When I was a kid, there were no Mexican restaurants; there was only Taco Hell. I was at least in middle school, if not a bit older, when Max’s Mexican Eatery opened across from Ilderton Dodge in High Point, and that is the first Mexican restaurant I can remember. I don’t know how or why this came to be, but we started making tacos at home.
Taco night was a huge big deal, because some of the ingredients were expensive – corn tortillas were not commonplace, and Mom used Velveeta for taco cheese. She would get the Velveeta one week, and the tortillas the next week, and then it was TACO NIGHT!!! Here’s the setup: Browned ground beef in a skillet on the table, diced tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, sour cream, and Velveeta, cut in sticks about 1/2 x 3″. Oh, and the pepper sauce! I forgot about that – Mom got a bottle of Texas Pete chilies in vinegar, ran it through the blender to chop the chilis up fine, then put the whole mess in a ketchup squirt bottle. We could only stand about four drops of that stuff on any one taco; it was hot! All this stuff was on the table. Over on the counter, Mom set up the electric frying pan with oil, and then she or Dad would fry a tortilla for each person, placing the finished tortilla on a paper plate covered with napkins. Then we got more napkins to blot the oil before building our taco. A stick of Velveeta was cut in two and went down first, so it got melty on the hot tortilla. Then hamburger and veg and sour cream. Then the tortilla wrapped around and ecstasy ensued. Man, we could gobble down some tacos!
Tonight, we decided to eat at Crafted: Art of the Taco, which is located next door to Blue Denim on Elm Street downtown. I forgot to take a picture of the exterior, because it was sprinkling rain when we went in, but here’s a shot of the hall you have to walk down to get to the dining room. It is not wide enough for two people to walk past each other without touching. The kitchen is there on the left, behind those windows, and there are chalkboards with sidewalk chalk for writing messages, or whatever.
We were seated immediately, since it was only 6pm and not crowded yet. The dining room is nicely set up, with a huge bar in the middle, and tons of green paint everywhere, like an avocado bomb went off, LOL. Seriously, there was a lot of green, but at least it wasn’t a neon acid green. (I’ve seen someone’s kitchen painted that color, and it’s unnerving, to say the least.) I LOVED the light fixtures. At first, I thought someone had done the “hang an umbrella upside down with a light inside” thing, but then when I looked closer, I realized the “umbrella” parts were actually glass, or maybe plexiglass. All those stars over the bar in the picture below are various colors, with holes punched to let the light out. Very neat.
Service was pretty good, but not the best we’ve ever seen, and it wasn’t because they were short-staffed or crowded. The menu is short and to the point. The main thing is Tacos, of course – right on the front, it says, “We are not a Mexican restaurant; We are a Taco Joint”. On the entree side, you get two tacos and a side for a very reasonable price, which is dependent on which protein you get. You can mix and match, meaning, you don’t have to have two of the same taco – you can get one each of two different types, and you pay the price of whichever taco is most expensive. You can also get your taco made as a salad for a buck more.
They have many protein choices, including braised beef, pulled pork, Ahi tuna, chicken, grilled or fried fish. For the veggie heads and vegans among us, they have tofu, something called “seitan“, with which I was not familiar, and felafel. The menu says almost all their sauces are vegan, and anything can be made to suit vegans, if the vegans ask for it, which is nice for them.
We both decided to get two different tacos each. Ginny got a Wayfarer (pulled pork, kimchi sauce, marinated cucumbers, green onions) and a ‘Mericanized (lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream with your choice of protein; she picked grilled fish), with duck-fat-braised collard greens as her side. I got a Bow Tie (fried fish, corn salsa, mayo-based sauce) and a Baja-Style (protein of choice with guacamole and pico de gallo, and lots of cilantro. I picked braised beef,) with chips and salsa as my side.
Ginny liked both of her tacos and the collards, as well. The pork was clean (no fat or gristle parts), and very tasty, with kimchi sauce. Her grilled fish was soft and delicious, and those collards were really delicious.
On the other hand, I was disappointed with several things. First, the fried fish in my Bow Tie taco was cold and had obviously been sitting awhile in the kitchen. It had no flavor, but the corn salsa was pretty good. The braised beef in my Baja-style taco was clean (no fat or gristle), fully cooked, but needed salt, and was very dry. Both my tacos were ordered with soft corn tortillas, which were served just like they come out of the bag from the store – cold and flat – a major letdown after the homemade goodness at the El Torito Taco Truck. Soft corn tortillas have to be warmed in order for them to wrap around anything without tearing up and making a mess. Needless to say…
The salsa I ordered as my side was pretty good, once I got a salt shaker (none on the tables; you have to ask for it); however, I did not like the chips. I think most people would expect corn tortilla chips with their salsa, but Crafted serves chips that are fried white flour tortillas, which are not nearly as flavorful as corn chips.
I have heard so many people rave about this place, I expected a really good meal. Unfortunately, it was mediocre, at best. We prolly won’t go back; there are too many other excellent restaurants to choose from in the Greensboro area.