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genericeric

CraftBar, Craft's Casual Sibling in Flatiron - Chef Lauren Hirschberg on Broadway and E. 20th. Street - Closing Apr 30, 2017

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I'm normally hesitant to post about somewhere so well known, but since Don asked...

I feel a small sense of guilt whenever I go to New York (a few times a year) and end up at the same restaurant each and every time I'm there. Sure, I branch out as well, but at least one meal (and frequently several) is had at CraftBar.

I've tried Mesa in Union Square - it used to be really good, but for a few years I've felt like I'm paying for the name attached. Same can be said for the Batali restaurants I've tried lately. Momofuku Ssam is still a decent place to grab a pork bun if in the neighborhood, but David Chang seems focused on his more recent ventures. Daniel Boulud and Tom Colicchio are definitely ruling the celebrity chef roost at the moment (in my opinion) - and I just find myself attracted to CraftBar more often.

There IS a certain initimidation factor to dining out in NYC, particularly for unadventurous. Amazing and affordable food can be found if you have a playful palate and are willing to wander more than a few blocks from Broadway. If you're willing to drop a months rent, or at least a car payment, change your outlook on food with Masa or Per Se. But for a relaxed Saturday evening, or the in-laws happen to be in town? CraftBar is almost always a guaranteed homerun.

I, too, get frustrated at times by the simplicity (even if its near perfect simplicity) of the original Craft and (insert other ingredient focused, protein centric restaurant here). Sure, I love a GREAT and FRESH piece of fish, but if you're just going to poach and plate it, there is only so far that respect for ingredients and freshness can take you (other than to a triple digit check). I'm in the camp that I would like to see what a chef can do beyond cooking my protein to a ridiculously perfect temperature.

So enter CraftBar. The Pecorino Risotto Balls with spicy tomato sauce are consistently on the menu and are downright addictive. Sure, they're just risotto balls, but they're the best I've tried. There is almost always a pate or similar meat concotion on the menu, and these better than a safe bet as well (in addition to the pickles they come with).

I've tried sweetbread dishes at every Colicchio restaurant I've been to - my advice is if you see sweetbreads on one of his menus - order the dish. Sweetbreads sauteed with Kumquats is similar to the most amazing rendition of Orange Chicken you'll ever eat. Sweetbreads with a ramp puree brought a bit of spring into a dish I don't normally associate with warming weather. Pasta's are another strong point of CraftBar - I've never been sorry to have ordered a seasonal gnocchi.

So obviously I'm a fan. But last trip, I was made a believer out of a special pork dish for 2. Three different parts of the pig (including belly and shoulder) were presented with three different preparations, along with sides in what was a piggy nirvana. Easily enough food for 3 people was demolished by 2.

Throw in a relaxed atmosphere with professional service, a quality beer program and good wine list, and a price point that isn't going to bring tears to your eyes and the guilt for being a repeat customer in a city of so many good choices starts to abate.

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Softshell Crab and Egg Sandwich ($18) for brunch yesterday - loved the concept, could use a bit of tweaking on the execution. The sandwich was difficult to keep together and the pickled ramp relish was a bit overpowering, but overall I wanted to order 2. Would love to hear if anyone has found something similar closer to home?

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Lunch on Friday. Started with a Pimm's Cup and then we shared the smoked pig's head terrine and the potted chicken liver pate. I thought both were lovely. My dining companion was appalled at the large chunks of fat in the terrine. For entree's I had the pork belly and she had the spaghetti and meatballs. I loved the pork belly and lamented once again that I can't seem to cook it successfully on my own. I had a taste of the meatballs and I was wowed. Lots of flavor and very tender.

Service was friendly but not too precious. It was a perfect start to a weekend away. And really my only full dining experience this trip. I had hoped to get somewhere new but it wasn't to be.

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After recommending Craftbar pretty strongly for years, I hate to say that my last few visits have been disappointments. Not sure if it's because the previous chef has been promoted and a new toque has taken over day-to-day, if Collichio is stretched a bit thin these days, or if I've just been on off days, but with so many other great options it's hard to justify going back.

On the previous three trips, the bar service has been indifferent, the menu less appealing (personal preference plays a role somewhat there) and the food wasn't executed as well as it used to be. I also haven't seen the great pork dish for two since last spring.

All in all there haven't been any major errors per se, just retracting my previous full-throated recommendation.

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I was in Craftbar on Saturday and think it's still a good, occasionally great, restaurant. Our service was spotty at times, but I attribute that mostly to the 14-top our unfortunate waitress was also covering. The bathrooms were also out of order, which was a disaster, but the staff managed as best the could to lead guest next door. And, though the pork special for two ($72) was available, after "two snacks" and two "small plates" we opted to split a regular entree.

