Orlando is really expanding into a foodie town. Not only are the Culinary Institute of American army of young chefs flocking to Winter Park, Mills 50, Milk District and East End Market, it would seem that a culinary mind would lay claim to Crafted Block and Brew in Metrowest. Metrowest? Is that a foodie destination? Well if it wasn’t, it might be now.
The brilliant minds at Crafted Block and Brew took a long forgotten empty corner space, in a still thriving plaza anchored by Publix Supermarket and transformed it into a Brooklynesque yuppie joint. I mean yuppie in a good way. Do we really want another old school restaurant who is trying extremely hard to recreate another country’s decor and ambiance? Heck no. It is our time. Good ole American time. The USA food scene is as vibrant as any other country. We are blazing a trail of resurgence with our own style and finesse taking influences from our heritage and deliberate lifestyle. This is what Crafted has embraced.
The restaurant occupies a corner space with wrap around covered patio. Outdoor tables and chairs are spaced with ample room to move around. Smoking and pets are allowed. Hurray! Large glass windows surround the restaurant that allows gorgeous Florida sunlight to brighten and dazzle. No shady mood lighting here. The interior is a large open concept anchored by a bar in the middle. Bar chairs allow for easy interacting. You don’t really need company to go here. Saddle up to the bar alone and make friends or dine alone, your preference. There are high tops, swanky white leather booths and regular height tables. The ceiling is exposed and painted white. I know you’ve seen the black ceilings that creates the cavernous or clubby look. Imagine a white ceiling that makes the space appear five times higher. Warm wood tones that appear as old reclaimed barn wood make pronounce statements throughout the space. I winch at the next sentence. Read and forget if it bothers you. There are a gazillion TV screens surrounding the walls and bar, playing sports. The whole artisan movement got a sports twist. Rant over.
One glimpse of the menu suggest there is some culinary pedigree present. Great descriptors salivate the glands to entice a visit. Enormous draft and bottled craft beer selections will have your head spinning. If you are not a small brimmed hat wearing, skinny jeans with hanging dog chain, or tribal tattooed cool draft beer aficionado not to worry. There is mainstream beer, wine, and mixed drinks. Even though the food reads fancy, look again, it’s really simple food with a few little touches here and there to elevate the flavors. It’s really approachable. Portion sizes are moderate. We played it safe on selections, new place and all.
Hoegaarden Original White Ale/Witber/Hoegaarden, Belgium – light, airy, with pronounced citrus notes. By itself, the ale stands tall. With an orange slice, the glass fills with a cool refreshing mouth feel. This is the ale to have on hot summer days. I could surely sit on their patio, watch the sun go down and have bucketfuls of this.
Grilled Wings – Mojo Spiced topped with Grilled Lemon. Distinct mojo flavors heightened with grilled lemon came through with every bite. A very welcomed menu item away from the traditional buffalo or teriyaki glaze.
Drunken Steak – Grilled hanger steak served with garlic-mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables and a drunken mushroom sauce. Steak was nicely done with good flavors and texture. Mash potatoes tasted wholesome. Drunken sauce fell flat with no pronounced notes. Plating could use a little tightening. After reading the menu, I expected a little more sophistication. But, simple works also.
Cajun Snapper – Blackened snapper served over cheddar grits, wilted spinach and maque choux. Snapper was not overly salted. Some blackened presentation tend to over power fish. This was just enough to taste but still allowed the tender snapper flavors to shine through. Cheddar grits was not too cheesy, which allowed for a grainy texture. Reminds you that there is grits in there. Maque Choux added the necessary American Indian/Cajun flare to remind folks that there is a great culinary tradition right here in the good ole Louisiana Bayou, USA. Flavors of this dish compliment and enhance each other. But like the Drunken Steak, I somehow wanted the plating to reflect the menu description. Simple will suffice.
August Kesseler/Riesling/Rheingau, Germany– Tart, crisp with a delicate floral nose. Short finish. Cuts through and balances the Cajun Snapper spices and fat in Maque Choux.
Crafted Block and Brew is still a relatively new restaurant. It seems that it must be opened for a few weeks or so. As in every new opening, there are glitches. Steps of service and plating could use a little tightening. Nothing major. Everyone seems so tense. Loosen up, this is a restaurant where people come to enjoy time with friends and family. Your tenseness transfers. It’s okay to laugh and that goes for all levels of service. This is a welcomed addition to Metrowest. It just goes to show that with a little vision and persuasion good restaurants can move out of the so called dining destinations. I’ll be back to rock out that patio and dive into more craft beers, small brimmed hat and all.