Monday, July 21, 2008

Craftsman

Visited on Friday, July 18th with Jamie, Daniel, Leigh, and little George :)

Craftsman

Erin's Review

I wanted to set up another dinner with my coworkers, and Jamie said she had been wanting to try Craftsman. Since her and Leigh live in the neighborhood, it seemed like a good choice.

When we got there, it was not busy at all - most of the inside was empty, and the outside had a few empty tables but was more crowded than the indoor seating since it was a beautiful night. I really enjoyed the outdoor area, it was surprisingly tranquil for being right on Lake Street.

Inside Craftsman

I had looked at the menu in advance and noticed that it was pretty expensive. All of the entrees with meat were over $20, or sandwiches were around $12 which seemed more reasonable. The waiter was giving his recommendations and he said the Gnocchi was good so I made the last second decision to go with that. I know that these prices aren't exorbitant, but for $18 for a plate of pasta and veggies, I'm expecting greatness.

We started off with the meat plate which was fun to try. I think I tried all of the meats, including the pig fat, and I liked most of them. I also had gotten a cheese plate for myself, the Uplands Farm Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which was quite tasty especially with the meat plate. It had a bit of a bite to it but was not overpowering. I really enjoyed the mustard on the meat plate as well, and I'm not typically a mustard fan.

Uplands Farm Pleasant Ridge Reserve

My entree was pretty disappointing. The gnocchi were cooked well, and seemed to be pan fried a little which added a little crisp. Overall though, it was very bland. I expected more of a cheese flavor from the sauce I think, and it just wasn't there. Others tried the dish as well and no one was wowed.

Potato gnocchi with root vegetables, ramp greens, and crème fraiche

I had a bite of Ben's burger and I thought it was very good and a much better value. Daniel and Jamie also got burgers. Leigh got the polenta, which basically tasted like butter. I didn't try her dessert, but it looked pretty.

Oven roasted polenta with a vegetable ragout Turkey burger with chive aioli and micro greens Rhubarb and something crisp

I am finding it hard to really "recommend" or not recommend some of the places we go to. I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from going to Crafstman, but I personally would not return because I feel there are a lot of other restaurants at this level that are a better value or food that I enjoy more.

Ben's Review
Erin made plans to have dinner with the same friends that we ate with at Moscow on the Hill on Friday night. Craftsman was convenient for everyone, so we planned to meet at 6:30.

While Erin took pictures out front I went inside to see if anyone had already arrived. Since I walked in alone the hostess tried to convince me that I was there to meet a single woman who had already arrived, but I explained that I was already with a group of six, but I appreciated her effort :) Leigh, Jamie, and Dan were already sitting outside on the patio. The patio at Craftsman is its most redeeming quality, I think. Even though the restaurant is on Lake St. the tall privacy fence gives the patio an intimate feel that is tough to accomplish on a busy street. Several tables on the patio are also covered by a large gazebo (I don't know what to call this, look at the photo) that gives the patio some shade which was great on the Friday night.

Craftsman Patio

Even though I recently decided to cut back on ordering drinks when we go out, I made the executive decision to have a beer. The soda was $2 and there were tap beers for $4 so I figured I could fudge it tonight. Don't judge me, it was Friday night and I wanted a GD beer. I had a Rush River Bubblejack IPA. Immediately after ordering I realized I was thinking that it was Rush River Amber Ale, which is much better than the IPA, but it was too late. The IPA is still pretty good, I was taken care of.

The food menu at Craftsman has a lot of big words that I don't recognize, many of which I assumed mean "not meat", so I went with the bacon wrapped venison burger, there's no way that burger didn't have meat on it, so I knew I was safe. Everyone else who got a sandwich ordered the small green salad instead of fries - not me, that night I was getting beer and I was getting fries. I knew that deep down they all WANTED fries, which was confirmed to me when Jamie wanted to try some of mine. They have several entrees on the menu, but the price jumps from ~$15 for a burger/sandwich to like $25 for an entree that I had a hard time justifying. Heck, even Erin's entree of potato filled gnocchi was $18 - and there was no meat involved.

We all ordered a meat platter (Charcuterie plate) to share as an appetizer that came with several different kinds of meat. They also gave us some bread, so the idea was to take a small piece of meat and put it on the bread with butter, I guess. It was pretty good, there was a fancy looking bologna thing that looked gross but actually tasted good. I didn't try the bread with a thin layer of pig fat on it. Dan finished that off though, no worries.

Bread

Charcuterie plate

My venison burger came done medium as ordered. The burger was about a third of a pound and had crumbled bleu cheese in addition to the bacon. The burger itself was pretty good, as I would expect from a $13 cheeseburger. You can tell a burger is good if the bottom of the bun gets soggy as it sits on your plate as the juice gets soaked up. For this reason I usually cut the burger in half and then turn it upside down, as the top bun of the burger is always thicker than the bottom and won't get soggy. The fries were good, they looked like they were sweet potato fries but I think they were just brown in color because they were cooked a little longer. Good consistency and grease content, and they gave me plenty of them, which I appreciated.

Bacon stuffed venison burger with blue cheese and chili ketchup

Leigh ordered dessert that she shared with everyone, but I was pretty full to begin with and I'm not much of a dessert guy anyways, so I held off. We had a great time going out with Erin's co-workers and the patio at Craftsman is excellent.
  • Service: Our server was great, he was down to earth and cool.
  • Food: My burger was great, and I tried Erin's gnocchi which was also good.
  • Drinks: They have some good beers at Craftsman, I'm always partial to tap beers. They also have a full bar and some specialty drinks.
  • Ambiance: The patio is fantastic on a summer night. The brief time I was inside looked nice as well; they have bright hardwood floors and bar, can't go wrong.
  • Price: I thought Craftsman was a little overpriced. The food was good, but I think you pay a little more because everything is organic and homemade, etc. So as long as you don't mind paying for that it's not a big deal, but I'd rather save a couple bucks.
  • Convenience: There's a small parking lot in back, otherwise there is on street parking in the neighborhoods behind the restaurant.
Deets
Craftsman
4300 Lake St
Minneapolis

Recommended for the outdoor patio and sandwiches. Entrees are a little overpriced.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

We were pretty underwhelmed when we tried Craftsman a few months ago. It didn't help matters much when I found a hair at the bottom of my pasta dish. Anyway, thanks for the reviews - we really enjoy them.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on your blog and have been reading for a while now. Your photography is really great! I got a DSLR about a year ago and I'm just starting to figure out how to use the settings. Did you take a class, or just experiment and figure it out?

Anyway, also didn't know if you were aware that Andrew Zimmern mentioned your food blog on his MSP Mag blog! http://msp.blogs.com/chowandagain/2008/06/the-most-overra.html
Pretty cool!

Anonymous said...

oops ... read the comments on Zimmern's blog and just saw that you posted, so i guess you know about the link! :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous poster about your stunning photography!

Anonymous said...

I live in the neighborhood and frequently visit the Craftsman. This is one of the best restaurants in the Twin Cities. I always try to buy local, organic foods for my family because it is better for them, it's better for the farmers and it's better for the environment. That being said, I know that buying local is more expensive and I think the Craftsman is very fair with their prices. If you want real food, prepared really well then the Craftsman is your place. I have never had a bad experience and will continue to dine there whenever I can. If you want a cheap meal and don't care where the food comes from... then you should probably go somewhere else.

Erin said...

Thank you for the compliments on the photography! I did take a few classes in high school, but other than that, my method of learning is pretty much trial and error.

As for the prices of entrees at Craftsman, I think they are higher than a lot of other places that also source local ingredients. The higher prices may be justified when it is harder to find ingredients locally (ie in the winter) but when you are eating vegetables that are in season, the prices should reflect that.

Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time poster.

I like Erin & Ben's reviews b/c they're a different take than you usually find from a "professional" review. It's like, restauran reviews for the common man.

I am sure the Craftsman has many fierce advocates, and I'm sure justifiably so. Local ingredients or not, Erin didn't dig her dish.

Maybe Ben & Erin aren't the Craftsman's target market. Even a casual read of their site gives you a good idea of who they are and what they like in a restaurant.

I guess I'm just amazed at how many people like to get snippy in a blog comment. Really? It's not like they trashed the place.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the burger

Venison should be ordered rare as there is very little fat in venison and the meat will turn into a hockey puck.

If you had grease coming off the burger it wasn’t venison. (Could be a venison/beef mix)


Craftsman is overpriced. It should have stayed as a bar.

smiley said...

Wow. Your blog is really lame. I think you all need to get jobs or boyfriends.