showing a baseball game.

The cocktail program appears simple and accessible. The Kentucky Maid (Buffalo Trace bourbon, simple syrup and lime with a mint sprig and cucumber slice) is a refreshing twist on the mint julep. The Good Word was the winner by several lengths. Rittenhouse Rye, lemon juice and simple syrup are punched up with green Chartreuse, and the result is smashing. The draft beer selections, including New Albanian, flow from a neat-looking inverted tap system.

The burgers were everything they should be. All burgers are cooked to medium, and they mean it. I appreciated the burger’s manageable size; I didn’t feel I had to kiss my outfit goodbye when I picked it up.

Burgers range from the basic Sidebar, a dressed cheeseburger ($10), to the Philadelphia Attorney, topped with a braised short rib ($15). The Hung Jury was lovingly layered with bourbon mushrooms, onions and white beer cheese. Zucchini fries arrived in a crispy, slightly truffled heap, with garlic aioli. Also offered: a yellowfin tuna burger, a mushroom-edamame patty and tempting salads. My summary judgment: This place will be packed before and after every arena event. (Sidebar is located at 129 N. Second St.)