The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #15

In Episode #15, proudly recorded from Test Pattern Studios:355176adfb656a1875004264da72041222393b47

  • Food holidays and history
  • Search for new restaurant in old Community Arts Cafe, a good idea?
  • A review of Tim’s birthday dinner at HakkaChow.

Don’t forget my sponsor, Washington Perk & Provision Company. Better than a convenience store but not quite a grocery store, in the heart of Washington Park and Downtown WSNC.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Slàinte mhath!

It’s a Taco Joint, NOT a Mexican Restaurant

It has finally happened. I have alluded to it for the last few weeks, even mentioning it, albeit ambiguously, on this week’s podcast. Chef Kris Fuller and her fantastic taco voyage – Crafted: The Art of the Taco Winston – have arrived. Chef Kris had a sort of soft opening on Saturday, with no warning to anyone other than some foodie people, and a sandwich board standing outside of the restaurant’s doors.2016-11-02-16-29-56

Today, November 2, 2016, they opened their doors, for real. Now, the first thing you need to know is that this is not a Mexican restaurant. This is a taco joint. With food offerings for everyone: the vegans, the vegetarians, the omnivores and the carnivores, Crafted: The Art of the Taco has a menu full of delicious sounding food. Stuffed avocados, “dirty south nachos” made from sweet potato chips and pulled pork, “Mason of Bacon” or a mason jar filled with applewood smoked bacon served with salted caramel and chocolate sauce for dipping (shudders!) and taquitos are some of the main appetizer items.

Salad people may freak out a little when they see only one salad on the menu, but fear not! it’s not really, the only salad on the menu. The base is mixed greens kimchi, citrus vinaigrette, orange segments, guacamole, crumbled queso and topped with fried tortillas. But, you start with that and then add your protein of choice. Choices include grilled or battered fish, chorizo, pulled pork, braised chicken or beef, seared tuna, spiced potato, fried tofu, chofu (chorizo flavored tofu, still vegan) and seitan (vegetarian wheat meat substitute) among other things.

Salads and tacos not your thing? Burgers, man, burgers. There are seven different burgers on this menu and each can be manipulated in so many ways that it’s really hard to put a count on how many variations there really are. The first one up, “The One & Only” which is a beef burger topped with white cheddar pimento cheese, bacon and caramelized onions. “The Fuego” is topped with guacamole, grilled jalapeno, house-made “hot-hot” sauce and crumbled queso. “Smoked Goat” is topped with smoked goat cheese and an apple, bacon, onion and pepper jelly. “Poppin’ Jalapeno” is topped with jalapeno bacon, jalapeno ranch, pepper-jack cheese and a jalapeno and cream cheese fritter. Then there’s the “Greasy Spoon” (I love that name) with two diner-style patties layered with American cheese and topped with diced grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, house made pickles, ketchup and mustard. The “Chori” is beef topped with queso sauce, chorizo, pico de gallo, fried egg and guacamole… holy smokes!!

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“Baja” taco with seared, rare tuna

You can add additional cheeses, bacon, eggs, jalapeno and so on, to make your burger your own. There’s also the vegan burger made of black bean, falafel and corn patties with vegan queso, pico de gallo, guac and a cilantro-lime aioli.

But, as awesome as all that sounds, we’re here to talk about the main event, tacos!

There are 11 tacos on the menu and one predetermined three taco “combo.” You get 2 tacos and 1 side for the prices on the menu. You can also mix and match your tacos and just pay the higher of the two prices. Let’s examine these tacos: “Big Truck” with pulled pork, mac-n-cheese, tobacco onions, scallions and bacon BBQ sauce. “Bowtie” with beer battered fish, roasted corn and poblano salsa, sweet chipotle aioli and honey mustard. “Fedora” with blackened, rare, tuna, kimchi, garlic and pineapple aioli topped with scallions. “Fixie” with beef brisket, grilled pineapple, spicy sweet chili sauce and coconut aioli. “Hoodie” with falafel, spicy pickled cucumbers, shredded carrots, mixed greens and house sauce. “Messenger” with chorizo, scrambled egg, potatoes, ranchero, guacamole and crumbled queso. “Oxford” braised chicken, napa cabbage slaw, hoisin sauce, spicy Asian mustard and scallions. “Po’ Boy” with cajun fried shrimp, lettuce, pico de gallo, cajun remoulade and spicy pickles. “Wayfarer” is pulled portk, korean red sauce, sesame marinated cucumber and red onion relish topped with cilantro and scallions. “Baja Style” is cilantro, guacamole, baja sauce and pico de gallo and you pick your own protein. “‘Mericanized” is lettuce, tomato, sour cream and shredded cheese, again, you pick your own protein. The “Box Truck” is one “Big Truck,” one “Oxford” and one “Bowtie.” How’s that for whetting the appetite? Plus, you can make any of the tacos a rice bowl (for an additional charge) or into a burger. Also, you have a choice of flour or corn tortillas.

