Craft & Commerce in Little Italy, San Diego

“Welcome to Craft & Commerce Mr. Lardon!”

Craft & Commerce is a gastro pub located in the Little Italy district, San Diego and has a hip factor associated with similar San Francisco, New York and Portland eateries such as Wayfare Tavern, The Spotted Pig and Clyde Commons.

Craft & Commerce’s decor features reclaimed snow fencing from Wyoming on the ceiling, metal and glass front doors that utilize Model T Ford steering wheels as the handles, quotes from notable books, like the Grapes of Wrath and On the Road written on the walls.

The crowd at C&C is stylish as all get out, the men and women sharply dressed, heavily tatted waiters in cool caps caps of the Irish tweed types. If you like great cocktails, this pub is sure to please. The program is designed by award-winning bartender Phil Ward of Death & Co. and Mayhuel fame in New York.  It was explained to me that the drinks served at Craft & Commerce feature the first Kold-Draft ice machine in San Diego, known for making the slow-melting, perfect cubes required for a superior cocktail.

The food at Craft & Commerce focuses on hearty American fare with enhanced flavor from house-made items, custom meat grinds and an in-house smoker.  For appetizers we chose a salad and broiled oysters.  The Burrata salad featured fresh mozzarella, strawberries, blackberries, pistachios, heirloom greens and aged sherry vinaigrette.  Bright flavors, crisp greens, sweet fruit, cheese with fresh cracked pepper – made for a nice and light start for heavier things to follow.

The broiled oysters were pretty to look at … citrus zest and green pepper mayo, scallions and chervil and seaweed tempura.  Briny and fatty creamy flavor punctuated by the crunch of the tempura.  A creative dish indeed.

Washed down with Allagash Belgian White from Maine.  This beer is light and slightly cloudy, spicy with hints of coriander and orange peel.  Refreshing on a warm sunny, San Diego Saturday afternoon!

Heavier fare followed in the form of a Heritage burger for me – cooked medium rare with red onion confit, white cheddar, malt aioli and fries.  No ketchup is served at C&C.  What the heck? This is a newer trend with many snooty gastro-pubs that should be eschewed.  What’s wrong with the classic American condiment?  Get rid of the overrated truffle oil instead I say (a mainstay with many gourmet burger joints). Other that that – the burger was crafted beautifully – moist, well seasoned beef topped with cheddar and red onion confit.  I experienced heaven with each bite.

The burger went down witha brew from Russian River – Blind Pig American IPA from Santa Rosa.  This IPA showcases crisp citrus and pine hops with just enough malt base.  A nicely balanced IPA and a perfect match for the fatty meat housed in the burger.

Connie chose the Whole Grain Burger featuring a quinoa and lentil patty, sweet onion yogurt, aged cheddar accompanied by spicy pepper slaw and fries without ketchup.  Nice and moist, the dense veggie burger was as good as any you can find in this city.

The dessert featured cookies and milk.  The cookies are from The Cravory company in La Jolla and the three monsters featured on the plate were pancakes and bacon, red velvet and oatmeal pear fig.  Are you kidding me?  These are killer creations – the company has created 950 varieties with exotic flavors for the sweet tooth.  Pure bliss and a great finish to our meal!

If you are considering going, keep a few things in mind.  The restaurant takes no reservations.  These two had to wait for ever on the patio before scoring a table …

The kitchen is small, patience recommended.  Can take a while to get your food.  We got there early at 5pm and saw the tables fill in quickly.  By 7pm, the place was packed and service got slower.  But hey, this is laid back San Diego and not the city hustle of New York!

Parting shots and scenes from C&C:  The lion head mounted in the West side main seating area.

The giant magic mirror that is supposed to make the room bigger than it actually is (as it says …)

The menu cover.

My satiated partner.

We were two satisfied customers … hanging on the patio after an early dinner.

“Thank You For joining us at Craft & Commerce Mr. Lardon!”

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