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BBQ and sports play well together at Craft by Smoke & Fire – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

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The fellow sitting next to me at the bar Craft by Smoke & Fire — a lively, tasty, big-screen sports intensive barbecue house — ordered a Vesper Martini. Which seemed to surprise the bartender, and definitely surprised me.

Aside from the fact that I’ve long believed the proper beverage with barbecue is beer — brew and ‘que are made for each other! — the Vesper is an impressively retro cocktail. It’s a drink that dates back to 1953, when it was invented by Ian Fleming in the first James Bond book, “Casino Royale.”

It was named for double agent Vesper Lynd — a strong libation consisting of both gin give vodka with Kina Lillet. And a curl of lemon peel, served in a classic martini glass. It’s a wonderful drink. But…using it to wash down the short rib birria quesadilla, the Nashville hot chicken burrito, or the short rib and brisket chili…seems oddly perverse to me. It’s like drinking a long-aged Bordeaux with tater tots. You just don’t do that.

But, the fellow at the bar what doing it. And he was drinking his Vesper with a trio of prime brisket tacos. Which brings me to one of the great pleasures of Craft by Smoke & Fire — a small chain with one branch in Old Pasadena, another in Arcadia, and a third in Anaheim. It’s that though ‘que is the name of the game here, the kitchen does some very interesting things with their smoked meats.

What we have here is a somewhat nutty eatery that’s part barbecue, part Mexican, part Southern, a bit Texan…and very American.

Show up as I did, with the Dodgers playing (and winning…again!) on big screens everywhere you turn, with long tables of family and friends inhaling richly smoked meat with lots of sides, and you may get the feeling that you’ve gave up the ghost, and found true happiness in a very tasty afterlife.

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