Tom Colicchio's flagship restaurant Craft sits sadly outside the Apps Only price range—there's no way you're escaping under $15 per person. But poking around their website led me to the menu of sister outpost Craftbar, located just around the corner on Broadway. At Craftbar, Colicchio and chef de cuisine Lauren Hirschberg have a menu featuring a number of small plates and appetizers that, while affordable compared to Craft, sit at the very top of the Apps Only budget line.
When I went last week with a friend, the bar and dining room were both packed, although they were able to seat us immediately at a table for two. The menu has a section for small plates, which range from $6-9—perfect little bites to go with a drink at the bar. The appetizer menu, meanwhile, features barely larger dishes for a few dollars more. While the appetizers are a bit more pricey, on the whole they are worth the extra money. They're just far more interesting.
Before we get to those appetizers, a moment to acknowledge the bread basket equivalent at Craftbar—a cup full of foot-long rosemary and olive oil-laden breadsticks, somehow much more fun than your average bread basket.
The first dish to make it to our table was the White Anchovy Bruschetta ($9), a grilled piece of crusty bread topped with braised leeks, soft boiled egg, and white anchovy fillets. The anchovies were the stars here, but the deliciously soft leeks and perfectly cooked egg (set whites, runny yolk) combined to create a dish that you could eat any time of day. Breakfast for dinner, anyone?
Next up were the Veal Sweetbreads ($12), two sizable chunks of rich and tender meat, lightly battered and fried. These were topped with a few sprigs of thyme and served over a ramp puree and drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The sweetbreads were delicious and the ramp puree was the sort of sauce you could put on anything and instantly make taste great.
Finally, we had the Spanish Octopus ($14), grilled so that the chunks of octopus were crisp and charred, but the meat was still tender. The octopus was served with roasted fingerling potatoes, a small salad of arugula, and a roasted lemon puree. This dish exemplified our Craftbar experience: ambitious dishes that maintained an appealing simplicity despite their complex ingredients and flavor profiles. Everything seemed of the highest quality, and yet nothing was over the top.
While we did end up over budget at Craftbar—we spent $35 total before tax and tip, with the target being $30—I still recommend it for those eating on a budget. (Especially if you're looking to spend just a bit more than usual; or, alternately, eat a bit less, but let's not kid ourselves.) We stayed on the appetizer menu, but there are so many options here. In addition to the appetizers and small plates, there's a cheese menu and very appealing charcuterie options, as well as sandwiches that each run about $10-12. Considering all of these options and the high quality of everything we tasted, Craftbar is a just-slightly-pricier Apps Only option.