City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Lunch at Craftbar — an open letter to Tom Colicchio

Spicy fish stew

Spicy fish stew

Dear Tom,

After watching you for the past four months on “Top Chef” — as you doled out equal measures of mentoring advice and unflinching critical judgment — I felt that I should address my critique of a recent lunch at Craftbar Atlanta to you directly.

I mostly enjoyed a dinner at Craftbar several months ago and was excited to try it for lunch. As I’m sure you know, the lunch options in Atlanta aren’t great if you’re in the market for a full meal.

I really love the feel of the place — the sweet smell of the wood-burning oven, the gorgeously outfitted open kitchen, the dark wood, the midcentury modern furniture.  It’s really unique in this town.

The service seemed fine despite one major gaffe. From my table I had a perfect view of a waiter reaching his hand into a dish of grated cheese to garnish a plate of pasta. Please use spoons.

The food? More misses than hits, I’m afraid to say. Some problems were in execution and others in conception. Let’s go through them, and please bear with my unaesthetic iPhone pictures. My commentary will be not nearly as harsh as Toby Young’s would have been.

Sweetbreads, bacon jam, kumquats

Sweetbreads, bacon jam, kumquats

We started with these sweetbreads ($14), which came crispily, saltily, Southern fried. They kind of reminded me of chicken livers, though I think chicken livers would have had the assertiveness to stand up to the supersweet, not-terribly-bacony treacle on the bottom of the plate. The bits of parsley, frisée and candied kumquat added up to an unfocused jumble. The seeds came from a bad pomegranate and should not have been used.

There was no balance to the flavors, no gravitas, no base note. It was a colorful pile of stuff and no more.


Grilled oysters with butter and chives

These grilled oysters ($12 for 5) came on a bed of rock salt in a super-hot cast-iron pan. Nice presentation, even if the five oysters were all different sizes. Alas, they weren’t grilled but warmed just enough to let the butter melt over the top. They were perfectly floppy and lukewarm. I think if you’re going to apply any heat to oysters you should cook them just until the edges curl. They should pop a little in your mouth.

Cavatelli with Tuscan Kale, celery root and valbreso cheese

Cavatelli with Tuscan Kale, celery root and valbreso cheese

To prove I’m nicer than Toby Young, I’ll take partial blame for even ordering this dish of cavatelli ($18). I always make the same mistake in restaurants, which is getting seduced by the light, healthy sound of a vegetarian dish but not expecting it to come swimming in cream. The crumbles of valbreso (a wonderful kind of French feta that has little salt) brightened this weird, drippy morass, but I couldn’t take more than two bites.The manager, a really sweet young woman, brought a menu, advised me on a new choice, and left the pasta for us to pick at as I waited.

Double-cut lamb chop, lamb shoulder, Tarbais beans, baby carrot

Double-cut lamb chop, lamb shoulder, Tarbais beans, baby carrot

My friend got this double-cut lamb chop ($24) — basically a cross-section of a lamb’s midriff — served with braised shoulder. He described the yellow stuff on top as some kind of lemon-garlic jam. It was a big, sloppy plate of food that he mostly enjoyed. (I tried a few of the beans, which were lamby and nicely seasoned.)

One thing, though, which was interesting. He said the chef should cook it to whatever temperature he recommended: it arrived black and blue.

My replacement dish was the spicy fish stew ($16) pictured at the top of this post. I found it a tasty enough melange of swordfish, scallop bits, Tuscan kale, potatoes and peppers. The buttered, grilled toast alongside was pretty delectable. But I have to say the very sweet broth — which tasted strongly of smoked paprika, not spice — didn’t have a lot fishy soul. I wanted either a little of that weird, ocean-bottom funk that comes from crustacean innards or the graceful high notes of simmered flatfish bones.

Here’s the main thing, Tom. This meal, with a glass of wine and two coffees but no dessert, cost more than $100 with tip.  I rarely spend that kind of money on lunch, but when I do, I expect it to be more carefully thought out. I know the local chefs have some autonomy, but your name and reputation graces the door. This meal should in some way express your culinary sensibility, right?

