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Craft & Commerce in Little Italy

Now open in the short lived Illume spot

"the latest venture from the folks behind Neighborhood, Noble Experiment and El Dorado, opened on Aug. 8. With an interior designed by Paul Basile, the d├ęcor is part Old West, part cool secondhand bookstore. While the menu lacks in the vegan and vegetarian options, the cocktails are mighty good, and we dig the M-Theory-curated tunes and books-on-tape playing in the restroom."

http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/ar...

Anyone been?

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  1. Went this evening there were two of us. Very friendly staff, still working out kinks with basic stuff, bread with charcuterie plate and dropping silverware at propertimes but I think great potential. The cocktails were very good. The wine list is hopefully a work in progress. Would love if they could grab some wine from Enoteca around the corner. Obviously wine is not their thing so I won't judge. The beer selection looked good but didn't try any.

    As there doesn't seem to be a menu online I will give a pretty detailed description of the food. We shared the charcuterie plate which was great not just because of the meats but because of the interesting additions of their house vinegar/chutney/tomato salsa. They all paired well with the bone marrow, coppa molina, fried house beef jerkey, and chorizo blanca. It was 14 dollars and I think quite generous. We also had the mussels which came with an uni/jalepeno broth that was spicy with a nice umami flavor (also 14 and a huge serving.) The fries on top were a bit cold but the grilled lemon was a tasty addition. I liked the fact that they actually had spice. The only complaint would be I would have liked some ketchup with the fries as a counterpoint to the umami/spicy flavor. Very diverse crowd, hipsters to marines to older couples. I wish they had seating outdoors but am guessing it is an alcohol permit issue.

    1. Recently went. We tried out the brisket sandwich and the mussels with fries.

      The brisket sandwich came with a few leafs of lettuce and a peppered heirloom tomato on the plate alongside the sandwich, presumably for inserting into the sandwich if one wished. Since the sandwich was pretty tightly wrapped up in paper, I actually mistook this for a side salad. On the menu, the dish is listed as coming with pastrami and a buttermilk slaw. I was expecting the pastrami to be in the sandwich (it was), but for the slaw to be on the side as a side dish (it wasn't - it was in the sandwich too). So, no side dish there. I found that a bit odd, to serve a sandwich straight-up with nothing on the side. The sandwich was very tasty, though.

      The mussels came with fries and a grilled lemon half. Instead of the traditional broth that the dish is always served with (pretty much everywhere in the world), their version comes with a butter sauce with uni and habanero in it. It was tasty, albeit a little thick, and there wasn't nearly enough of it. It was a small pool on the bottom of the bowl, which you really had to dig down to even find. When you get mussels, I think that 80% of the dish is about that broth that comes with it. Without that, it's a bit strange. Tasted good, though.

      Didn't have any cocktails (which I'm sure are as good as at Noble and El Dorado). Did have beer, which was a selection of a bunch of Stone taps. They had some other beers on tap as well, but nothing too far out there. All craft brews, with some PBR on there as well.

      The beers are served in small snifter glasses. Save for one or two of their taps (Levitation and probably the PBR), they're all served that way. The cheapest beer was $6. And these were only 6-8 oz snifters, not the larger ones that are typically reserved for Belgian beers, so that's essentially $12 for a pint of beer. Ouch. That beats Banker's Hill Restaurant as having the most expensive average price for a pint of beer in San Diego (Banker's Hill was serving Racer 5 at $9.75 per pint). Given that the signature cocktails (which they're more famous for) are all priced at $10, I think that the choice is obvious. If you're coming here, drink a cocktail, not a beer.

      The decor is nicely done, and the location is just off the beaten path in Little Italy. One complaint about the interior is that the chairs that they have in the place are insanely uncomfortable. Save for the bar stools and the booth along the wall, the rest of the seating is in the form of these red metal chairs. The metal isn't the issue, it's the armrests. At the front of the chair, they join the seat base far too close to each other. So, as you sit down in the chair, the armrests and the part that connects to the seat on both sides are all pinching the outside of your legs/hips/waist. Because the chair is made of metal it's extremely unforgiving. It's like you're sitting in a clamp. This might sound absolutely stupid, but if you go, try them out and you'll see what I'm talking about. I looked around the room and all of the women had their legs crossed, and all of the men were trying to slouch at an angle to try and fit. They look cool, but they're a seriously awful design.