We started with a couple cocktails -- a nice riff on a Rob Roy and a lemony highball that my guest enjoyed immensely, though it reminded me a little of lemon Pledge (~$13 each). For snacks, we had the Pecorino Arancini ($7) and Spanish Octopus ($9). The former was excellent, with perfectly cooked rice. The later was merely good--the octopus was (unexpectedly) fried and served with small chorizo fritters and pimenton aioli, both of which needed a bit more punch to wake up the dish. Our appetizers included a Roasted Beet Salad ($13), served warm with fennel and a nice orange sauce, and a White Anchovy Bruschetta ($11), which ended up being a fancy take on an egg salad sandwich. The perfectly-cooked beets were the better of the two choices and, though I'm not a huge beet fan, reminded me why they're so popular.

The real highlight of the meal was the Spaghetti & Veal Ricotta Meatballs ($23), which is probably the best version I've ever had. The spaghetti was house made and served with a good, basil-heavy red sauce. But the meatballs were the true star--starkly white with an unexpected lightness and packed with flavor. I would go back to Craftbar just for this dish and the exceptional Buttermilk Panna Cotta ($9) we had for dessert. The Andre & Mireille Tissot Cremant de Jura Extra Brut Rose (NV-$56) was also excellent and went well with everything. However, the Irreverence Blend Espresso ($4.5) I had with dessert was overly acidic.

Overall a good meal with some great dishes. If we'd ordered just the arancini, beets, spaghetti, and panna cotta, it would have been exceptional. Not a cheap dinner--with a shared entree it came to about $175 pre-tip--though not obscene for a nice place in New York. And we probably could have skipped one of the courses and the cocktails and left happy.

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As a solo diner, I've felt really comfortable at the bar at Craftbar. I've only been during brunch/lunch/afternoon times when it's been quiet, so that may play a big part, but I've been to Craftbar three times since July (and I don't live in NY). I've found the space to be relaxing and had good service and food.

Most recently, I had lunch there this past Friday, and it was the first time I tried their meatballs (the meatball sandwich). I agree with the above posts - the meatballs were so good. I was amazed at their light texture (I had the beef and pork meatballs from The Meatball Shop at dinner, which highlighted the light texture of the meatballs at CraftBar). I also enjoyed the accompanying potato chips (looked like they were housemade).

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Well, I was at Craftbar recently for brunch, and I see that the last post in this thread was from me over 3 years ago.  I guess Craftbar continues to be one of my go-to places in NY. 

I really liked their avocado toast, which was more flavorful than the avocado toast I had earlier that day at Marta.

I also really liked their toast with ricotta, fried shallots (like fried onion strings), and asparagus.

I got the meatballs, which I wrote about above, and I still enjoy.  This version was meatballs in sauce with garlic toast.

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16 hours ago, cheezepowder said:

I really liked their avocado toast, which was more flavorful than the avocado toast I had earlier that day at Marta.

Was their avocado toast a crostini? Did you ever have Ron Tanaka's at Cork Wine Bar? It was wonderful - slices of fresh avocado on lightly grilled bread with a little olive oil and sea salt. Is this what that was?

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On 6/10/2016 at 1:35 PM, DonRocks said:

Was their avocado toast a crostini? Did you ever have Ron Tanaka's at Cork Wine Bar? It was wonderful - slices of fresh avocado on lightly grilled bread with a little olive oil and sea salt. Is this what that was?

Yes, I've had the avocado toast at Cork - both in the early days as well as recently (it's still on Cork's menu).  The avocado toast at Marta and Craft were along the same lines.  A slide of bread, toasted, with avocado though at Marta and Craft, the avocado was in the form of a spread/mash while Cork's version has thin slices of avocado. 

At Marta, the menu description for their avocado toast is "Whole Grain Toast, Fork Crushed Avocado, Chili Flake, Olio Verde" - $9.  The avocado topping needed some salt.

At Craft, the menu description for their avocado toast is "radish, pea shoots, pickled jalapeno, cilantro" - $13.

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Visited Craftbar for the final time last night.  For whatever reason, restaurants like this seem hard to find in Manhattan - comfortable, somewhat reasonably priced, well lit, tables not on top of each other, etc.  For those reasons, its been a central part of many of our New York special occasions over the years - birthdays, engagements, anniversaries, etc.

That being said, as I've posted above, I haven't felt that the food has held up over the years.  Last night there was a Duck Country Pate that was oddly textured and tasted strongly of Christmas (spices, cherries, etc).  A chicory salad that badly needed a bright, acidic dressing but instead had bacon, peppercorn dressing and feta - it was a salt bomb.  Pork that was faintly fishy and a very thin pecorino fonduta.  This is a VERY heavy, winter menu.  The banana tart and foie gras torchon were both quite good.

The service was excellent and friendly, the bar still well-stocked, the seats full.  It certainly didn't feel like a restaurant marching toward a set closing date, but we were there for the nostalgia, no longer the food.

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14 minutes ago, genericeric said:

Visited Craftbar for the final time last night.

Wow, reading through this thread, it's almost as if you lost a friend.

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