What does Craftbar want to be at lunch? A respite from the stress and traffic outside?  A special dining experience? A place to entertain clients? I’m not sure I get it.

Anyhow, if this blog does come to your attention, I’d be really curious to hear what you’d have to say.


John Kessler

51 comments Add your comment


December 21st, 2009
6:17 pm

We took a friend from out of town here for his birthday. Both he and I are HUGE fans of Top Chef and could not wait to dine at this establishment. I have to say that between three diners, and a bill of $200 in the CraftBar area we were only slightly impressed. And by impressed, I mean the cocktails were fabulous – the Craftini and the Italian version of a Greyhound. The rest, well I kind of wish that Mr. Colicchio was on the other side of our table so I could critique several of the dishes we ate. We had the pork belly for an appetizer which wasn’t too shabby. We also had the melted cheese appetizer with what looked like a few slices of whole wheat bread cut up into rectangles, sort of like your mom would do when you were a kid. My birthday friend ordered the Cavatappi and it looked pretty much like a soupy mess. Where were the presentation skills Tom always razzes the contestants about? I ordered the pork chop medium to medium well and it was so rare, it was inedible and needed to be sent back. My husband ordered the salmon that was literally an after thought on his plate. Since it was my friend’s birthday, we ordered dessert which was the butterscotch pudding that looked like it had been made days before and my husband ordered the s’mores thinking “surely Tom has come up with a creative new spin on an old favorite”… sadly, we were dissapointed. I could not believe that I had looked forward to dining at this restaurant for nearly a month and was let down, especially when the bill arrived. I felt like Craft was charging an exuberant amount because Tom Colicchio’s name was attached to it and in the end that was all there was to it. I hope Tom reads this article and takes the time to speak directly with his head chef, afterall it wasn’t Tom behind the counter cooking our food, but it is his name at stake.


December 21st, 2009
6:50 pm

I’m thankful for food writes who can honestly assess the value of an expensive meal. For my upcoming birthday, I’m making a short list of places where I’d feel comfortable having my wife drop a chuck o’ change as a special dinner gift.

We’ve had good luck on our previous special-occasion restaurant dinners so far. But spending a wad of our precious little entertainment $ and being disappointed would really sting.

So who has Colicchio connections? I’d love for him to read this and to respond.


December 21st, 2009
7:28 pm

What an expensive lunch. All that money down the toliet, quite literally.


December 21st, 2009
7:38 pm

It’s good to hear an unbiased acessment if an of over priced restaurant.
Keep up the good work !

mel in midtown

December 21st, 2009
7:49 pm

I think that Craft is over-rated and mediocre at best. In late November, I planned a romantic weekend for the SO’s birthday. A night at the Mansion on Peachtree (just across the courtyard from Craft) and the expected highlight of the evening – dinner at Craft.

“Underwhelmed” would be saying it “nicely” about our experience at Craft. I had a better prepared piece of Salmon at the Buckhead Diner for lunch today. The “Smoked Sauerkraut,” or however that dish was described reminded me of the sauerkraut used by NY street hot dog vendors. I ordered the sparerib, and while the edible part was tasty, about 40% of it was fat and gristle. The Au Gratin Potatose were lackluster and nothing at all special. Dinner for two with one glass of wine each came to $200+.

I am an Atlantan and pretty much know my way around the local restaurant scene. There are numerous better dining options in Buckhead at the $200 for two level than those at Craft. I am not a fan of “Superstar Chef” restaurant outposts for the very things that I experienced at Craft. Does NOT live up to the hype. But after all is said and done, I blame me. I KNEW that i should have made reservations at Woodfire Grill!

Our waiter was putting on a good face at ‘going through the motions,” but that was it. There was no sincere attentiveness, and I one point we waited 15 minutes to have our water refilled.

I’d put Craft and Flip Burger at the top of my “Top Mediocre Local Restaurant Experiences for 2009″ list and also on my New Year’s resolutions “Never Again”list.


