Pre-opening parties are not the optimal opportunity to judge or review a restaurant. But The Crack Shack (2266 Kettner Blvd.) had already received heaps of attention and platitudes, so participation in an invite-only fête at this egg-citing new chicken-centric eatery in North Little Italy seemed a solid enough basis for reportage.
For a week, I kept telling people I was going to that new place on Kettner called the Cluck Shack. It’d really beaked my attention (pause to slap knee). Right up until the moment I gazed upon the all-open-air dining area and saw the actual name painted on the wood paneling that surrounds the kitchen, I was sure it was called Cluck Shack. Nope, it’s Crack Shack.
A restaurant called Crack Shack has opened right next to the stunning, high-end, always-packed Juniper & Ivy, owned by Mike Rosen and run by Top Chef Richard Blais. The Shack is a project created by those two guys. Knock eggshells, here’s to their success. But I haven’t felt the urge to question the naming of a new restaurant so much since Kimpton opened downtown’s Hotel Palomar and initially called its onsite eatery Suite & Tender.
The idea feathering the nest at Crack Shack is all-day chicken food service. You know what I mean. For breakfast (dress warmly in the cool fall mornings), lunch and dinner you can amble in and order eggs, sandwiches or entrees made from America’s favorite fowl. Happily, the chickens are free-range, and the eggs are organic.
At the Crack Shack media party, we got to sample tray-passed appetizers (the Crack Shack menu calls appetizers “Other Cluck”). One server wore t-shirts that read: “Cluck Off. I’m Hangry.” The chicken croquettes were fine, and the chicken oysters (pickle brined, with Meyer lemon and mustard seed tartar) were delicious.
I love a menu that goes for laughs—even at the expense of defenseless chickens—and noted that the Coop Deville (fried chicken with pickled Fresno chiles, lime mayo and Napa cabbage) could be worth a try. There’s also an Anti-Salad Power Bowl, heaped with smoked chicken and soft-boiled eggs. But not everything tastes like chicken; the Chicken of the Sea sandwich is actually wood-fired albacore.
The grounds at the Shack are nothing if not meant to make you smile. There’s a bocce ball court at the end of the property closest to Juniper & Ivy. It was amusing to sip a cocktail (yes, Crack offers a full bar), toss bocce balls and admire an enormous wallpaper re-creation of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. Because we are at Crack Shack, the Beatles’ visages on the wallpaper have been replaced with rooster heads.
The whole place measures 4,000 square feet, and has room for 150 diners. It was designed, hatched if you will, by Bluemotif Architecture, which is also responsible for Juniper & Ivy and the nearby, Orchid-award-winning Kettner Exchange. Now there’s a new sunny side up in the northern end of Little Italy