Drop what you are doing and eat: Crafted – The Art of Street Food
By: Alexa Powell
For close to a year, I followed the flurry of articles in the Triad City Beat, Greensboro Magazine, and Yes Weekly! about the opening of the new restaurant, Crafted – The Art of Street Food. Their theme was a closely guarded secret until only a few weeks before the restaurant opened. As a world traveler, I was intrigued and hopeful about the unique concept of offering street food from around the globe in a single place; I imagined that I would be transported around the world, minus an expensive airline ticket, to the sights and smells of simple, but decadent delights. The anticipation finally got the better of me and I decided it was time to check it out.
The first obvious thing we noticed about the new Crafted was the complete lack of practical parking. Fortunately, there is some, albeit limited, on street parking in the little neighborhood behind the restaurant and it’s a short walk. Suggestion Box: I wonder if Guilford County Schools would consider a joint use agreement for the parking lot just behind the restaurant (currently only GCS employees can park there and towing is enforced).
On my first adventure to the new Crafted, business was booming and the place was in full swing with more than an hour wait for a table; even the full service bar was packed. Undeterred by the wait, I did what any millennial would do; I grabbed the cocktail list! They have an amazing selection of artisan cocktails, and a modest selection of beer and wine.
While sipping a potent $9 Pomegranate Habanero Margarita (complete with Hornitos Repasado, Cointreau, fresh lime, and Habanero Bitters), on the open air porch, we enjoyed a delightful mix of conversations with other diners also waiting for a table. While engaged in people watching, I also noticed the restaurant attracted not only the expected middle aged foodies, but also various eclectic young people, and a diverse group of folks from all different age groups, and cultures. The restaurant was buzzing with conversations and laughter reminding me of leisurely evenings in Spain where friends gather to enjoy tapas. I’m not sure if it was the heat from the drink, the balmy summer air, or the warmth of the restaurant’s atmosphere, but I definitely had a sense that I was about to eat at one of the hottest restaurants in town!
After an hour and fifteen minutes, we sat down at our two-top table in the main dining room; we were ravenous and everything looked and sounded amazing. We each decided to each pick two different things on the menu from two continents Asia and South America; the idea was to create our own sampler plate to share in small plate style. I choose the Bao – a HOT spicy kimchi topped braised pork served over a Chinese steamed bun, and the Jerk Chicken – well cooked thighs served on top of traditional yellow rice and beans with a back of the throat, slow and low heat.
My dinner companion ordered the Bahn Mi sandwich – a traditional Vietnamese street food with chicken and pork belly in a crusty bread roll topped with an amazing assortment of crunchy, fresh, pickled vegetables, and the Korean BBQ – beef short ribs covered with a sweet and savory red dragon sauce, that in my opinion, was Iron Chef worthy (see below for pictures). My favorite dish of the night was the Bahn Mi. The pork was flavorful, tender, and juicy and the pickled vegetables added the perfect sweet vinegary crunch. The ample serving portion was enough to bring home leftovers had I been so inclined.
Fast forward three days, and I found myself returning to the new Crafted for the second time in less than a week (yes, I liked their food). This time I accompanied a few people I met at the non-profit board mixer hosted by synerG. The event was a great tie-in to the earlier lunch and learn session about getting young professionals involved as board members for local non-profits (watch out Gboro we millennials are coming).
Anyway, there was a 30 min wait for a table at Crafted, but we made the most of it by going next door to Preyer Brewing. If you like beer, this is totally the right move while waiting for a table at Crafted; Preyer Brewing has some very comfortable seating. I tried their strawberry wheat beer. Personally, I am not a beer aficionado, but I enjoyed it. Some of my other companions, at the bar tasting the five glass beer flight, were not as impressed by that particular combo.
Once we got the “your table’s ready” call from Crafted, we walked next-door and sat at the long, central community table. Community tables, like the one at the new Crafted, are my favorite features in restaurants these days because they encourage and invite casual dialogue between strangers in a friendly neighborhood setting.
We were served a bowl of complimentary paprika spiced popcorn which was gone almost immediately after it arrived. I wanted to try another signature cocktail, so I went with the Cackalacky Grapefruit Cosmo – featuring local NC vodka, Cointreau, lime, grapefruit, and cranberry. It was the perfect, refreshing, citrus infused drink for after a long day at work. After much deliberation, I decided on the Cubano sandwich; it was the best version of a Cubano I’ve ever had, without exception! The pork was sweet and tender, the Swiss was creamy and melted, and my favorite pickled veggies were layered on top! This is definitely my go to dish for future meals here. I shared a bit of my sandwich with my table mates, and they agreed, they would return just to order the Cubano. Before leaving, we met the chef who seemed to be both as down to earth, and just as edgy as the graffiti that adorned the restaurants walls.
My final reflection, as I was sitting enjoying the company of new friends, was how much the downtown parts of G-boro have changed in the past six months. More new restaurants and breweries have recently opened than I can recall in the past few years combined. Greensboro is going through a transformation; a transformation that is an encouraging sign of a strengthening economy as well as a much needed revitalization of our city. After listening to some of my peers, it is increasingly apparent to me that the one thing my generation is looking for most is finding diverse places to connect with other people. I’m not talking about networking events, or social media forums which are good for the less shy among us but it can be intimidating. What I mean however, is actual physical spaces where people can congregate, meet each other, and engage in organic conversations. Having a vibrant, high quality, locally sourced, locally owned, and moderately priced food scene, where people from all walks of life interact, is a vital part of the equation when it comes to keeping young, vibrant, creative, engaged and motivated professionals here in Greensboro. For this reason, we need more gathering places like Crafted – The Art of Street Food to setup shop to help sustain, and encourage the forward momentum they started.
Alexa Powell is a Planner with PART (Piedmont Area Rapid Transit) and active young professional in Greensboro.