On the surface, there isn’t much remarkable about Bites & Pints. One burger bar replaces another, moving in next to a third burger bar, in an area heavily populated by college students and around the corner from a fourth burger bar.
But that surface-level analysis misses the point.
Greensboro foodies are talking about Bites & Pints because it’s the latest brainchild of Kris Fuller, the vaunted chef behind Crafted, who’s responsible for writing the celebrated menu at Hops Burger Bar next door. The restaurant steps into the void left by Fat Dogs, a beloved and divey sports bar that moved down the road, and brings Westerwood Tavern owner and bald bartender Mike Bosco into the restaurant realm.
That back-story explains why Bites & Pints isn’t just one more burger hut slinging beef patties. But it would be inconsequential if the food tasted the same as any old spot or too closely pandered to the boring, white-bread, lowest common denominator. Good news — that’s not what is happening at this burger bar, in the slightest.
Yes, there’s a burger section and a flight of hot dog options. At first blush, some of the other options read as a little generic as well. But it’s the choice of toppings, the pairings, the sauces, and the execution that earn Bites & Pints its proclaimed title of “gastropub.”
For one, the beef patties are ground short rib and brisket. Patrons can sub chicken, tofu, a portabella mushroom cap or even a loaded hashbrown patty for the beef. There’s a burger with queso fresco, lime sour cream, green chilis and more. There are four hot dog choices, including one with pickled cabbage, Korean red pepper ketchup and spicy Asian mustard. There’s a spicy PB&J melt with cream cheese, jalapeños and red onion jam.
The tots aren’t quite as good as Fat Dogs’ were, and the restaurant is noisy as hell even without a game on the fleet of televisions or anyone sitting at the bar. But with an assortment of more interesting sauces to dip curly fries or tater tots, the former doesn’t matter much. (The latter will require some work.)
The most exciting burger might be the breakfast option, with American cheese, a fried egg that’s still appropriately runny, bacon, lettuce, tomato and a wild card: Cajun Béarnaise sauce. Order a double — two quarter-pound patties — and it will take over the rest of the day.
The aforementioned green chili burger, which comes dripping in a beer cheese sauce, may technically be more out of left field than the breakfast burger, a much more common item with a twist applied here. While tasty, the green chili burger pales in comparison, though it could pull closer with the addition of a crunchy element to give it some depth.
What makes Bites & Pints great is that its uniqueness isn’t heavy-handed, instead showing up in more nuanced alterations that are the mark of an experienced chef rather than someone who is just slapping extra items onto food in order to pass as cutting edge.
Take the chicken and waffles, for example. Though it’s a little strange that it’s described as a sandwich despite being served open-faced — making it just chicken and waffles with extra toppings — it’s the interplay of a honey Dijon glaze, a little cream cheese, pickled red onion, bacon and a fried egg that make this entrée soar. It’s a lot, to be sure, but the meal isn’t as over the top as foodie trends in other cities, instead counting on execution rather than hare-brained ingredients to make its case.
Same with the breakfast burger, a pretty straightforward proposition that excels because of the addition of the Cajun Béarnaise, the slight pinkness of the burger and the still-runny yolk.
For the most part, the menu is pretty cheap, considering the quality of the food. Single-patty burgers clock in around $7 with doubles staying under $11. The loaded and creative hot dogs are slightly less, though more certainly more than a run-of-the-mill (and far inferior) alternative. Most else is in line with the market, save for the salads, which run $13 minimum with meat added and as high as $16 for the Southwest salad with shrimp, which is a little unreasonable.
The venue’s facelift dramatically improves how welcoming it feels. Brighter colors and lighting eliminate the quasi-biker vibe. There are no pool table or huge screen, but a contingent of surrounding TVs still broadcast sports replays. And Bites & Pints appears to have eliminated some climate control issues of its predecessor, which at least once had yours truly shivering incessantly. (I did still love the unpretentious Fat Dogs anyway, often watching Carolina Panthers games there, and I’m glad that it’s relocated rather than closed.)
Bites & Pints isn’t earth shaking, or even that far a cry from what Greensboro already has. Yet it holds its own as a burger spot, despite opening next door to Hops (my favorite, and most of yours, too). It pulls off dishes with flavors ranging from Southern to Latin to Asian, often with appreciated subtlety. The menu doesn’t stretch too far, but still provides variance, making it appropriate for various moods and divergent group tastes.
I can definitely picture myself coming back regularly to catch a sports game like I used to, but looking forward to the meal. And if they can dial down the din, I’d be back for a casual lunch or dinner date regularly, too.
Visit Bites & Pints seven days a week at 2503 Spring Garden St. (GSO) or find it on Facebook.
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