December 21st, 2009
7:56 pm

I found the lunch @ Craft to be….How can I put correctly…Boring, Bland and a waste of 126.00, I did tip 20% to wait staff, never had a empty glass, although I allways warn them ahead of time.


December 21st, 2009
8:43 pm

We had a similar experience and felt the food was sub-par, the hype was not worth it and I am glad we did not go for our anniversary as we had originally planned. Although, instead we had gone for an out-of-town friend’s birthday and both of us being huge fans of Top Chef thought that maybe Tom Colicchio needs a little schooling of his own.

The bottom line is Tom’s name is attached to this restaurant, but I highly doubt he has made it thus far in the restaurant world by putting out the over-priced and undercooked food like we were served on December 5, 2009. Tom needs to can the executive chef there and either spend a little more time doing surprise visits to his own restaurants or run the risk of tarnishing his name…. or has that already happened?

so true

December 21st, 2009
9:20 pm

i recently ate at craftsteak in las vegas and i have to agree with the blogger. It was very mediocre. the steak was cooked almost well done even though we ordered it medium, and the sides were very bland. the things i did enjoy were their rolls ( i could eat those by the basketful-they are dreamy) and the dessert was tasty. i was pretty unimpressed by everything else. oh, and the steak wasnt even that tasty. i have had better steaks at much less expensive restaurants.
Shame on you TOM. you need to put your money where your mouth is.

Paul From Milton

December 21st, 2009
10:52 pm

I have eaten at Craft twice and found it to be hit-and-miss and probably won’t return unless our dinner companions insist. The hits are wonderful but the misses really make you wonder what’s going on in the kitchen. Combine that with the disinterested (snooty? bad?) service and I find there are better places to spend my dining money. Clearly its a restaurant that has moved past the initial hype and is struggling to find itself.


December 22nd, 2009
12:06 am

I had dinner at Craft the first night it was open. The food was good, the service was clearly trying to get their routine down, and the environment was like eating in a Waffle House decorated by 17th Century Spanish missionaries. No atmosphere at all.

Today, while Kessler was having lunch at Craft and some guy was robbing the Fifth Third Bank just down the street, I went to the Palm. The “Mad Men” special was $55 for two with the tip, and we left full and happy. (Heck, so full and happy that we didn’t have dinner until eight hours later!)

Kris 10

December 22nd, 2009
9:15 am

While I find his bald head gloriously sexy, it’s hard to stomach Tom’s criticisms on “Top Chef” knowing how mediocre his restaurants are. Sadly, I’ve learned to stay away from celebrity chef establishments, save John Besh’s places in NOLA.


December 22nd, 2009
9:46 am

I am anxious to see if you do get a response from Tom Colicchio on this. I had been thinking of visiting Craft, but I think I will hold off after reading your review and seeing what other bloggers wrote.

Here’s a question off topic..Recently won a contest at work to take my significant other to the restaurant of my choice in Atlanta. We’ve been to Bachnalia, Chops, Woodfire, Nava..etc..are there any good ones out there that fly under the radar but have extraoridinary cuisine?


December 22nd, 2009
10:15 am

It’s a sad but true fact that it’s more out of the ordinary to find a good “star chef” restaurant than not these days, although I do have to say that my experience at Craftsteak many years ago was quite good.

Gordon, I take it you’ve tried Dogwood, Top Flr, and Serpas?

M. Johnson

December 22nd, 2009
10:52 am

I’ve heard similar comments about lunch at Craftbar. It’s not on my short list. While we expect more from Tom C., he isn’t the first or the last chef to introduce his brand to the Atlanta market (Remember Emeril?). I had a similar experience with a horrible brunch at the much-hyped Spice Market in the W Midtown. Eventually these celebrichefs will learn that it takes more than flash to sustain Atlanta diners. We need a a little soul with our food.

We all eat better and feel better when we support the chefs who have invested in our city. With that in mind, Gordon should check out Pura Vida, Restaurant Eugene or Nam.

M. Johnson

December 22nd, 2009
10:57 am

This isn’t the first celebrichef to introduce his brand to Atlanta. Remember Emeril? I had a similarly bland experience during brunch at Spice Market in the W Midtown.