      Service was fine and very friendly, and the kitchen looked like they were doing okay with getting all the dishes out on time. The place is very loud inside, and the wait times are apparently already out of hand at the place. We got there early in the evening, took the last table, and as soon as we sat down, 6 groups of 3 had already walked in and were filling up the waitlist. Since there was already a party of 9 sitting in one of the booths, a party of 6 at another, and there are only about 8 other small 2-top tables in the place, I'd say that they were in for a loooong wait. I don't understand why people think it's a good idea to bring a large party to a place that just opened. You're throwing a ton of stress on a new kitchen and wait staff, and you completely ruin the ability of the place to handle any sort of timely seating arrangement, as well as pissing off everyone on the wait list when they end up having to wait 2 hours for a table at what is essentially a bar which serves "snacks". There's some etiquette to be learned on the part of the hip diners in this town, but I think it would also serve the owners a little better to put a party headcount limit on their seating. The place is far too small to be accomodating groups of 5+.

      Definitely a cool spot, with some tasty food and drinks (like I said, I didn't get a cocktail, but I expect the quality to be the same as Noble and El Dorado). They seem to already be ironing out the kinks, so I'm sure we'll be back. We just won't be sitting in those damn chairs, and I'm sticking with cocktails next time.

      1. Went here last night....a very satisfying meal. Opened with roasted marrow bones, they give you two half-bones, maybe eight inches long or so, prepared with a ton of garlic. It's served with some toasted bread (to spread the marrow of course) and a light spinach and pico de gallo salad. The marrow is delicious, though they should probably tone down the garlic, it tends to override the dish. I would have been totally happy to eat a few of these as a meal.

        Followed that up with the buttermilk fried chicken, which is fantastic, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, better than the one I tried at Jayne's (which is a weekly special I think). Perhaps a bit oversalted, but then again that may be responsible for the wonderful texture and great chicken flavor. For $14 they don't skimp on the dish either, half a chicken, with fingerling potatoes, roast green beans, and a slaw. The potatoes may have actually been the highlight of the night, creamy and flavorful.

        Beer menu is fine if a bit pricey, especially compared to the food which is actually a very good deal. They have about 10 or 12 rotating local taps, plus about 15 or so bottles which are mostly Californian or Belgian. Service could have been a little better, I felt our waitress wasn't really around when we needed her and it was hard to get her attention. The food is the real deal.

        1. I made it over to Craft & Commerce last night. We arrived early; just before 6:00pm, hoping the beat the crowds, but the place was already full. Our name was the first to be put on the chalkboard, and we waited at the bar and looked over the menu. The manager and staff were very friendly, except the bar tender who was all too focused on his 'Cocktail' moves to worry about us. A table opened up fairly quickly and we ordered both appetizers and entrees immediately as I had heard they can be a bit slow coming out of the kitchen. The appetizers arrived fairly quickly and included the cheese board and the biscuits. The cheese board included some interesting cheeses - including one very, very pungent cheese (we were warned in advance) that was very tasty and a Sopressata (sp?) and Spanish Chorizo plus a few other nibbles. For only $15, this is one of the better cheese and meat boards in San Diego. The biscuits were flaky and crumbly and would have been excellent with a tad more salt. They were served with a peach compote and some type of aioli - I would have preferred a flavored butter. My entree was the fried chicken, which was crisp, flavorful and juicy. The sides, slaw, two or three small pieces of fingerling potatoes and green beans were fine but I would have preferred something other than a slaw. The same slaw made an appearance in my dining companion's brisket sandwich which dominated the sandwich - neither one of us could really taste the brisket. Also, neither one of us were too keen on the fact that it was served in paper. I wasn't sure if that was a gimmick or just to keep the juices of the slaw off the guests. The apps and entrees were filling so no room for dessert. Nothing was great, but definitely on the good + side and It seems as though they are still fine tuning the details so I would definitely give it another try. I saw more interesting options on the apps menu than the entrees, so maybe next time we'll just order all apps.

