Beer and a Bite: 1608 Crafthouse

The unofficial slogan of 1608 Crafthouse, “In Beer and Bacon We Trust,” succinctly captures the spirit of the Virginia Beach restaurant.

Since opening its doors in 2015, 1608 Crafthouse has become a popular craft beer destination that just so happens to feature a menu of award-winning, mouthwatering fare.

Owner/Chef Kevin Sharkey. Photo by Chrystal Culbert

Having only six taps might be a problem for some craft beer-friendly eateries, but 1608 owner and chef Kevin Sharkey has turned it into an opportunity to showcase more small batches, including many from local breweries. Complimenting the six rotating beers on draft is a large selection of craft beer cans and bottles, most of which are brewed within 250 miles of Virginia Beach and can also be purchased to-go.

Promoting local breweries is important to Sharkey, who takes pride in the selection of beer from the Hampton Roads area at his restaurant.

“There are so many breweries here putting out a great product,” said Sharkey. “I really enjoy working with them and being able to feature their beer.”

One way that Sharkey works with breweries is with 1608’s exclusive beer dinners. The restaurant closes to the public for these ticket-only events that feature a custom-made, four-course menu in which Sharkey pairs four beers from a brewery with dishes specifically chosen to compliment the beers. During each course, a representative from the brewery (often an owner) talks about the beer, while Sharkey discusses his thought process in choosing the food he matches with each beer. It’s an interactive, educational, and satisfying event.

These beer dinners are an opportunity for Sharkey to show off his culinary acumen, and they have become quite popular. The first beer dinner at 1608 Crafthouse was attended by 25 people, but now each dinner sells out with 50-plus ticketholders in attendance. Upcoming beer dinners will feature local breweries like Benchtop Brewing Company and Big Ugly Brewing Company.

While beer is a big part of what 1608 Crafthouse offers, it is not exactly what Sharkey wants it to be known for.

“I want people to come here for the food,” said Sharkey. “I want people to leave here saying ‘Wow, I really didn’t expect that.’”

Photo by Crystal Culbert

Serving what Sharkey describes as “higher end comfort food,” all of the food at 1608 Crafthouse is locally sourced and served fresh. The restaurant has no walk-in, all of the food is prepared fresh daily. The restaurant also does not have a grill or flat top, all burgers and steaks are cooked in a pan or a cast iron skillet, making them unique from most other restaurants in the area.

None of the food is simply thrown together; it is produced carefully and meticulously, with the goal being the highest quality dishes in the area. Making a burger, 1608’s signature menu item, is a four-step process. Making the oxtail chili for the poutine, another popular dish at the crafthouse, is a two-day process. Weekly specials change three or four times a week, and are all carefully crafted by Sharkey himself.

1608 Crafthouse is a love song to fresh food and beer by Sharkey, originally from Massachusetts. Having lived in the Hampton Roads area “off and on” since 1995, Sharkey decided it was time to open up a restaurant that he could put his own personal stamp on.

“This place is a conglomeration of ideas that I’ve had in my head for a long time,” said Sharkey. “I didn’t take a day off for the first year and a half we were open.”

The result is an approachable, casual restaurant that you can wear flip-flops or a tie in, and never feel uncomfortable. You can sit on the outdoor patio and enjoy a mimosa flight during brunch, or sit at the bar with a local beer and snack on the wildly popular homemade pork rinds made daily at 1608.

And if you happen to spot Kevin Sharkey while you’re there (chances are he’ll be there), say hello.

 

Author: Pete Newell

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