It’s a Taco Joint, NOT a Mexican Restaurant
by Tim Beeman; The Man Who Ate the Town
It has finally happened. I have alluded to it for the last few weeks, even mentioning it, albeit ambiguously, on this week’s podcast. Chef Kris Fuller and her fantastic taco voyage – Crafted: The Art of the Taco Winston – have arrived. Chef Kris had a sort of soft opening on Saturday, with no warning to anyone other than some foodie people, and a sandwich board standing outside of the restaurant’s doors. On November 2, 2016, they opened their doors, for real.
Now, the first thing you need to know is that this is not a Mexican restaurant. This is a taco joint. With food offerings for everyone: the vegans, the vegetarians, the omnivores and the carnivores, Crafted: The Art of the Taco has a menu full of delicious sounding food. Stuffed avocados, “dirty south nachos” made from sweet potato chips and pulled pork, “Mason of Bacon” or a mason jar filled with applewood smoked bacon served with salted caramel and chocolate sauce for dipping (shudders!) and taquitos are some of the main appetizer items.
Salad people may freak out a little when they see only one salad on the menu, but fear not! it’s not really the only salad on the menu. The base is mixed greens kimchi, citrus vinaigrette, orange segments, guacamole, crumbled queso and topped with fried tortillas. But, you start with that and then add your protein of choice. Choices include grilled or battered fish, chorizo, pulled pork, braised chicken or beef, seared tuna, spiced potato, fried tofu, chofu (chorizo flavored tofu, still vegan) and seitan (vegetarian wheat meat substitute) among other things.
Salads and tacos not your thing? Burgers, man, burgers. There are seven different burgers on this menu and each can be manipulated in so many ways that it’s really hard to put a count on how many variations there really are. The first one up, “The One & Only” which is a beef burger topped with white cheddar pimento cheese, bacon and caramelized onions. “The Fuego” is topped with guacamole, grilled jalapeno, house-made “hot-hot” sauce and crumbled queso. “Smoked Goat” is topped with smoked goat cheese and an apple, bacon, onion and pepper jelly. “Poppin’ Jalapeno” is topped with jalapeno bacon, jalapeno ranch, pepper-jack cheese and a jalapeno and cream cheese fritter. Then there’s the “Greasy Spoon” (I love that name) with two diner-style patties layered with American cheese and topped with diced grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, house made pickles, ketchup and mustard. The “Chori” is beef topped with queso sauce, chorizo, pico de gallo, fried egg and guacamole… holy smokes!!
You can add additional cheeses, bacon, eggs, jalapeno and so on, to make your burger your own. There’s also the vegan burger made of black bean, falafel and corn patties with vegan queso, pico de gallo, guac and a cilantro-lime aioli.
But, as awesome as all that sounds, we’re here to talk about the main event, tacos!
There are 11 tacos on the menu and one predetermined three taco “combo.” You get 2 tacos and 1 side for the prices on the menu. You can also mix and match your tacos and just pay the higher of the two prices. Let’s examine these tacos: “Big Truck” with pulled pork, mac-n-cheese, tobacco onions, scallions and bacon BBQ sauce. “Bowtie” with beer battered fish, roasted corn and poblano salsa, sweet chipotle aioli and honey mustard. “Fedora” with blackened, rare, tuna, kimchi, garlic and pineapple aioli topped with scallions. “Fixie” with beef brisket, grilled pineapple, spicy sweet chili sauce and coconut aioli. “Hoodie” with falafel, spicy pickled cucumbers, shredded carrots, mixed greens and house sauce. “Messenger” with chorizo, scrambled egg, potatoes, ranchero, guacamole and crumbled queso. “Oxford” braised chicken, napa cabbage slaw, hoisin sauce, spicy Asian mustard and scallions. “Po’ Boy” with cajun fried shrimp, lettuce, pico de gallo, cajun remoulade and spicy pickles. “Wayfarer” is pulled portk, korean red sauce, sesame marinated cucumber and red onion relish topped with cilantro and scallions. “Baja Style” is cilantro, guacamole, baja sauce and pico de gallo and you pick your own protein. “‘Mericanized” is lettuce, tomato, sour cream and shredded cheese, again, you pick your own protein. The “Box Truck” is one “Big Truck,” one “Oxford” and one “Bowtie.” How’s that for whetting the appetite? Plus, you can make any of the tacos a rice bowl (for an additional charge) or into a burger. Also, you have a choice of flour or corn tortillas.