Eventually these chefs and their business partners will realize that Atlantans crave a little soul with their food. Until then, we do best by supporting the chefs who are committed to producing excellent food every day.

Gordon, check out Nam, Restaurant Eugene or Pura Vida and leave Craftbar to the tourists.

John Kessler

December 22nd, 2009
11:02 am

This Craftbar is an interesting beast. It plays so low key and casual in everything except for the prices. Not sure I’d go back when Holeman & Finch is so close and strikes more or less the same vibe.

top chef fanatic

December 22nd, 2009
11:29 am

ms kessler….all i have to say is wow! good job bringing this review to the eyes of all of your top chef bloggers. I have never dined at craft but i did attend a top chef audition there last month. I think if this is the case with craft…then it will go down in a ball of glory like emerils did. Thats the thing about Atlanta we have a dining scene thats huge in size and talent . So us as atlantans we dont put up for much. I have been thinking about new years dinner and have 3 options in mind.

1 : woodfire the most expensive of the three at 100$ per person
but im a huge fan of kevin and i know he wont dissapoint.

2 : 4th and swift , have been there and at 75$ per person and
i know what to expect.

3: serpas a restraunt recentlly given some high accolades
by GQ magazine and at 50$ per person a bargain.

So i guess what i have to say is whenever you go out to fine dine, Its more than fair for you to expect that you should have impeccable service for that price, So do your research read those reviews and blogs . And follow the chefs closely. Tom im really dissapointed in hearing this and i wont be dining at your restraunt and wish you would put your restraunts under the same light as the cheftestants.
Also john if you get a chance check out brian voltaggios restraunt VOLT in fredrickburg , Maryland …that kid has got it together, and i hope to experience his 21 course cheftasting menu someday! he is a true talent, and let us all know if you here back from mr collicio

have a blessed day:)

Tom Colicchio

December 22nd, 2009
12:06 pm

John if you wanted to contact me directly perhaps you should have tried reaching me in my office. 212 780-0880 (not direct)


December 22nd, 2009
12:58 pm

Volt is located in Frederick MD not Frederickburg

John Kessler

December 22nd, 2009
3:06 pm

Tom, will do after the holiday. BTW, the one $250 meal I had at Craft was excellent.


December 22nd, 2009
3:51 pm

John thanks for the review – hopefully your discussion with Tom will help improve things. Maybe I will try the place in 90 days. When investing big $$$ for a meal I want to know what I am eating will be excellent so tonight we head to Bacchanalia.

Other safe bets for me Restaurant Eugene & Kevin Rathbun’s Steak.


December 22nd, 2009
4:25 pm

I LOVED CraftBar’s atmosphere and energy. Good music, menu, staff & cocktails. The one negative: We got a radicchio heel in our dinner salad, which was kind of gross–especially for such an expensive meal. I thought the short rib canneloni was delish (though not as “toothsome” as Kevin would probably serve it). I would probably return more often if not for the price tag. It’s a beautiful space.

Tom Colicchio

December 22nd, 2009
4:51 pm

not sure who posted the above comment, I did not

John Kessler

December 22nd, 2009
5:06 pm

Tom — Fake Colicchio commenter has been unapproved. Sorry about that.
I forgot to add one funny incident from the lunch. My friend with the lamb chops reached his knife into the center of the bone, thinking he would extract something akin to marrow. Instead, he pulled out this slip of snow-white, gooey fat-like substance. It wasn’t until later that I realized what it was: spinal cord. Anyhow, neither here nor there….


December 22nd, 2009
8:58 pm

Wowzer John, don’t hold back. I dunno about Mr. Collichio per say but if i see anything that has the name Emeril on it, I run away from it as fast as I can. He pimped his name for every cent he has and in my opinion irreparably damaged his reputation. What is funny is that i have never seen one of your blogs with such overwhelming agreement. Not ONE person has spoken up to say, “hold on there Sport, I think you are being a bit harsh there.”

