Local beer is at the heart of the Craft House experience and serves as its foundation, although it does not tell the entire story. True, Kentucky beer is celebrated unabashedly at Craft House, however the term “craft” seems to extend beyond the lengthy list of local, sudsy brews on tap.
The menu is constructed with local purveyors in mind, individual farmers and artisans who have perfected their own craft. The offerings are rich with flavor and decadent in their selections. At first glance, the menu seems limited to heavy offerings of cheese, pork and a variety of hearty sandwiches. There is, of course, no objection to such an appealing, albeit predictable, list. Closer review reveals greater inspiration however, with dishes like the Panzanella salad, a traditional Italian bread salad rich with pickled onions, tomato and herbal sourdough; and the mushroom Reuben, a blend of seitan and mushrooms topped with house-made lager kraut, a creole remoulade and Swiss cheese. Coupled with a vibrant atmosphere that is one-third brew pub, one-third gastro pub and one-third sports bar, there is truly something for everyone at Craft House.
We found ourselves lucky on a recent return visit, scoring a corner table in the front window, offering an idyllic view of both Frankfort Avenue and the bustling bar and main dining room. The dining room is equal parts organic and industrial, large exposed ducts running the length of the ceiling, which itself is a patchwork of restored wooden beams. Worn brick walls paper all sides of the building and shoot down the center of the restaurant, separating the dining room into two distinct spaces. Napkins are made of loose burlap, and the plates and bowls are earthenware, playing up the organic nature of the space, as well as the food.
It was a Wednesday night and demand was high. The restaurant was already on a relatively short wait at the prime 7 p.m. dinner hour. A tribute to Craft House’s first passion is projected onto the wall over the bar: a list of more than 30 beers on tap, all procured from regional sources. The choices include local Louisville favorites like Against The Grain and Apocalypse rubbing ale-elbows with Country Boy of Lexington and Ei8ht Ball Brewing from Covington.
While my husband browsed the tap and by-the-bottle offerings, I dug into the cocktail list, settling on the recently added Knees Up, a bright and effusive drink of gin, fresh basil and mango purée. The beer selection for the night was Against The Grain’s Sho Nuff, a Belgian table beer, friendly with most all food groups.
Our thirst quenched, we determined an appetizer of pub mussels would make a good start to the evening. Soon, a shallow bowl of perfectly steamed mussels, resting in a sauce of wheat beer spiked with chipotle butter, tomato, garlic, lime and cilantro, appeared before us. Healthy slices of Marksbury Farm chorizo and red onion were tossed in, lending a touch of spice and meatiness to the dish. As with any good bowl of mussels, the best part is sopping up the broth, and the lightly grilled slices of Blue Dog bread serve as the ideal vehicle for this delicious practice.
Well on our way, we moved to the main course, determining that we would split a variety of items for dinner, including the charred chicken wings our server had enthusiastically recommended. Served with sauce on the side, the name of the game with these wings is spice. And not just the hot variety. Seasoning does double duty, with a sticky and complex dry rub applied a second time, once the wings are flash-fried and grill-finished. We dipped each wing into the accompanying sauces greedily, a bath of hot sauce syrup quickly followed by a cooling dip in the house-made pimento ranch.
Up next was an ample serving of Poutine, Craft House’s take on the traditional Canadian dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Craft House’s version is not for the faint of heart. It’s an embarrassingly large portion of fried, skin-on russet potatoes acting as a base for large shreds of braised beef and cheddar cheese curds. The entire dish is then drenched in brown gravy and warmed until melty and impossible to resist. This is a dish made for sharing and diet-cheating. And it’s worth it.
Not to be outdone by the Poutine, the pastrami-spiced salmon sandwich took center stage for our final bites of the night. A generous filet of salmon soon arrived at our table, encrusted in traditional pastrami flavors (think plenty of coriander, fennel seeds and cloves) and seared until nearly blackened, the interior remaining a perfectly tender level of doneness. Topped with house-made lager kraut, the salmon is sandwiched within a cracked-wheat bun, the top bun slathered with a creamy, whole-grain mustard aioli. Messy in the most appetizing of ways, this was a unique flavor profile for salmon, one I am anxious to try my hand at in my own kitchen.
We walked out into the early evening full and content, enthused from a dinner of distinctly unique flavors. There is no question that Craft House, now open for a year, is a dynamic and welcome addition to the Louisville dining scene and a natural fit for the authentic and local flair of Crescent Hill.
Craft House is located at 2636 Frankfort Ave. in Crescent Hill. Hours are Sunday, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. Learn more at (502) 895-9400 or on their website at crafthousebrews.com.
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