          1. been twice; 1st visit the service was gosh awful (albeit friendly) but the food was good, I had a grilled snapper sandwich. 2nd visit no issues at all with service, prompt and friendly. had the pork cheek sammy, oh my! always happy to see Allagash from the tap. also good to see Craig Jimenez with his own kitchen...

            1. Went for early lunch but with a hankering for breakfast. Amazing corn dogs. Just amazing. The perfect breakfast food. The smoked salmon blt (or b-a-t since it was arugula) and champagne cocktail were pretty amazing breakfast foods, too.

              yes, maybe hokey. and yes, very Portland by way of Brooklyn 10 years Too Late, but for me, a SD treasure for lunch and afternoon drinking. I've had mixed luck, no pun, with the cocktails, but the most recent bartender was excellent.

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              Craft & Commerce
              675 W Beech St, San Diego, CA 92101

              1. I think Craft & Commerce is a good addition to Little Italy. This really is the only spot in that 'hood that has a lively vibe, after 10 pm, with good food & cocktails. Yes the hipster vibe seems a bit wannabe Brooklyn but I don't think it comes off as sincere with good service and food.

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                Craft & Commerce
                675 W Beech St, San Diego, CA 92101

                1. Now serving brunch SAT and SUN. We'd tried two other places this rainy SAT morn and refused to wait in long lines. Tried C&C and found them serving their new brunch menu. Husb had french toast (huge, brioche, maybe deep fried. I never got a bite.) and I had the Lamb Sausage with Spicy Cheese Sauce Biscuit Sandwich. What I like about C&C is that the food has that sinful quality of junk food but is way better. Wish the food had been hotter and they'd forget the little flowers as a garnish-- after all, it is man food-- but I was really hungry and it all tasted good.

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                  Craft & Commerce
                  675 W Beech St, San Diego, CA 92101

                  4 Replies
                    1. re: honkman

                      Meat & potatoes, straight forward, not a lot of fluff?

                      1. re: honkman

                        Have you been to Craft & Commerce? The service staff (mostly men) dress like handsome lumberjacks or extras from MCCABE AND MRS MILLER. The food, too, is hefty and hip. Their trademark is a killer corndog. So I guess I mean that "man food" is fried, filling, and meaty. The spicy cheese sauce on my Sausage Biscuit Sandwich came real close to cheez whiz, but like a cheez whiz made in heaven. Dainty little flowers on top of a stacked-up tower of cheezwhizzy biscuit and sausage seemed the wrong touch. And the sandwich was so perfect it didn't need any embellishment at all. But maybe the chef needed to express his feminine side too.

                      2. re: pickypicky

                        We stopped by today for lunch (Saturday), not knowing they had introduced a brunch menu. I was initially a little disappointed -- bacon cracker jacks not available until dinner -- but it was ultimately a satisfying experience. The duck breast cassoulet on the brunch menu was excellent. My wife got the "bruleed" grapefruit and a side of bacon. Not sure if they cure their own bacon, but it was refreshingly light on the salt and smoke. Good to see an old favorite continuously reinventing itself.

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                        Craft & Commerce
                        675 W Beech St, San Diego, CA 92101

                      3. Got voted as one of the top 50 bars in the US by Food and Wine Magazine.

                        37 Replies
                        1. re: El Chevere

                          Congratulations C&C! One of my favorite places in SD-- and good to know the media maw thinks so too.

                          1. re: El Chevere

                            Good for them! Went back the other night for corn dogs, hamburgers & fried chicken and loved every bite. Had to laugh when my husband jokingly asked for kecthup and the server asked if he wanted a side of vodka too.

                            1. re: melee

                              That's probably the height of douchbaggery too.... not to beat a dead horse but they're in the hospitality business. C&C has a good thing going but they also have a mega marketing machine behind them too, which skews reality in regards to F&W nods, ect. Go up to SF and this bar is one of a million versus one in a million. .

                              1. re: mjill

                                Not necessarily. The entire wall opening up to the street is SD's strong suit. The inside may be copycat Brooklyn, but the fresh air is all ours. And last time I was in SF, I don't remember nary a corndog.