If that really IS Tom Colichio responding, he better do some serious damage control given what these folks are saying. hell, given the unanimous dislike, disgust even, of the posters here, it may be too late. I’m glad I read this, I was going to try it out. Although i typically shy away from chain restaurants, I was gonna give this one a whirl. Can’t see that happening now lol.



December 22nd, 2009
11:40 pm


Dinner at any restaurant in Atlanta. It has to be Quinones if you haven’t tried it. I’ve only been once but it is definitely worth a visit; even more so if the boss is picking it up.



December 23rd, 2009
9:06 am

I have been to both Restaurant Eugene as well as Rathbun’s several times and also found both to be inconsistent and over priced, especially Eugene. So I don’t think you could call those a safe bet. I think atlanta natives don’t care as much about the food but more on whether or not the chef is local. It’s so hip to be local these days it’s pretty silly. A couple of my favorites are 4th & Swift and Serpas.

top chef fanatic

December 23rd, 2009
10:38 am

sorry meg ….i had fredricksburg in my mind you are rirgt its fredrick. have you ever dined there?


December 23rd, 2009
11:50 am

I live in Atlanta but I am not from Atlanta and I do not particulary care if a restaurant is “local”. I only care about a few things: tasty food, friendly & prompt service and of course, price.
I like Craftbar, the only reason I don’t love it is beacuse it is pricey. I am currently loving Antico.
By the way, has anyone noticed Mr. Kessler’s obsession with “Top Chef” (I counted 11 postings related to the show this month). It seems that he has found a way to get his “precious”…


December 23rd, 2009
12:00 pm

Gee gollum, aren’t YOU the clever one. 11 postings? Wow, and comments after each one? Could it be that this is the ATLANTA newpaper and the success of ATLANTA chefs on the show was interesting to ATLANTANS? Naw it couldn’t be that, Mr. Kessler must obviously have some man love for Tom or an unrequited passion for Padma. Surely no from ATLANTA cares how our three chefs were doing.

Here’s your sign.


December 23rd, 2009
2:23 pm

Oops, forgot about 4th and Swift. Had probably my second best meal in Atlanta there, after Bacchanalia.

Carrie Neal Walden

December 23rd, 2009
2:38 pm

Excellent letter/review. I have heard many people recount extremely similar experiences to yours, on all fronts. I have had an outstanding experience at Craft yet been hesitant to venture to Craft Bar for the money, given other options such as H&F as you noted, especially for lunch, given “foodie” people’s opinions that I trust being in this vein. I would very much like to see these issues remedied because I think we could really do with a place like CB here, especially as a full lunch option, as you described it.

Carrie Neal Walden

December 23rd, 2009
2:43 pm

By the way, some commenters seem to be confusing Craft and Craft Bar. They are under separate managers and are run separately, though obviously in the same building and ownership; they also have two different menus. It is a source of frustration, for example, for the GM’s when folks just say “Craft” if they actually ate at Craft Bar – having discussed with Craft’s management what they can learn from customer feedback, I am confident that they are interested in useful – key word- input specific to each.

big fan

December 23rd, 2009
2:53 pm

I eat at craftbar often and I quite enjoy it. I’ve lived in atlanta for just over a year. I moved from nyc and I frequented the craft, craftsteak, and craftbar there as well. The establishment in atlanta stays within the style and look tom has developed in new york. The food is always on point and exactly as I want it. The service is sweet and attentive. Whenever I have guests visiting we always go to craftbar and they leave with craftbar ranked as #1 meal in atlanta. I’ve been to H&F, baccanalia, aria, floataway, top flr, and many others. Though they are all delightful I’m never as satisfied as when I leave craftbar. Its unfortunate that the diners above haven’t had the same pleasure as I but don’t let it discourage you from trying it for yourself.


December 23rd, 2009
3:04 pm

Way to skewer the judge, John.


December 23rd, 2009
3:35 pm

Our experience–after much anticipation–bore much of the disappointment noted by others. Our food was forgettable, but not dreadful; our service was unforgettably dreadful: a waiter who was ill, made clear his service was close to an imposition, but improved slightly when we ordered an expensive wine. We are devoted admirers of Aria, of Bacchanalia, and mourn the loss of The Dining Room. Our love for fine eating and for the adventures that go with discovering new restaurants are considerable. Indeed, we rarely render a final judgment with only one visit. In this case, the one visit was one too many.