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“Baja” with pulled pork, a side of chip & queso

The menu states this but I’ll repeat it, all of the sauces are made in-house and most of them are vegan. Most of the items can be made vegetarian, vegan or gluten free (ask your server for more info). They do not use nut products in their kitchen, so those with nut allergies are safe. They take into account any food allergies that you may have.

For the kids, they have a mac & cheese quesadilla and they have churros (fried pastry tossed in cinnamon sugar, then drizzled with caramel and spiced chocolate) for dessert. I’ve basically just rewritten the entire menu for you. I don’t feel bad about that because it’s a well-organized menu and without knowing what’s on it, you may not visit or go in. Now, you’re well informed.

I went in today and ate along with local food writers Michael Hastings (Winston-Salem Journal) and Kristi Maier (Triad Foodies, Yes! Weekly) and sampled some of Chef Kris’ fantastic food. We all three sat and shared food. There was a lot of “here, Tim, try this stuffed avocado or, Kristi, try this queso, or Michael you have to taste this mac-n-cheese.” It was fun being in our own little corner having the food. Chef Kris was there with us explaining items and helping us concoct the best combo for us. I tried one of the “Baja” tacos with seared tuna from Michael. I ordered my own “Baja” with pulled pork and a “Fixie” because it had beef. My side was the queso and chips. On the table was the “Bowtie” but I didn’t get to try that one, but I got a picture of it.

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“Bowtie” with duck fat braised collards

The stuffed avocado was decadent. Spicy but not hot, creamy and tender but firm and topped with pico. Great balance and oh so good.

The “Fixie” was tangy and spicy. It was also messy. So be warned when you eat at Crafted: Art of the Taco, it will be messy. The beef was perfectly seasoned and oh, so tender. Mixed with the sweet chili sauce there was the heat without being hot. The pineapple and coconut aioli gave it a definite Hawaiian feel. I liked it a lot, but it was the last of the tacos I had and I was getting full (and fast).

The “Baja” with the pork was delicious. The tangy baja sauce had that tangy cilantro mayo type sauce that you’d expect, especially if you’ve had anything from Taco Bell with that sauce. This, however, lays the smack down on that stuff; leaves it tattered and torn. The pork was tender and seasoned. It was all a little spicy, but again, not hot. There was some of Chef Kris’ housemade “hot-hot” sauce and verde sauce by my plate and I made sure to incorporate them into the food (or just have it with chips). As great as the pork was, the “Baja” taco I had from Michael, with the seared, rare tuna, was divine. That was my favorite of all of them. I’m a sucker for rare tuna, anyway.

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“Fixie”

I enjoyed my chips and queso, but when I go back I’m certainly opting for either the duck fat braised collard greens or the pimento mac and cheese. Both of those were top notch. I am one to usually put vinegar on my collard greens, mainly because I love the taste of vinegar. But with these, there was no need or want of that. The duck fat brought out the earthy flavor of the collards. I’ve had some fantastic collards from other places and this is certainly rivaling those places. I’d say top three, for sure. The mac-n-cheese was oh so creamy and oh so rich. Melting in my mouth, I think I audibly moaned upon trying them for the first time.

To say that it was “good” would be ridiculous. That’s lying, outright and maliciously. This was fantastic! There’s a reason the town got excited about Crafted when it was announced they were coming. The reason is because it truly is some of the best tacos I’ve ever had. The tacos are actually “crafted” and tedious care is taken to make sure they’re right. Again, make sure you keep a good bit of napkins handy, you’re going to need them. I can’t wait to get back there and to take Stephanie with me. She’s going to really enjoy this.

