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FIRST LOOK: Craft & Commerce

S.D.'s iconic cocktail bar reopens today with new look, new lions


After the long wait and ever-delayed rebuild—Craft & Commerce reopens today. The restaurant and bar—which brought new art, new cocktails, and new life to Little Italy when it first opened in 2010—was closed for a full year for its makeover.

If mapping out spots where the modern craft cocktail movement started in San Diego, C&C would be one of them. For the redesign, owners Consortium Holdings (Ironside, Neighborhood, Polite Provisions, etc.) expanded to the corner of Kettner and Beech with a wrap-around patio and built-in fire pit tables.

If taxidermy bothers you, prepare to be bothered. Designer Paul Basile (Ironside, Underbelly, Soda & Swine) partnered with the San Diego Natural History Museum to create a predatory tableau. Right in the door, a lion preys on a hog in a grassland scene above the bar. In the back of the dining room, another lion just chills. Various animal heads mount the wall.

Quotes from famous authors are scrawled into the walls of the 3,300 square-foot space, books are stacked on shelves made of shattered glass. Your granddad who hunted and read books and smoked pipes and fancied himself a Hemingway character would feel at home here. Think Sean Connery as Indiana Jones’ dad.

The chef for the new C&C era is Ted Smith, who spent years under top San Diego chef Carl Schroeder—both at Market and Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant. His menu continues the San Diego trend of wood-firing, with grilled oysters, various roasted and grilled vegetables, plus a rotisserie chicken, aji chile-marinated pork chop. Southern fare like corn bread skillet and Brussels sprouts with bacon are offset by ideas like Korean BBQ chicken wings. A small bevy of entrees includes yellow curry, chicken-fried quail, short rib Bolognese, veggie fettuccine, and their C&C burger.

And, of course, the cocktails will continue to be the calling card of C&C.

The bigger news of this project is False Idol—the “hidden” tiki bar that will open a few days later. It’s a collaboration with one of the world’s foremost tiki experts, Martin Cate, who owns Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. The tiki revolution is already happening in San Diego, and that will cement it.

C&C opens today at 4 p.m. They’ll be open every day, same time. On weekends, they’ll serve brunch starting at 9 a.m.

675 W. Beech Street, Little Italy, craft-commerce.com.

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