Restaurant Review: Brunch at Craft & Commerce

    Craft and Commerce is a strange addition to the Little Italy neighborhood. Unlike the charming Italian grottos that feature 12 types of antipastos, Craft and Commerce is a hipster gastropub, the kind of place where you can drink until last call but still get a pretty stellar version of roasted bone marrow with lemon bread ($14 and served only at dinner).

    The restaurant’s decor plays no games — an eclectic mix of Urban Outfitter rejects somehow work together to create an irrevocable atmosphere of cool. Brushed metal benches are emblazoned with “I’m touching your ass,” poetry is scrawled across the walls and a neon sign reads “You look good” as customers exit. It’s feel-good weird, and it meshes perfectly with the food and drink offerings, which, of course is the point of it all.

    One of the hardest cocktails to get just right is the Bloody Mary, and a pretty accurate test of a neighborhood bar is to order one at breakfast, when the bar staff is still clearly chugging mugs of hangover-curing coffee. Because of the house “no-vodka” rule (banned because of tastelessness), the Craft and Commerce special is called the “Queen Mary” ($10) and is made with either gin or tequila. Your spirit of choice (choose gin), mixed with housemade Bloody Mary mix, freshly grated horseradish and chicarone, is an ideal morning wake-up call. But it is spicy — so spicy, in fact, that it is like drinking chilled Tabasco sauce. For Bloody-Mary haters who despise the taste of tomato, the spice cuts nicely into the typical V8 taste. It cuts nicely, that is, before it enters the esophagus-burning stage.

    Instead, try the non-alcoholic but decidedly delicious ginger mint lemonade ($3.50) — a refreshing blend of spice and chilled mint with a fizzy splash of club soda. What is most astounding about the drink is that it’s shaken with perfectly cubic ice cubes.

    Craft and Commerce also has its own version of the classic “Dutch baby,” a fluffy buttermilk pancake baked in a cast iron pan until puffed up and browned around the edges (try not to consider the origin of its name; Dutch abortion). Called the “oven-baked pancake” ($10), the dish takes 20 minutes extra to prepare and comes dusted with powdered sugar and a side of lemon curd, maple syrup and maple-glazed bacon. Though the pancake is on the smaller side (original recipes depict platter sized pancakes), it is home cooking at its finest: The browned edges rise up resplendently, leaving an almost gummy but tender middle that is unlike any traditional pancake. Cut it into wedges to get the nearly-burnt bliss of the edges mixed in with the soft, soufflé-like interior. Coupled with fresh blackberries and strawberries and a dab of thick lemon preserves, the dish redefines breakfast starch. On the heavier side, the thick-cut bacon, redolent with smoke and maple syrup, is so heavy with pork fat that it shouldn’t even be crispy. It is magnificent. It’s also no wonder that the pancake— woefully— comes with only two slices.

    The “fried chicken and cornmeal waffle” ($12) is everything Roscoe’s wishes it could be. A dense cornmeal waffle, spiced with chipotle peppers to pair nicely with the fried chicken, is served with warm maple syrup so good that it should be doused on the whole dish. Instead, more restrained eaters can take refined bites of moist chicken breast encased in a crisp garlic, chili, scallion and lemon thyme-seasoned exterior paired with the slightly gritty waffle. Sweet-salty main courses have been done to death, but this is one classic that cannot be passed up, especially considering the relative lightness of the fried chicken and vanilla-buttered waffle.

    It is just about par for the course that the check comes in a Moleskin notebook emblazoned with the drunken musings of years of diners. Leave your mark at Craft and Commerce, and don’t forget to tip — the servers are attentive enough to know—and admit— that they nearly forgot about your drink order.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal