After weeks of passing by the sign, "Coming Soon," Hermosa Beach residents finally have an eatery to replace Boardwalk Fries.
Crafty Minds Brews + Bites is a new style gastropub open on Hermosa Avenue just south of Pier Plaza. It's brought to you by Andrew Ritchie, an owner of Boardwalk Fries and he's offering a upscale spin on the burger joint.
Ritchie said the new concept "offers food, great beer and wine, in a fun environment with friendly service—sharing the dishes in a communal setting."
The Crafty here refers to some of the finest craft micro-brews in the Southern California region poured in their taproom.
There are 16 varieties offered on draft and 12 in bottles. The plan is to switch out for something new every time they drain a keg, not just to serve the beer-drinking public, but to educate them about what is new and happening in the craft beer world.
One innovation is their nucleated beer glass, an ideal vessel for releasing the aromas of the crafty micro brews.
The nucleated, rough etching at the bottom of the glass yields continuous carbonation, and offers a surprise.
"If a customer is patient, at the right time, an image of octopus arms appear before your very eyes ... it’s a crafty conversation piece," said Ritchie.
An octopus logo is part of the branding of Crafty Minds.
"Octopuses are the most intelligent and crafty invertebrates in the world," said Ritchie to explain why they chose the creature.
The interior of the restaurant has a sweet octopus mural by local artist Melany Meza-Dierks. The room is open and airy enough to accommodate nine televisions without feeling like an electronics store, with both individual and communal tables and a pretty patio.
Ritchie developed the menu during the summer of 2018 with his original chef, Chris Smith.
He then brought in Food Network celebrity Chef Rahm Fama to enhance those plans, creating what he calls the "California Fusion" menu of appetizers or "runts," burgers, salads and flatbreads, all meant for sharing.
On my recent visit, I asked manager Monica Jones to recommend a light beer—both in flavor and alcohol content.
Jones suggested the Beachwood Brewery Hayabusa rice lager. It was crisp and refreshing and paired well with the Crafty cuisine, which leans toward the spicy in a symbiosis of food and drink.
From the runts menu, I started with something called Corn Porn (there are a lot of whimsical names on this menu) two half-ears of charred street corn with a squiggle of crema, a sprinkle of chili pepper, some creamy goat cheese for rich funk and a lime squeeze for citrus pop.
Boxers Ears are light and spicy cauliflower. The florets are blanched, then fried in a puffy aleppo spiced batter with some cool citrus crema to drag them through. Aleppo is only about half as hot as cayenne, with a deeper almost fruity tang to it, and these were probably my favorite bites of the day.
From the flatbread list, I tried the Chulango. A chewy, sweet crust topped with spicy marinated cubes of chicken, charred bits of corn, jalapeno, cheddar cheese, cilantro and crema. The taste and texture was like an open-faced quesadilla.
You can't hardly have a sports bar without serving wings, and here the "West Wings" come by the half-pound (around four wings) with a choice of five sauces or rubs. I tried the Korean BBQ flavor, which was a very mild glaze of soy and sesame.
The Godfather grilled sausage comes from Pat LaFrieda, the famous Jersey meat purveyor responsible for the beef blend used by Shake Shack. It's served whole on a bed of grilled peppers and onions. It's a traditional Italian pork link with plenty of fennel.
Manager Jones also encouraged me to try tastings of a couple of the more exotic beers.
Golden Road Mango Cart was fragrant with fruit and a little sweet, and I could see being great accompaniment to Indian food. The 10 Barrel cucumber crush sour cider beer has a sharp, puckery bite. All the beers are shown with their ABV (alcohol by volume) and IBU (international bittering units), an indication of how hoppy the beer is.
There are also some cute craft sodas and kombuchas for non-imbibers.
Ritchie is scheduling the grand opening celebration for Hermosa locals for June to officially announce Crafty Minds Brews + Bites to the neighborhood.
Crafty Minds brews + bites is located at 1031 Hermosa Ave. in Hermosa Beach. It is open daily from 11 a.m.
Eileen Shields is a South Bay food writer: contact at firstname.lastname@example.org