Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >
Jan 12, 2010 11:16 AM

Jfood returns to Craftsman (MSP) - Another great meal

Jfood decided that a return visit to Craftsman was a good idea since it was a Monday night when many places are closed, he promised himself he would try the Charcuterie after hearing so many great things about this dish from MSP hounds, and he was hungry.

Instead of following the Garmin and getting lost for the third time, Jfood exited 35W at Lake St and drove across. What’s the deal with clearing main streets in MN? This would never be acceptable in CT and it has been days since any precipitation. Parking was not to be found in front so Jfood parked on 43rd St, which was even worse with the non-plowing. But this is a food site so let’s get to the good stuff.

The restaurant was serving about 20 people as Jfood entered and he chose a high table near the bar. The same server as his last visit arrived at his table, they schmoozed a little and then Jfood mentioned he was absolutely ordering the charcuterie and looked for suggestions for the entrée. She initially suggested trout, but in the dead of winter, that was not something Jfood was looking for and then she mentioned the venison (she did likewise on the last visit and Jfood was eyeing this as well). Jfood ordered the Charcuterie plate for the appetizer and the grilled red venison leg with pumpkin barley risotto and roasted cipollini onions for his entrée.
The meats arrived. It included 7 different meats ranging from sausages to slices. Included on the plate was spicy mustard and housemade sauerkraut. As Jfood sampled each of the meats, he was glad that he chose this as an appetizer. The breadth of the flavors were fantastic and the bread that they gave to him was a perfect accompaniment. Jfood would highly recommend this dish as a shared experience for a group of people in addition to other appetizers that might be ordered individually.

After a brief pause, the server brought the venison steak. Now the menu calls this a “leg” but it is more of a “filet mignon” that was cut in two. There were no bones, no leg look-alike features, just a beautifully prepared piece of meat. The mound (very large) of pumpkin barley risotto was centered on the plate and three darkened onions sat to one side. Jfood first tasted the risotto. This had a grainy flavor with a small amount of pumpkin. Jfood liked this part of the dish. Next Jfood took a slice of the venison. This was perfectly cooked to his medium-rare request, with a nice crust on the exterior. The meat was flavorful, extremely tender and Jfood thought it was excellent. He cut a piece of an onion and tasted. They were glazed in a balsamic and as Jfood swallowed he felt some heat remaining on his tongue. It was a badly executed attempt at combining many taste elements. Cipollini onions are so flavorful that the vinegar and chili powder that were included overwhelmed the true flavor of the onions. This was just a bad idea on the part of the chef. Jfood continued to enjoy the venison and the risotto, but not the onions.

So, once again Jfood highly recommends Craftsman, a gem on East Lake St. Ask questions of your server since they know the offerings, definitely share the Charcuterie plate and enjoy one of the varied entrees.

Craftsman Restaurant
4300 Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55406

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Isn't the chacuterie plate just awesome. Yum. I need to go and get it again! Did jfood get the saurkraut crackers with it? They came with the plate when we had it and they were so yummy! I really like Craftsman!

    2 Replies
    1. re: turtlebella

      there were crackers included in the center of the plate but jfood does not believe they were sauerkraut.

      1. re: jfood

        They probably were! I *hate* sauerkraut and when the waiter mentioned they were sauerkraut crackers I immediately thought to myself, well I'll just use the bread. My sweetie convinced me to try them and they didn't really taste like sauerkraut at all. We would never have known about it if the waiter hadn't said something. Later we asked about them & told him we thought they were great and he mentioned that the recipe was one of assistant chef's (sous-chef? Forgive me I know not all the appropriate titles for a kitchen) grandmother's. Pretty cool.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. thanks for the report. i live in the neighborhood and go to the craftsman often for their fantastic cocktails and excellent snacks (Love the charcuterie plate, it's a must-order,) but i rarely get an entree. something tells me it's time to dig deeper into the menu.

        1. Craftsman is so great when it's great. Too bad you aren't in town for their weekend brunches (or, is it just Sunday brunch? I can't remember).

          Another place that's open Monday nights you might like to put on your list for when you're looking for something new is Signature Cafe. Very small, very cozy kind of place. Not on par with Craftsman or Meritage or Alma, etc., but certainly worth a visit if you're looking for something new and a cozy spot.


