In days of yore, the neighborhood barbershoppe was more than just your grooming and surgical specialty destination. It was also the spot to gather ‘round, confer with the community, and discuss the local happenings about town. Beardsgaard is chock-a-block full of locals who know all the best places to go around Batavia. The Local Fox is an occasional blog feature that maintains that ol’ timey spirit of barbershop camaraderie by dishing up the inside scoop on the best places to visit in town, whether you’re visiting, or are a local yourself.
It’s bluegrass Sunday and a little rain isn’t stopping anyone
Barbershops and bars have a lot in common – alphabetically and otherwise. Both are classic fixtures of society, with evergreen professions that lead folk anywhere other people are. Most importantly, the best examples of these spaces share the common history of being the gathering places and community hubs of the world. This is part of the reason we love Sidecar Supper Club so much.
Located on Batavia’s lively River Street, Sidecar Supper Club has a lot going on, behind the scenes and on the surface. As a restaurant and bar, their locally-sourced-as-possible menu is made up of upscale bar fare and a rotating selection of family-style meals. As an event space, you can find live music several nights a week, a Thursday night trivia game, a monthly art show, and a plethora of unique events culinary and otherwise.
The rain had just cleared, this patio is usually packed
Like most of Batavia’s treasures, Sidecar is located in an old building packed to the rafters with stories. From its exterior, covered with climbing vines and the marks of Illinois weather, to the cozy interior, the whole place oozes a lively vintage charm. Its character has been so molded by history that it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than a community staple. According to owner Melissa Monno, it’s always been just that. “The building’s been here since 1880, 1890,” she says of the history, “it’s always been some sort of watering hole.”
Melissa Monno is the center of the Sidecar Supper Club story. In addition to being a 10+ year veteran of bar management, she’s also an adventurer, motorcycle enthusiast, and friend to all dogs. Melissa is always on the lookout for a good journey, heading anywhere long as there’s gas in the bike and space for a traveling companion. She’s covered a lot of ground together with canine traveling companions, collecting countless great stories. “We’ve been to 27 states, two Canadian provinces…” Melissa beams about her travels.
It was this affinity for story that led Melissa to the bar. During the summer of 2015 Melissa had been itching for a journey of some kind, possibly relocating. An especially rainy summer kept her from jumping on the bike and blazing a trail. While waiting for one such good opportunity, Melissa found a bar listed for sale online. Like the beginnings of all good stories, the listing was vague and shrouded in mystery.
The ad had no pictures or any real information about the place – just a bold font that read “Bar for Sale.” Curious about the strange listing, and in need of an adventure, Melissa decided she needed to check it out. “I came in with a clipboard, tried to act professional,” she said.
On a suddenly sunny day in one of the rainiest Junes in recent history, Melissa strolled into the old place expecting a fun diversion, but quickly became mesmerized by its storybook potential. The joint had really good bones and plenty of pages left to fill. “All this potential reminded me of neighborhood bars in Chicago that I had worked at, but in this lovely river town” she said of her first impression, “it was undeniable, the possibility.”
Some fun and games
Melissa jumped on the opportunity and purchased the bar, then known as the River’s Edge. She continued to operate under the name for five years, until the pandemic closed the book on the River’s Edge story. It seemed time for a new story for the century-old building. After 11 months of shut-down and restructuring, the vintage corner bar reopened under a new name, inspired by her adventures with Dante, her sidecar-riding copilot, as Sidecar Supper Club.
Along with new branding and management, Melissa changed a lot about the place as it became Sidecar. Perhaps the biggest change is on the culinary side. The Sidecar Supper Club staff are crazy about food, putting unique spins on bar food staples that turn tired concepts into creative dishes.There’s a big focus on making stuff from scratch, as well as a devotion to local sourcing that belies the Sidecar Supper Club team’s careful concern of culinary excellence. You can always find something brand new to love on their menu. “We’re a bunch of foodies, so we’re always experimenting with something,” Melissa explained.
Hot honey fried chicken with fried green tomato and bourbon peaches. Ye gods.
Another huge departure from the previous management is the variety of events. Beer pairing dinners are commonplace at a club whose membership revolves around supper, and you’re bound to run into some breed of songbird anywhere there’s enough space for guitar players to shuffle around. Sidecar Supper Club’s propensity for surpassing expectations extends to this portion of the business as well.
Bluegrass thrives indoors after a dousing of rain
Dedicated bluegrass evenings every Sunday, local musician spotlights on Tuesdays, and a monthly art show featuring local artists bely their affection for the local art community. They also host extremely rad, night-out style events. This summer, Sidecar hosted Queer Prom, an inclusive event that brought Fox Valley’s queer community together. Sidecar Supper Club is more than just a spot to see a show: it’s a space to build and be involved with a community.
Since she’s occupied the space, Melissa has found a lot to appreciate about this little river town. She has found Batavia’s community to be an exceptionally warm and welcoming place. From l greetings at the farmer’s market, to high-fives from skateboarding youths, Melissa beams about feeling like she’s in the right spot in Batavia. “It’s the first place I’ve been that feels genuinely like home,” she said.
Visit Sidecar Supper Club Tuesday through Sunday at 12 N River St. in good ol’ Batavia. You can check out Sidecar’s full menu and event calendar on their website. Keep up with the team and all their cool happenings on Facebook and Instagram.
River Street – the bar beyond the bar