CRAFTED BLOCK & BREW
2417 Hiawassee Road | 407-601-6887 | craftedorlando.com | $$
The glorious nighttime temperatures necessitated an outside seat at MetroWest’s Crafted Block & Brew, and as we waited for a friend to arrive, we took part in some jovial banter with our server. On hearing him proudly proclaim that 95 percent of Crafted’s menu items are made from scratch, I asked, “What’s the 5 percent that isn’t made from scratch?” Thrown by the rejoinder, he stammered: “Huh? Oh, that’s, uh, just ketchup, and, uh, condiments and stuff.” I prodded further: “So what about your meats and produce? Are they locally sourced?” Our server: “Umm, the buns are local and I think we get the steak tips from Ruth’s Chris.”
Needless to say, my friend couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune moment (for the server), so we ordered beverages – there’s a nice selection of craft brews available on tap and by the bottle – and looked over the menu. Devon Tillman, former head chef at Kres Chophouse, oversees the kitchen here and churns out a hodgepodge of modern pub grub. The “totchos” ($8.95), tater tots topped with pork belly, red jalapeños, melted cheddar, scallions and green chili sauce, prompted one of my dining comrades to exclaim, “Wow, they made those tater tots taste just like the frozen stuff! They need to serve these at Applebee’s.” Zesty grilled wings ($9.95) with mojo spice fared much better than the flappers with the dry barbecue rub – their saving grace was a bottle of Fat Cat Caribbean Curry Hot Sauce we retrieved from our car.
Cajun snapper ($17.95) atop cheddar grits required no doctoring, though slathering the fish with maque-choux was a little much. The succotash could’ve easily been sided on the plate rather than atop the nicely cooked snapper. Other than price, we couldn’t find any faults with the “Farmer” burger ($12.95) fashioned from short rib, brisket and chuck. The sandwich comes topped with crisp bourbon bacon, tomato jam, Tillamook smoked cheddar and a fried egg. The brioche bun disintegrated under the weight, but it was still an enjoyably messy burger. We also liked the cottage pie ($13.95), a hearty dish utilizing tenderloin tips which, I came to learn later on, were procured from Tillman’s former employer, Kres Chophouse – not Ruth’s Chris.
From the list of desserts, we thoroughly enjoyed the sweet potato cheesecake ($6.95), but the same couldn’t be said about the goat cheese pound cake ($6.95) with Jägermeister spice glaze. For one, we couldn’t detect any goat-cheese tang in the cake, and the Jägermeister glaze? The topping was hardly noteworthy; it just seemed to be trendy for the sake of being trendy.
Much like that dessert, Crafted’s interior feels equally uninspired. Sure, they’ve employed the now-de rigueur practice of decking the interior with flourishes and furnishings that are at once rustic, modern and industrial, but not in a way that seems very cohesive or in any way inviting. It feels more like a sports bar than anything, but in MetroWest, you can’t blame them for taking the “something for everyone” approach. That said, it’s the good folks of this neighborhood block that will ultimately decide the fate of the place, as I don’t foresee many outside the area making the effort to pay them a visit.