Tacos downtown, and not from a truck

by Brian Clarey

“Why  would anyone want to ruin an avocado with sausage?” my pescatarian wife asks me as we peruse the menu at Crafted, the new downtown Greensboro taqueria that boasts in its name, “the Art of the Taco.”

The menu item in question is the stuffed avocado, which comes with queso, pico and chorizo, a wonderfully dense and flavorful Mexican sausage that, for meat-eaters like me, can become something of an obsession.

Clearly, though, my wife is not the first to pose this question. While the Crafted menu has plenty of meat-centric dishes, they throw in enough vegan and vegetarian options to accommodate even the pickiest of eaters.

So, no chorizo for us, but we substitute a house product called “chofu,” which is a tofu-based protein laced with all the appropriate spices. I should say that I don’t really do tofu — I mean, what’s the point? — but I have no serious issues with it. How could I? It’s more or less tasteless and as inoffensive as a low-sodium Saltine.

But chofu is another matter entirely. It’s broken down into crumbles, colored by hot and savory spices and it meshes with the avocado, pico and queso like it was born to do it atop lightly fried flour tortilla chips.

It’s an auspicious start for our meal at this new restaurant, brought by the Fuller family, who started the Bistro in Adams Farm. We’re eager to try more. Of late, the food downtown has settled into a few predictable types: bar food including burgers, wings and all manner of sandwichery; and aspirant fine dining, which has reached great heights but pushes the price point beyond what many are willing to spend.

Crafted opened this fall with the promise of something different:

tacos, yes, in creative and alluring forms, along with salads, a couple burgers and the kinds of appetizers you won’t find anywhere else downtown.

Its opening coincided with the city’s food-truck pilot program, which raised the ire of some restaurant owners who asserted that the mobile food units held an unfair advantage against their brick-and-mortar con cerns.

But I see Crafted as part of the movement to bring better, quirkier, more unique cuisine to our busiest district. True, tacos are a regular feature in food-truck offerings, but this just challenges Crafted to come up with something different, or better. Plus, Crafted has the advantage of a full bar, bathrooms and table service; an appetizer like the stuffed avocado would not be practical if it came off a food truck.

The taco menu at Crafted features a slate of traditional tacos with 10 different proteins — including chofu, and a few you might not find at a standard taqueria like shrimp ceviche, tuna and braised beef. It veers from tradition with a short list of specialty tacos that bring things to the next level. The Messenger has chorizo and eggs with potatoes and avocado. The Wayfarer has pulled pork and hoisin with bok choy slaw. The Bow Tie is a fried-fish taco with roasted-corn salsa and chipotle aioli — the batender tells me all aiolis are made with vegannaise to accommodate all diets.

We go with the Fedora — blackened tuna with kim chee — and the Fixie, which pairs beef brisket with grilled pineapple and a sweet chili sauce. The flavors are mild: The kim chee has just a suggestion of the bite the fermented cabbage dish usually holds, and though the Fixie is advertised as “’effin’ spicy,” I find I can handle it more easily than some of the things I eat from the Latin taquerias and mercaditos I frequent.

That being said, these tacos are significantly bigger, with more of everything stuffed inside them. Plus they come with sides — I recommend the sweet-potato chips.

One more observation: I have been inside that room for maybe five different concepts, and this is the most crowded I’ve seen it since it was the Next Door Tavern, with a healthy lunch crowd that drew from every downtown type. It is my hope that by offering something different, they will continue to thrive.


Crafted, the Art of the Taco; 219-A S. Elm St., Greensboro; 336.273.0030