Veruca Salt

December 24th, 2009
10:15 am

Perhaps Craftbar needs to invest in a little market research….surveying their diners while they are eating would be a great way to objectively learn how satisfied they are with their experience. I’m sure that in this town there is a company who could do that professionally and unobtrusively. I got surveyed while I was eating at the Flying Biscuit once and once while I ate at Flip. They should hire whoever did those surveys and really find out where the problems are and fix them…..although, for having only been open one year, I do think we need to give them a little bit of slack. I’m sure there are still kinks to be worked out. The one time I dined there, I was perfectly satisfied and thought that it was well worth the price. I would definitely eat there again and would not hesitate to recommend it to friends and family!!

Once and never again

December 24th, 2009
11:55 am

We went to Craftbar (cocktails) and Craft (dinner) a few weeks ago. We were greatly disappointed. While food was marginal when compared to Atlanta greats Bacchanalia, Restaurant Eugene, Aria, etc., that wasn’t my biggest gripe. Our service was spotty as we had multiple waiters that failed to communicate. We were asked three times about cocktail orders, gave our wine order to two (which still came out incorrectly), and all three tried to steal my plate (I’m a slow eater, apparently!). The final straw was when a staff member came and took the empty chair next to me with no explanation, leaving me to lunge for my handbag that was sitting on it. When you pay almost $400 for dinner (cocktails, apps, wine…the whole shabang), you shouldn’t feel that you are in the way. Frankly, I’ve had better service at Chili’s. My bet is that it’s gone by Spring.


December 24th, 2009
10:57 pm

The chef at Craft is my nephew. His mama’s gonna be heartbroken!


December 28th, 2009
11:24 am

I wonder if part of the problem with Craft is managing expectations. Tom Colicchio scrutinizes the cheftestants’ offerings so closely that one would expect his own offering to be flawless. While I though my recent dinner at Craft was quite good, I was ultimately disappointed because I had expected something divine. A few of the sides gave those “ah ha” moments, but the entrees (short ribs, lamb) just were not that special. I cannot justify spending that kind of money on a meal that did not knock my socks off. For that price, I’d go to Woodfire every time.

Craftbar for dinner

December 28th, 2009
11:51 am

Here is a review of Craftbar, except this one is a dinner review. More of the same. Here is the link from Bunkycooks (Atlanta, GA). Copy and paste this link.

To Gordon: One of the best new restaurants we have experienced, except for the noise, is La Pietra Cucina (authentic Italian). We also like 4th and Swift and Dogwood( but it tends to be more of the southern style cuisine). Eugene’s has lost some of its luster with the change in menu (another southern restaurant.

Monica's Mom

December 28th, 2009
3:56 pm

My daughter, Monica, is a HUGE Tom Colicchio fan. For Christmas I got her a $100 Craft gift certificate and an autographed photo of Tom. We’re going to use it (the gift card, not the photo) at Craftbar for lunch on Wednesday, December 30th. I see some of the posts are not very complimentary, but I’m sure for us it will be great! We ate there once before and were very happy with it. Hey, Tom, if you have time, we’ll buy you a drink! Monica and Vicki

Food Runner

December 30th, 2009
9:21 am

4th & Swift is our “go to” place for special occasions, entertaining friends, and just enjoying a great meal together in a terrific atmosphere. Here’s one big reason for it’s success: I can’t think of a time I’ve been there when Jay Swift hasn’t been on site doing the work.

Food fan

January 2nd, 2010
2:49 pm

It is SO refreshing to read this letter to Tom. We went a few months ago and had a similar experience. The food was good, not great and VERY expensive ($12 for side of sunchokes?). What got us was at the end of the meal they asked us to donate money to a charity. It was a project that “Tom was really passionate about”. It would have been much classier to slip something inside the check or have Tom donate a portion of the proceeds. What gets us is that star chefs think they can open in Atlanta and coast on their name (Emeril). This is a really savvy dining town and Atlanta diners know better. If things don’t get better TC may have to pack his knives and go….