          1 Reply
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Thanks TDQ.

            Someone in the office explained the meteorological events of christmas with the rain, snow, ice, snow, rain, ice. Jfood noticed the mounds onthe edges of the roads looked like moonscapes versus plowed snow, if you get his drift (man that's a bad pun)

            Jfood not in town for some other eating adventures for a week or so and will look at signature cafe when he returns.


          2. I went to Craftsman last night for a pseudo-birthday dinner (my birthday was on the 10th) with my sister and her fiance. We arrived 10 minutes early for our 7pm reservation to find the restaurant ~25% full.

            After hearing all the hype, we had to start with the charcuterie plate. Last night's version included: chicken liver pate, sauerkraut, stone ground (spicy) mustard, head cheese, chorizo, soppressata (?), rabbit terrine, another aged ham (the name of which I don't recall) and sauerkraut crackers. This was as good as advertised. I was amazed to watch my sister, who used to be a very picky eater, dive into everything with reckless abandon. I followed suit and really enjoyed every element. For anyone who might be going in the future, that mustard packs quite the kick. I slapped a small amount on some bread to have with the ham and it cleared my sinuses out. All in all, a great starter. Enough for 4 people, easily.

            To the mains. I had my sights set on the venison jfood so aptly described, but alas, it was not on the menu. With that obstacle in place, I asked the server for her recommendation between the duck confit with potato/onion gratin or beef short ribs with root vegetable stew and creme fraiche. She recommended the short ribs and I obliged. My sister ordered the pulled pork sandwich with red onion apple marmalade while my brother-in-law to be opted for the whole pancetta wrapped roasted trout with spaghetti squash and brown buttered kale.

            Mains arrived and looked very nice. My short rib dish consisted of 3 short rib pieces and various root vegetables in a pan sauce with a dollop of creme fraiche. As I moved to the first rib, I left my knife aside, expecting the meat to be at the level of fork tenderness I accomplish at home. I was wrong. The first piece was covered in a layer of fat that spanned the length of the rib and accounted for half of the thickness as well. This was upsetting: I would have expected the meat to be trimmed. Underneath the fat, the meat was quite tender, but not fork tender. The second and third pieces were considerably worse. Both were dry to the point of barely getting through them with the knife provided. They also had to be dragged in the pan sauce prior to consumption. Not what I was expecting, sadly. The root vegetables were OK, but I didn't feel like they added a real lot. Overall a disappointing dish, given the expectations I had. I don't think Chef Phillips was present last night, for what it's worth.

            To the other mains. I sister's fiance seemed to enjoy his trout, although I can't honestly say whether or not it was wrapped in anything. Either way, he enjoyed the dish. My sister's pulled pork was probably the winner. Full of flavor and moist, this meat was very good. The sandwich itself was a bit of a failure, though, as the ciabatta roll fell apart under the moisture and heft of the pork. Still, really good dish.

            Desserts consisted of vanilla bean creme brulee (me), cookies and Izzy's dulce de leche (sis) and apple crisp with Izzy's salted caramel (future bro). Mine was nice; the top was nicely torched, giving the flavor of a perfectly toasted marshmallow. The innards were nice and smooth, not too heavy, with a great vanilla flavor. A winner. Sister's dish was probably the worst. My first taste of the Izzy's dulce de leche was like a punch in the face. The sugar was so overwhelming I nearly spit it onto my plate. Beyond that, the cookies weren't bad. The apple crisp was the winner, though. Nice, buttery crust with an excellent filling. I'm a sucker for Izzy's salted caramel, so that really finished it off for me.

            Overall, a very uneven meal. Great starter, disappointing main, nice dessert. I could see myself returning in the summer to eat in the garden/porch area, but I hope to have better luck than last night.

            2 Replies
            1. re: BigE

              I too love the mustard and have found out the brand they use is "Boetje's", which I have found at Lund's.

              1. re: SmartCookie

                thanks for the tip on the mustard--i think it's great but agree w BigE that it should be treated with respect, as it is quite potent.

                i also got the short rib as my main on a recent visit and it was very tender and melting, not dry at all. i liked it but it is not the best dish at craftsman imo. the charcuterie plate just keeps getting better and better every time we go--great stuff!