Restaurant review: Gastropub-y Crafty Pint off to a promising start

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From the June 19, 2014 edition

Barely a month old, The Crafty Pint has hit the ground running — or at least jogging at a respectable pace — with its conscientious team, boldly seasoned food and more-hits-than-misses execution. An ambitious new project from the owner of the local Rude Dog Bar and Grill sports pubs, The Crafty Pint proves that eight years spent growing Rude Dog into a three-headed mini-chain haven’t been squandered. In other words, unlike an alarming number of new restaurants, The Crafty Pint premiered with a detailed game plan.

Obviously, its name conveys beer — and 40-ish, Ohio-focused taps are offered. These beers appear on extensive tableside suds lists that logically proceed from lighter to darker brews, include illuminating descriptions, and, for giggles, are printed on the backs of old board games like “Clue.”

Occupying the previous Gallo’s Pit BBQ space (aka the original Hoggy’s), TCP abounds with such HAVE-FUN! touches. So there are bandanas for napkins, Maker’s Mark mini-bottles for salt-and-pepper shakers, logo-etched drinking glasses (TCP’s logo is a top-hatted “crafty” fox a la Disney’s “Pinocchio”) and bills presented in Dr. Seuss books.

The compact interior features a veritable beer altar fabricated with tap handles and positioned above the small bar. There are also sports-tuned TVs, the obligatory gastropub-y repurposed wood/rustic tables, classic rock and brick walls offset by eccentric black-and-white false walling. Overall, this creates a convincing relax-and-cut-loose atmosphere. Even more persuasive is the patio, a comfy and often bustling space effectively fenced-off from the drab parking lot and decorated with block letters loudly proclaiming it a “BEER GARDEN.”

So beer up. Most pints are $5, but indecisive types can get an $11 flight — served in baby food jars, of course. Cocktail-wise, I tried a too-sweet Jalapeno Margarita ($9) and the more interesting New Old Fashioned ($9) stiffened with coffee/vanilla bitters.

Food-wise, TCP distances itself from by-the-numbers ho-hummers with freshness (its $28 ribeye dinner stars grass-fed Ohio beef) and flagrant flavors — most of which work. For instance, TCP’s first-rate, just-made and garlic-kissed guacamole ($6; goofily served in a colander, but with good chips) is a chunky, creamy and zippy must.

The entree-sized Coconut Mussel Bowl “sharable” ($9) featured a rich, just-spicy and aromatic coconut milk-based sauce reminiscent of a (too) sweet and (too) thick Thai-style tom kha soup broth.

Another worthy starter is the smoked and grilled Honey Bourbon Wings ($9). Though I would’ve preferred crisper exteriors, I loved the real-deal smokehouse flavor of the fall-off-the-bone chicken.

Multiply one of those flappers by about a hundred, and you get TCP’s so-big-you-gotta-laugh smoked Turkey Leg ($14). This heaving meat club might conjure up Fred Flintsone at a Renaissance Faire, but its alluring, hammy-poultry flavors also conjured smiles on diners. Plus, it comes with tangy and delicious goat cheese grits and a teeny cup of intense turkey jus, just in case that leg log needs a little moistening — mine did.

Although the meat was also a smidge dry on my Asian-flavored Marinated Duck Flatbread ($11), there were still things to appreciate about that colorful little pizza. Such as the crunch from chow mein noodles, abundant hoisin-marinated lean fowl slices, black sesame seeds and well-proportioned mozzarella and red peppers.

Had the tortillas been warm and pliable on my nice-priced (smoked) Paprika Pork Tacos (3/$9; served with that good guac and chips, plus a fresh mango salsa and zesty slaw), I might’ve scored them nearly as high as the flavor-bomb but get-it-without-the-the-basil Chicken Churasco Sandwich ($11, partnered with killer fried pickle chips). But, in the end, those pleasant but still-kinks-to-work-through tacos were emblematic of this promising newcomer.

Photos by Tim Johnson