For Top Chef Fans «

January 4th, 2010
3:09 pm

[...] Top Chef Fans Jump to Comments Take a look at John Kessler’s amazing open letter to head judge Tom Colicchio.  When he opened Craft in Atlanta we were so excited to try it.  We [...]


January 4th, 2010
5:54 pm

Atlanta is far from having “savvy” diners, there’s really not that many good restaurants here for them to have the knowledge of great food. I have had the pleasure of eating at Craftbar pretty regularly, and I think it blows a lot of the restaurants in this city out of the water. The prices are reasonable in my opinion, the most expensive thing on the menu is like $22. The portions are just right and the food is interesting and refreshing. I think people are writing these bad reviews because the Craft company is not based out of Atlanta. Tom Colicchio is on a way higher level than Emeril would ever dream to be, so that’s a little ridiculous to even make that association.


January 5th, 2010
1:47 pm

I have watched Top Chef since it first began airing and love Tom Colicchio’s style and personality–at least the way he’s presented on the show. You can imagine how excited I was when I saw that a Craft was opening just down the street from my office last year–I nearly drove into a telephone pole on Peachtree! My best friend and fellow-foodie was coming out for a visit last January and that was going to be our spendy dinner out. We couldn’t get into Craft upstairs because of a private party so we settled on CraftBar downstairs. We loved the atmosphere and the amazing smell of the place–and the only annoyance was that we were seated next to windows where we heard the constant whistling from the valets or officers outside directing traffic–but there wasn’t much to do about it so we tried ignoring it. Our food was quite good but not anything to write home about. The only exception I’d make to that were the oysters–which John mentions above. The order we had was delicious and perfectly cooked. I recall having a fish dish and my friend had lamb I believe. Overall, good but not great–especially considering the prices. I personally would choose 4th and Swift over CraftBar any day but as a special “treat” and get a taste of Tom, then I’d go there.

By the way, I was told that he’s there occasionally though I’ve never gotten wind of it. I am on their email list and get special notices of dinners, etc –none of which I can afford. I guess it comes down to expectations–and for any restaurant I go to, whether local or not, celeb chef or not, the service should be above par, genuine, timely, and the food should speak for itself. Unfortunately, I can’t say all of those were met at CraftBar….sorry, Tom.


January 5th, 2010
5:23 pm

Could this be another Emeril’s? I remember wanting to go there when it first opened in Atlanta, but cancelled my reservation after a less than stellar review. Closed a couple years later. If I am going to spend that kind of money, I want to be wowed. Just made my reservation for Woodfire for my birthday…


January 6th, 2010
10:55 am

I had an equally disappointing dinner experience at Craftbar. I enjoy Craft quite a bit and was very much looking forward to trying Craftbar. My friend and I tried 6 dishes between us, and all were mediocre to poor. Two were virtually unseasoned and another was oversalted. We expressed disappointment with the meal (which was evidenced by our nearly untouched plates) and made due by loading up on the bread that the server offered in response to our unhappiness with the meal. On several occasions I attempted to contact the manager, in hopes of sharing my concerns. Unfortunately, I never received a return phone call. The folks at Craftbar would do well to spend some time at the great restaurants around town with the similar high end casual vibe and rethink the vision.

Atlanta foodies

January 11th, 2010
6:19 pm

I have eaten at craftbar several times since it opened last year and have been to every (and i mean every) place in town. Being in Atlanta moving here from NYC i want you so called “atlanta foodies” to realize that the places you hold in such high regaurd, arent in fact great restaurants. They might be good, but far from solid. Anytime a restaurant from out of town comes in, all of a sudden everyone is a critic and the “local” chefs are the true winners. Sure i support my hometown too im not saying its a bad idea, but you so called foodies dont know good food if it slapped you in the face. just because tom didnt pick kevin G to win, doesnt mean you should ban the restaurant. get over yourselves, your local heros arent that good..

open letter to john k