                                1. re: pickypicky

                                  Corn dogs are about as signature of American comfort food as any. C&C does them well too. You weren't going to the right places in sf. Mission district had quite a few places that served them and their dogs were made in house, which C&C doesn't do. One of my favorites was wrapped in a very heavily
                                  peppered jack, dipped and fried. Very good.

                                  1. re: mjill

                                    Sorry I missed them. Funny thing is, in SF I wouldn't have wasted my time on a corndog with so many more wonderful things to try. But in SD I have to take what I can get!

                                    1. re: pickypicky

                                      Delicious food is delicious food. A pint of Pliny goes down well with a super spicey corndog.

                                  2. re: pickypicky

                                    Yeah, I am glad that a couple of places in san diego understand the value of fresh air.

                                    I wouldn't really call it "SD's strong suit" as there are only a handful of places that do this. Underbelly needed to fix all the windows to accomplish this. Beyond those two places, the list is short.

                                    It always amazes me how places in san diego are built like places in the midwest or something.

                                    I wonder why it took so long? You almost think that every restaurateur in san diego had never been to another city with nice weather.

                                    1. re: stevewag23

                                      Agree with you 100%. When I say fresh air is San Diego's strong suit, I mean-- it's what we've got, not what restaurants do with it. It bowls me over that so few places here do great al fresco dining or have fresh air worked into their designs. There's really no excuse. C&C would be just a wannabe Portland or Brooklyn place, imo, without the entire wall opening up. It also has the plus of facing that pretty block of Beech, with trees and interesting architecture across the street.

                                      1. re: stevewag23

                                        seriously man, all these miles of oceanfront and 3 days of rain a year and there is a massive dearth of places to have a beer and lunch and see the water. I never can understand it.

                                        1. re: MrKrispy

                                          Look at our water front. 1/3 of it is consumed by ship building, 1/3 of it is consumed by the Navy and the last third is so expensive no one can afford to build it. You've gotta have some mighty deep pockets to do a water front resto adn keep it going. Beer and ocean view? Try Shades in OB

                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                            Don Bahia Bird Rock = 99 cent happy hour fish tacos, Pacifica, and ocean view. But seriously, we went to In Flux (Little Italy) for first time and the only tables available were stuck out on the sidewalk-- as if that's all it takes for outdoor dining. Even places who do it don't always do it well. Bread & Cie is a perfect example of great al fresco dining even if their view is a bus stop.

                                            1. re: pickypicky

                                              Bahia Don Bravo? That's not an ocean view. It's a view of the dumpsters in the parking lot with a peak of the ocean in the distance.

                                          2. re: MrKrispy

                                            Yeah its pretty bizarre.

                                            Even when you look at new buildings built in 2002-2007, zero outdoor dining.

                                            Even the condo buildings built have the tiniest balconies. Go to a place like Florida or Miami Beach and the condo buildings have wrap around balconies.

                                            And full every restaurant is 50% outdoor minimum.

                                            It really is one of life's great mysteries.

                                            For me, its the Pyramids and why san diego doesn't take advantage of it's weather as the top two.

                                              1. re: stevewag23

                                                Do you suppose this might be a city ordanance or building code thing? City council does not like senior citizens distrubed.

                                                  1. re: mjill

                                                    You might be right.

                                                    There probably is some California law against it. And outdoor restaurant eating areas.

                                                    Anyone know for sure.

                                                  2. re: stevewag23

                                                    San Diego isn't unique in that regard. I would guess that liability laws in California likely have something to do with it.

                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                      Does it seem like there is more outdoor eating areas in LA, OC or SF?

                                                      I am jogging my memory but can't really recall.

                                                      I do notice a huge difference in Florida.

                                                      1. re: stevewag23

                                                        One reason why Florida has had an explosion of outdoor eating areas (and bar areas) is because it is still legal to smoke in them. They've gotten rather creative in how they define "outdoor", from what I've been told.