The menu states this but I’ll repeat it, all of the sauces are made in-house and most of them are vegan. Most of the items can be made vegetarian, vegan or gluten free (ask your server for more info). They do not use nut products in their kitchen, so those with nut allergies are safe. They take into account any food allergies that you may have.
For the kids, they have a mac & cheese quesadilla and they have churros (fried pastry tossed in cinnamon sugar, then drizzled with caramel and spiced chocolate) for dessert. I’ve basically just rewritten the entire menu for you. I don’t feel bad about that because it’s a well-organized menu and without knowing what’s on it, you may not visit or go in. Now, you’re well informed.
I went in and ate along with local food writers Michael Hastings (Winston-Salem Journal) and Kristi Maier (Triad Foodies, Yes! Weekly) and sampled some of Chef Kris’ fantastic food. We all three sat and shared food. There was a lot of “here, Tim, try this stuffed avocado or, Kristi, try this queso, or Michael you have to taste this mac-n-cheese.” It was fun being in our own little corner having the food. Chef Kris was there with us explaining items and helping us concoct the best combo for us. I tried one of the “Baja” tacos with seared tuna from Michael. I ordered my own “Baja” with pulled pork and a “Fixie” because it had beef. My side was the queso and chips.
The stuffed avocado was decadent. Spicy but not hot, creamy and tender but firm and topped with pico. Great balance and oh so good.
The “Fixie” was tangy and spicy. It was also messy. So be warned when you eat at Crafted: Art of the Taco, it will be messy. The beef was perfectly seasoned and oh, so tender. Mixed with the sweet chili sauce there was the heat without being hot. The pineapple and coconut aioli gave it a definite Hawaiian feel. I liked it a lot, but it was the last of the tacos I had and I was getting full (and fast).
The “Baja” with the pork was delicious. The tangy baja sauce had that tangy cilantro mayo type sauce that you’d expect, especially if you’ve had anything from Taco Bell with that sauce. This, however, lays the smack down on that stuff; leaves it tattered and torn. The pork was tender and seasoned. It was all a little spicy, but again, not hot. There was some of Chef Kris’ housemade “hot-hot” sauce and verde sauce by my plate and I made sure to incorporate them into the food (or just have it with chips). As great as the pork was, the “Baja” taco I had from Michael, with the seared, rare tuna, was divine. That was my favorite of all of them. I’m a sucker for rare tuna, anyway.
I enjoyed my chips and queso, but when I go back I’m certainly opting for either the duck fat braised collard greens or the pimento mac and cheese. Both of those were top notch. I am one to usually put vinegar on my collard greens, mainly because I love the taste of vinegar. But with these, there was no need or want of that. The duck fat brought out the earthy flavor of the collards. I’ve had some fantastic collards from other places and this is certainly rivaling those places. I’d say top three, for sure. The mac-n-cheese was oh so creamy and oh so rich. Melting in my mouth, I think I audibly moaned upon trying them for the first time.
To say that it was “good” would be ridiculous. That’s lying, outright and maliciously. This was fantastic! There’s a reason the town got excited about Crafted when it was announced they were coming. The reason is because it truly is some of the best tacos I’ve ever had. The tacos are actually “crafted” and tedious care is taken to make sure they’re right. Again, make sure you keep a good bit of napkins handy, you’re going to need them. I can’t wait to get back there and to take Stephanie with me. She’s going to really enjoy this.
Because you know I love my alcohol, they have taps and bottled beer and wine. To tell the truth I was too busy eating phenomenal food to even look what their libations were. I’ll report back on that, later. Perhaps on a podcast?
You can try your own Crafted goodness by visiting the newest location, 527 Liberty Street. You can find out more about Chef Kris’ menu and her two Greensboro restaurants, Crafted: Art of the Taco (East) and Crafted: Art of Street Food, by visiting their website HERE.