Crafty Bastards recently opened in the Magnolia Park area off NW 39th Avenue (4860 NW 39th Avenue) in the former Kazbor’s location. This is an area in dire need of quality restaurants and in even more dire need of a quality watering hole. After a long construction process, the bar finally opened. Ever since Stubbies & Steins closed, I’ve been desperately searching for another local beer bar that was full of character and served good bar food. House of Beer is fantastic (and my choice for best beer bar), but you can’t get food there. Loosey’s is great too, but the downtown location is more of a live music venue to me, and the Haile location is more of a restaurant.
But as with most things in life, what you want is not always what you get. Instead of building a local bar that celebrates Gainesville and is full of character, they decided to copy the Brass Tap and World of Beer motif instead. It just feels…soul-less. To their credit, there are sixty taps, and tons of big TVs that make it a good place to get drunk and watch sports. In addition to local beers from Swamp Head and First Magnitude, you can also find brews like the Intuition King Street Stout and the Royal Jamaican Alcoholic Ginger Beer available; all priced around $5 to $7. But for a local place, it sure does give off that boring cookie-cutter bar feeling. It was also eternally bothersome to me that a place that bills itself as a craft beer establishment serves Budweiser, but that’s the beer snob coming out.
While the beer selection is great, the food is a complete utter disaster. But again, to their credit, the owners have already begun to weed out some of the menu items that were laughable. The poutine (something they were pushing hard) looked awful when some friends visited earlier in the week. It always amazes me how no one in this town other than Stubbies & Steins could get this simple dish correct. Some of the more laughable “cocktails” on the menu like the Screwdriver (yeah, the same drink you made when you were 18) have been removed as well, though I’m still not sure what a “Betty’s Bitch Be Gone” is. The Shepherd’s Pie ($9) was more of a cheesy, greasy, potato soup, the Mac & Cheese Bites ($6) tasted like nothing but grease, the onion rings ($7) were soft and tasted like nothing but grease (the horseradish sauce was good though), and the wings (6 for $6 or 10 for $10) were acceptable but overpriced and a bit rubbery.
In fact, the best thing I had there was Margot’s Impeccable Chili (from the same gal who makes the very fantastic Margot’s Impeccable Pickles), and it is made by someone else!
Then there’s the “Basket O’Bacon” that is four slices of thick-cut bacon for a whopping $9. I tried to justify the price. Maybe it was really good quality, house-made bacon from forage pigs, but nope…the answer I got was just a vague “it’s the highest quality.” It’s a cute novelty, but if you’re charging $9 for four strips of bacon, it better be something special. I had to pass on this. The rest of the menu includes items like sliders, bangers and mash, and beer cheese dip. They’re also very oddly proud of their Johnsonville Bratwursts, as the menu makes sure to tell us it’s from Johnsonville. That said, I found it odd that I can get all these things, but there wasn’t an option to get something simple like a basket of fries.
Oh, and the name? You may think I’m grasping at straws here, but I think Crafty Bastards is the worst restaurant/bar name since “Burgers 4 U”. I know they think they’re being clever, but it just doesn’t do it for me. I’m almost embarrassed to be in a place called Crafty Bastards, but that’s just me. Some folks seem to really dig it, and that’s cool.
All this being said, there’s really not a place in the area where you can find this selection of beer, nor have enough TVs to look like a Japanese Christmas. Like I mentioned before, it would be a great place to grab some brews and watch a game with friends, especially if you don’t want to go downtown. Just skip the food, at least until you’re drunk enough to not know any better. The owners do seem to act based on feedback, so I’m hoping this doesn’t fall on deaf and defensive ears.
The menu needs some serious work, but I’m guessing they already know that. I understand it’s bar food, but that doesn’t mean you have to be extremely drunk to enjoy it. You can’t charge $9 for four strips of bacon, $7 for a Johnsonville Brat, $10 for 10 rubbery wings, or serve a puddle of sadness and call it Shepherd’s Pie. I will return, if nothing else but to enjoy a beer after work. But unless there’s some massive overhaul with that menu, I’m going elsewhere for food.