CRAFT BY SMOKE AND FIRE
ADDRESS: 400 S Baldwin Avenue #905, Arcadia, CA 91007
I had originally heard about Craft By Smoke and Fire through TikTok, when their media team posted a video of their Anaheim location. So when I saw that they had opened another location down in Arcadia at the Westfield Santa Anita mall, it immediately jumped onto my list of places to try the next time I was down in that area.
It was earlier last month that I was hanging out with my friends Nate and Ruby, and I asked if they would be up for checking this place out. The restaurant had only opened at the end of April, so it was still a relatively new spot. They both said the menu looked good, so off we went.
The restaurant itself is located on the perimeter of the mall building itself, not necessarily a standalone place. When we first walked in, I was impressed with how it almost felt like the interior of a barn, kind of like that Americana feel. There was decorative siding on the walls, wooden support beams, along with a nice blend between light gray and black paint scheme to contrast with the wood textures. I also liked how it was an open kitchen at the back, with glass dividers that still let you see inside it. At the front, there was also a racetrack-style bar along with an outdoor patio seating area as well.
If you are a meat aficionado, then you’ve absolutely come to the right place. Between the appetizers, main courses, and sides, there are numerous options to choose from that you might have a difficult time doing so. (I know I did.) Beef, lamb, pork, and turkey are all on the menu in different forms. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, you can treat yourself to something from the “Prime Steaks” area of the menu, featuring a porterhouse, New York strip, or tomahawk.
The two waitresses that helped us out for the duration of our meal, Cynthia and Bernadette, stopped by our table to introduce themselves. When coming out with the drinks, they also brought out a complimentary order of the garlic bread appetizer as well. Between Nate, Ruby, and myself, we all agreed that we wanted to get a good sampling of several of the items on the menu. So for our spread, we got the Mountain High Loaded Fries with Nashville Hot Chicken, 1 lb. of Smoked Brisket, 1.5 lbs. of the Smoked Short Rib, and the Scratch Brisket & Short Rib Sausage.
I will say that even though it was a relatively busy day, the food was cranking out at a pretty consistent pace. We were probably about halfway through our garlic bread before our loaded fries arrived to the table. Then maybe about five minutes into diving into the fries, the meats started rolling in. The one observation that I will say about Cynthia’s service style (it seemed like Bernadette was shadowing her for training) is that it is very efficient, but lacks the warmth of hospitality. She would make sure that we always had everything that we needed, but I could tell it seemed like she would be continuing to think ahead to what needed to get done next. Not a positive or a negative, but more of just a neutral observation that I noted.
The garlic bread and the loaded fries were pretty good ways to start off the meal. Between the two, the loaded fries did leave more of an impression. The Nashville hot chicken was a bit more on the mild side for me, but I thought that the spices combined well with the other flavors of the waffle fries, coleslaw, pickles, and Chipotle mayo. After that, it was onto the meats.
For the brisket, each slice they give you is a half pound. I will say that I was slightly disappointed at the cut that we received, since there was a pretty thick line of fat running right down the middle. That probably accounted for a third of the weight of a half pound order right there. From a flavor perspective, however, the bark was pretty nice and the fatty side of the brisket really did have a melt-in-your-mouth quality. The lean side definitely needed some barbecue sauce to help augment the moisture, since I did find it a bit dry.
The short rib also ended up having more fat than I anticipated, so there was a bit of digging around to find good bites that were a nice mix of both meat and fat. I also did enjoy the brisket and short rib sausage, which I thought packed a nice smoky flavor with a little bit of heat on the back end. If I were to rank the order of the meats based on what I would order again, I’d have to go brisket -> sausage -> short rib. There was also a lamb rack as well as a pastrami dish that also sounded pretty good too, but will be saved for another visit.
Overall, I thought the flavor of the meat was really there, with a nice blend of smoky, sweet, savory, and umami. They were indeed “crafted by smoke and fire.” It’s real easy to see why this spot is already so popular, even though it just recently opened. I’ve been looking for some good barbecue places since I’ve moved out here to California, and this one has quickly risen to the top of that list so far.
Let’s now take a look at the Craft By Smoke and Fire Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Garlic Bread **
Toasted baguette with garlic butter, Parmesan cheese, and parsley.
** Mountain High Loaded Fries (pictured with Nashville Hot Chicken) **
Waffle fries topped with Chipotle mayo, coleslaw, pickles, and sliced Nashville hot chicken.
** Half Pound Prime Harris Ranch Brisket **
Full slice of beef brisket, with both lean and moist cuts contained within.
** 1.5 Pound Prime Harris Ranch Short Rib **
Smoked short rib served on the bone.
** Scratch Brisket and Short Rib Sausage **
Ground brisket and short rib meat with added spices and cheddar cheese.
And finally, here are my rankings for Craft By Smoke and Fire:
Food: 4.25 / 5
It really was difficult to choose amongst all of the things on the menu that sounded delicious. But the meats that we went with definitely packed a lot of flavor. The slight downside to it, from my perspective, was just that the cuts we got had a bit too much fat for my taste.
Atmosphere: 4.5 / 5
With a décor style that I can describe as “contemporary Americana,” I thought that the restaurant made nice use of the darker color scheme and contrasting that with the brightly lit dining area. Extra points for the open-air kitchen, which I always appreciate. In this case, the smell of the meats are able to waft around the entire dining room.
Service: 4 / 5
Like I mentioned about the “efficient” style of service earlier, I viewed it more as a neutral observation. While I did feel like Cynthia was stopping by our table pretty often to make sure we were taken care of, at the same time it did feel lacking in warmth or emotion. Just very much taking care of business and moving on.
Price: 4.25 / 5
I’d say that barbecue always seems more on the expensive side, no matter where I go. But there is a lot of hard work that goes in behind-the-scenes when it comes to smoking these meats, so I think the higher price is understandable. For the quality of the food and the location, it was definitely a price I’d be happy to pay again.