It's no accident that Crafted Tap House + Kitchen has been packed since opening last month in downtown Coeur d'Alene. Location, décor and menu are the main draw, with no detail escaping notice of owner Rob Berger and his cherry-picked staff.
HDG Hissong + Hurtado Design Group — designers of Fire Artisan Pizza, Wasabi Asian Bistro and Revel 77 — transformed the former auto shop using reclaimed wood, patinated metal, vintage hardware and even some leftover mufflers to create a hip, brightly lit man cave. Seating is loosely parsed into upstairs, overlooking the patio with room for you and more than 100 of your buddies, the bustling main room, and the bar.
The menu is executive chef Gabe Cruz's take on conventional bar food, explains Berger. Appetizers include the pretzel and white cheddar Hefeweizen fondue ($7), super fuzz chicken wings with blood orange purée, orange juice, and Elysian ale ($12), or spicy red pepper shrimp and pork belly confit ($12).
Entrées are cleverly named for masters of their respective craft. The Old Man and The Sea, an iconic novel by Ernest Hemingway, inspired a shrimp cake with mango slaw and seaweed salad ($13). The B-I-Double G-I-E, for rapper Notorious B.I.G., is local Tim's Special Cut Meats beef burger topped with bacon, avocado, and sharp cheddar on a bun from Pilgrim's Markets. The Rockafella Ya'll — a waffle topped with fried chicken, bacon, egg and serrano-huckleberry syrup — is a nod to the Rockefeller family legacy, a name synonymous with American entrepreneurship.
That's a subject near and dear to Berger, who along with two friends in 2009, started HubWorks, a customer-driven, point-of-sale ordering system for restaurants. Although he's since sold HubWorks, Berger employs it and table-top digital tablets to facilitate ordering from the extensive revolving beverage menu of 43 beers, three ciders, and four wines.
"The major cool factor," says Berger, is that customers "can read the story behind the beer."
The beers, of course, are craft brews, including locals like No-Li and Mad Bomber, but also Belgian Duvel, whose reputation for excellence is right at home at Crafted Tap House. ♦