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Aug 11, 2010 03:50 PM

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."

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.