Slideshow

First Look at The Craftsman, Soft-Open in Santa Monica

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The Craftsman

Santa Monica’s The Yard was a solid hangout for beer-lovers on weeknights, slider-lovers during happy hour, and the ocean-side pick-up set come weekends. In 2009, Top Chef stringbean C.J. Jacobson was named the restaurant’s chef, boosting its status as a culinary destination with help from his gastro-pub riffs and late-night menus. With owners sensing the need for a change, The Yard closed on January 1 and was reborn this week as The Craftsman, with a more open, urban cottage style and pastel color scheme that winks to the area’s beach culture. Gone are the high communal tables that cut your sight-line of the be-suited barmen, replaced by an arrangement of comfy couches, stand-up games, and an old school Pac-Man machine that give the room more of the vibe of a plush den.

Chef Alex Caves, who stepped up after C.J. split in early 2012, is still developing his menus for a grand-opening later this month, retaining the restaurant’s juicy sliders, making his own smoked ketchup and spicy mustard, employing beet sugar in several dishes, and striking a nice balance between comfort food and chefy attention with bites like PRB-battered onion rings, house-smoked and pickled vegetables, taco dip, and a “Breakfast for Dinner” sausage slider with maple-sherry gastrique.

What are definitely quite solid at the moment are the bar’s cocktails, spelled out on a list of fourteen classics made quickly and correctly, from a faithful “Hemingway daquiri” to a strawberry, basil, and Tito’s vodka combination known as “Strawberry Fields.”

Take a look at the new space, sliders, and cocktails at The Craftsman, now soft open in Santa Monica, in our slide show.

The new business has stand-up games, board games, and old-school video games.
There’s now as much emphasis on cocktails as on the taps.
With Brugal Blanco, lime and grapefruit juice, and Luxardo.
From the “Snacks” section, with rosemary, maple-sherry gastrique, Sylvetta arugula, and sweet and spicy pecans.
With Pitu cachaca, blackberries, limes, and a Cabaernet float
Left: Yellowfin tuna with lebnah, cilantro sprouts, and pickled Fresno chilies. Right: “The Classic” with Wagyu beef, gruyere, caramelized shallot jam, over-dried tomatoes, arugula, and crispy pancetta.
With Tito’s handmade vodka, strawberry, basil, and lemon juice.
Chocolate wafer with dark chocolate and sweet beet sugar, ganache, vanilla marshmallow, and cocoa crumbs from a dessert selection of “Candy Bars,” kind of like a 3-D version of Rocky Road.
Of Santa Monica.
First Look at The Craftsman, Soft-Open in Santa Monica