Trouble With Toast

Everyone deserves a second chance | February 9, 2009

This past weekend, for the first time in a LONG time, my fiance and I were both a) in town, and b) not sick.  We already had reservations for Saturday night, but we wanted to add a dinner date on Friday night, too.  When I started brainstorming about places we could try, my mind kept going back to Craft.  I wanted to revisit the restaurant, but I didn’t want the formality and expense of the upstairs dining room.  Instead, I wanted to put on my nicest pair of jeans, walk into the downstairs area, and see what the experience would be like at the bar.  So, that’s exactly what we did.

We got there at about 7:30 PM, and most of the Craftbar tables were empty.  The bar was full, though, presumably of people waiting for their upstairs reservations.  We hung out behind the stools until seats became available, and then we bellied up.  Casey was the main bartender who was taking care of us, but his partner in crime (whose name I cannot recall, sadly) was also available to help us out.  They were both amazing–incredibly knowledgable and passionate about the food and drink offerings, honest about what they loved and what they didn’t, and friendly without being phony or overbearing.  Really, they were a great team.

There was a lot to choose from on the starters menu, so we chose one ourselves (lamb sausages with saffron pickled cauliflower and a yogurt sauce) and went with one of Casey’s recommendations (grilled quail with turnips, apples, and smoked bacon).  The former was very tasty, with a great salty kick and a nice cool finish thanks to the yogurt.  I believe my fiance actually said, “I would have this sausage’s baby.”  The saffron pickled cauliflower made me so very happy–I think I’m going to have to experiment in the kitchen to see if I can recreate that part of the dish.  The quail was a little less punchy in terms of flavor (it had a sweeter tinge), but it was cooked absolutely perfectly and had a lot of meat for a little bitty birdie.

For entrees, I opted for the veal ricotta meatballs over papardelle and tomato sauce.  This was comfort food in a bowl, people.  The simple, rustic preparation was one of the best dishes I’ve eaten over the past six months.  The pasta was flavorful and impeccably cooked, the sauce was tangy (and not over portioned), and the meatballs were substantial without being heavy.  I mean, I wish I could convey to you how this dish smelled–it was so fantastically homey and happy that it attracted the attention of the diners to our right AND left.  Bravo.  Jason ordered the pulled pork, country ham, and swiss cheese panini (with house made mustard and pickles).  Casey approached us after we ordered and said the panini had been taken off the menu for the night (I guess they were saving stock, as it is one of their popular lunch items), but that chef was making it for us anyway.  Good thing, because it was quite tasty–stuffed with piggy goodness, it reminded us of a Cuban, especially since the bread was pressed nicely and had a great crunch.

We were almost too stuffed for dessert, but it was a highlight of our meal upstairs, so we wanted to try one more thing from the sweets menu.  We decided to order the s’mores, but Casey saw Jason’s disappointment at not being able to order the carrot cake (because I hate it) and decided to bring him a slice on the house (and in the interest of full disclosure, he had already bought him a round earlier in the evening).  The s’mores were messy and yummy, just the way s’mores should be.  My only complaint was that the marshmallows were a little heavy on the char, but that was a minor quibble.  Jason loved the carrot cake, and I even tried it because it didn’t have raisins in it (one of my main objections to the dessert).  I still didn’t like the flavor (too spicy for me), but the texture of the cake was lovely and the cream cheese icing was great.  The toasted pecan ice cream that accomanied the dish was amazing–ice creams are definitely one of the strong suits of Craft’s pastry chef.

For all of that food and drink (three cocktails and two beers in all), the pre-tip total was just over $90.  So, while our Craftbar experience wasn’t cheap, I walked out feeling like our money was well spent and that the experience, both food- and service-wise, had lived up to its pricetag.  We may still be hesitant to return to Craft (unless someone else is paying), but Craftbar definitely made up for its sibling’s missteps and created two loyal fans in the process.

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6 Comments »

  1. cannot go wrong with pulled pork.

    I really love your reviews Betty…you don’t miss anything.

    Comment by Lemmonex — February 9, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

  2. That’s a lot better than my $280 Craft experience. I think if I ever go again it will be at the bar.. (who am I kidding? I’m never going back)

    Comment by briankainec — February 9, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  3. If you’ll promise to take me to both Craft and The Vortex, I can be there in about 10 hours.

    Comment by freckledk — February 9, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  4. Lem: Pulled pork = teh awesome. And thanks for the compliment!

    Brian: Ooooh, now I want to hear about why you’ll never go back! Our $300 Craft experience was great at parts and really bad at parts, so I am surprised that Craftbar made me forget about that. I guess it’s the more palatable price point.

    FK: Done and done. Pick you up at the airport tomorrow. 😉

    Comment by bettyjoan — February 9, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

  5. After reading this, I was eager to go to the bar which we did last night. Since we just had drinks and dessert (I think I will crave cumquat mojitos for months), I couldn’t resist going back today for lunch. Savory bread pudding was the best thing I have eaten in a really long time and the service at the bar both times was flawless. Thanks for the heads up, I think the bar is a much better and cost efficient way to experience Craft.

    Comment by Amanda Romano Marshall — February 20, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

  6. […] interviewed by the AJC.  In February, I perfected roasted chicken and granola, and Tom Colicchio redeemed himself to me.  In March, I finally wrote about the life-changing experience that was my dinner at The […]

    Pingback by 2009 – Full Throttle, Full Circle « Trouble With Toast — December 29, 2009 @ 1:28 pm


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