Thought I would contribute another review of the craftsman. This is my first chowhound posting, so hopefully I won't say something moronic.
Since opening last year, I have passed the Craftsman multiple times and thought, man, I need to check it out. Well the weather finally got warm enough to walk down and celebrate my wife's birthday. With her, of course.
First, the location: it's on east Lake St, across from perhaps the worst Chinese place in the world, dragon city cafe chow mein. They (craftsman) are still landscaping the surroundings and it looks like they are also building a patio, which will be quite nice during the summer. With the patio at Longfellow grill and the patio at Craftsman, we'll have a nice little boulevard started down here.
The interior - the lighting, the tables, the chairs, everything is done up in arts&crafts style (as far as I can tell). Honestly I didn't even notice it at first because I was so hungry, but after a few bites I was able to observe a little more. On to the food.
Bread: decent bread with olive oil for dipping. I wasn't as thrilled with the bread as another reviewer; I kept wishing for a bread with smaller 'holes' in it (some expert correct me) and less waxy, because it would have been much easier to sop up the olive oil and later, the leftover mussel juice. Hey, it's a small thing but soppage quotient is important! Another small thing - the olive oil they had on the table was quote floral, almost perfumy. I would have used it for cooking but not for dipping. Maybe some people would like it.
Appetizer: we had PEI mussels steamed in Summit Oatmeal Stout, which was pleasing, but a bit dull. I am used to having a little more seasoning in the mussel soup, but the mussels were fresh-tasting, and there was a lot of shallot&stout flavor in the sauce. Mmm shallots. Again, same bread complaint.
Wine: neither of us are wine experts (I have devoted my time in the sauce to beer) so we asked for a recommendation. I said that we like Rosemount Shiraz, and asked for something we might like. The waitress recommended Terre Rouge Tete a Tete, a Californian Mourvedre/Grenache/Syrah mix (from the website, like I even know what the heck "Mourvedre" is). Between the two of us we drank the whole bottle, so by definition it was drinkable, but it was quite sugary, especially at the end. Oh well, live and learn.
My wife's dinner: she ordered diver's scallops ("slightly bigger than sea scallops") with a passion fruit glaze, fingerling potatoes, and (braised?) chard. The scallops were cooked perfectly and that glaze on them was incredible. I would say something else about hers but I figured since it was her birthday, I would let her eat all of her food rather than me. I would recommend the scallops.
My dinner: cioppino with the mussels, shrimp (and some fish I couldn't pin down). It had great tomato flavor and very nice balance; the waitress said that was a house specialty. I wouldn't order it again, but mainly because I have an irresistible compulsion to never order the same thing twice (good as it might be), but I would recommend it to others.
I'll tell you now that we skipped dessert; however, I had the great fortune of ordering a side of green beans. Friends, let me tell you that these beans are the best beans I have ever put in my mouth. First off they were fried in pork fat and covered in a red pepper flake/honey/(sesame oil?/) pan sauce with cracklins. Since I served grits to some folks just other day and most Minnesotans thought it was mashed potatoes, I will tell you what cracklins are. You like bacon? When bacon goes to bed at night on its tiny bacon pilla, it dreams that it's cracklins. These beans were incredible. You must try them. Just then, I started salivating thinking of these beans. One more glass of wine and I would have actually considered making a public announcement in the restaurant for everyone who had any room left to order these beans. And the entire menu said was "pork-fried green beans"! I could have missed them! Oh, the horror.
Overall, a great place. Total bill was around $100, with a $30 bottle of wine. I will return, for scallops & green beans. Or maybe just beans.
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