                                                        1. re: RB Hound

                                                          San Diego is a food follower. It's a city that loves restaurants that are from somewhere else. (Why would anyone here name a restaurant Brooklyn Girl? Is the owner from Brooklyn. I hope so.) I'm still waiting for the places that are proud to be San Diegan in spirit and execution (besides the dim-witted service.) Even New York does great al fresco dining in the summer. But I remember the first time I went to George's Bar and the windows were open holes to the sea and sky, I flipped out-- and knew I had to move here. We'll even eat at JRDN just because it's got such a great outdoor area. Sorry I'm rambling, but I'm in Texas stuck with my mom in a motel.

                                                          1. re: pickypicky

                                                            "San Diego is a food follower."

                                                            For sure.

                                                            And it is definitely a follower of many things. I mean it was 20 years slow on the boutique hotel movement.

                                                            But I don't get why san diego doesn't understand that it has nice weather for restaurant outdoor seating.

                                                        2. re: stevewag23

                                                          Is anyone here familiar with the "parklets" in San Francisco? We were just there this weekend and saw a couple in front of F&B establishments like Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission and Tony's Pizza in North Beach. Essentially, a business leases two metered parking spots from the city in front of their business and converts them into a patio or "open space." Businesses were using them for additional seating, bike racks, etc. and a couple of em were totally tricked out with landscaping. I didn't notice anyone consuming alcoholic beverages on a parklet, but I did see some people smoking on them. Pretty great use of space. Attached is a Huff Po link with a video about them.

                                                          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09...

                                                          1. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                                            Now that's what I'm talking about! And that's why SF is SF. Somebody's got their thinking cap on.

                                                          2. re: stevewag23

                                                            LA has a number of outdoor seating areas all over the west side. SF, too. Not too sure about OC.

                                                            1. re: Josh

                                                              So I wonder if there are some specific laws in san diego preventing it?

                                                              1. re: stevewag23

                                                                Probably just a matter of someone taking the initiative or putting a proposal in front of the mayor's office and city planning departments (I am sure that statement drastically oversimplifies this process). The first paragraph in the San Francisco Pavement to Parks project website pretty much sums it up.

                                                                http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/

                                                                If you click on some of the "built project" links on the right side, you can see some pretty nice examples of what they are doing.

                                                                1. re: stevewag23

                                                                  Part is the American Disabilities Act which requires clear passage on sidewalks, I'm sure there are other city ordinances and red tape that limit such outdoor seating areas.

                                                    2. re: pickypicky

                                                      >And last time I was in SF, I don't remember nary a corndog.

                                                      I lived in Oakland for over 13 years, spent many weekends in S.F., and although I neither eat corn dogs nor remember seeing them they are most definitely there to be had:

                                                      Corn Dogs in San Francisco: Not Just Carnie Fare
                                                      http://www.7x7.com/eat-drink/corn-dog...

                                                      Proving, once again, you can find almost ANYTHING in San Francisco. I'm still hoping we can cop some of their food variety and expertise and transfer it here. Which reminds me: Is there any progress on the old downtown police station remodel project?

                                                      1. re: nileg

                                                        "Which reminds me: Is there any progress on the old downtown police station remodel project?"

                                                        Many, many rivers to cross before you'll see any progress.

                                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                                          Actually, the project got the ok from the Port of SD in December, and is suppose to begin renovation next month. Terramar, the developer, seems pretty aggressive by saying it will be completed sometime next year. We'll see how that goes.

                                                          http://www.10news.com/news/29991121/d...

                                                          1. re: hungerpane

                                                            Actually, that timeline is pretty ambitious. Agreed, they want to move forward ASAP, and they've proven they have the cash.

                                                            But that does not make permitting, etc go any faster. And one just knows they'll find a fuel plume or burial ground or something...

                                                            In short, when I see it, I'll believe it. I know Terramar wants to move quickly, but it's the port/city that will cause delays.

                                                            1. re: Fake Name

                                                              Looks like Terramar did seaport village too.

                                                              Not sure if that is a good thing.

                                                              1. re: stevewag23

                                                                Whether that's good, bad or indifferent, it probably depends more on what the City and Port have deemed will be the best use of the land and what they want to go in there and if it will be geared towards locals or tourists. I hope it's not the spawn of Seaport Village.

                                                                1. re: stevewag23

                                                                  Terramar purchased SV, didn't develop it.