Because you know I love my alcohol, they have taps and bottled beer and wine. To tell the truth I was too busy eating phenomenal food to even look what their libations were. I’ll report back on that, later. Perhaps on a podcast?

You can try your own Crafted goodness by visiting the newest location, 527 Liberty Street. You can find out more about her menu and her two Greensboro restaurants, Crafted: Art of the Taco (East) and Crafted: Art of Street Food, by visiting their website HERE.

Finnigan’s Wake Irish Pub & Kitchen: 10 Years Strong

I want to congratulate Philip “Opie” Kirby and all his staff at Finnigan’s Wake Irish Pub & Kitchen. Today, Wednesday, October 5, 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of their opening.

I would venture to say that I’d have no traction as a podcaster, food blogger or have any kind of downtown presence if it weren’t for Fin’s. It was a bar that I frequented a lot before I started hanging out in other bars and locations. It was and still is “my stomping grounds.” I did the “90-Day Club” and my name is on the wall in red. You have to look hard to see it, but I promise you, it’s there. In fact, I was the second one to ever do the 90DC and for about three finnigans_wake_logo_2years, I held the record for most consecutive days in a row at 1099 (3 years and two days).

I’m still known as “Trivia Tim” there, even though I’ve not asked a trivia question in almost a year. I’d not be doing my podcasts without Fins. Why you ask? The podcast network wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for The Less Desirables and The Less Desirables was hatched sitting at the table right next to the hallway by the kitchen in 2009. All the planning for it happened there and many subsequent TLD business meetings happened in Fins.

I met one of my future (and current) business partners there, Jon Lowder, so in essence, Fins is also somewhat the birthplace of The Beer Dads. We have our annual “TLD Network post holiday party” at Fins, I believe we’ve decided on the beginning of February to be the normal timeframe.

But, of course, the most important event that ever happened to me because of Fins is, that’s where I met my wife and life partner, Stephanie. She was there with friends playing trivia and I wouldn’t leave her alone, really. When we got married, we got married on a Tuesday because trivia is on Tuesdays, hence, we met on a Tuesday. That was almost 7 years ago.

Finnigan’s, in my opinion is THE reason that the downtown revitalization has been successful. There were a few other bars/restaurants downtown, but until Finnigan’s opened in 2006, downtown was still a place you barely dared to venture after 5pm. Trade Street had a horrible, but well deserved, reputation of prostitution, crime and other dastardly deeds, but the arrival of “The Wake” brought crowds, customers and friends to the area and now, it’s one of the most important areas downtown, in the whole city, I’d say.

Finnigan’s Wake will be having an anniversary party this Friday, October 7.  There will be a special menu of 10 items for $10 dollars, which will included Irish favorites like; Guinness Battered Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, and more. What’s an Irish party without a  pint Guinness? Well, it’s not a party, then. So, there will be $2 pints and $5 Irish Carbombs all evening. There will be entertainment and a lot of past employees, customer favorites, indeed, that are going to show to join in the celebration. They want you to be there to help them celebrate, as well.

So, again, congrats to you, Opie and all your staff, past and present, for the anniversary and thank you for being so important to me and my life.

The Man Who Ate the Town Podcast Episode #8

Last week was Labor Day and that meant some vacation time, I figured you’d forgive me missing an episode, right? Thanks!

In Episode #8:

Don’t forget my sponsor, Washington Perk & Provision Company. Better than a convenience store but not quite a grocery store, in the heart of Washington Park and Downtown WSNC.

The Man Who Ate the Town is part of The Less Desirables Network. Give it a listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Podcast Addict and TuneIn, basically anywhere you can listen to podcasts. Or you can listen here (at the bottom of the post).

Bon appetit!

The New Local 27101 Opens for LunchF

I had the opportunity to eat lunch with one of my very good friends today and when discussing where we were going to meet, I suggested that we go to the new Greg Carlyle vehicle, Local 27101, the former Millennium Artisan Restaurant.

The idea behind Local 27101 is that the food is locally sourced (no, not from the 27101 zip code, necessarily) so that it’s fresh. It’s supposed to be fast and reasonably priced. Greg said, “the people downtown are looking for a fast, $5 burger,” and this exactly that. The menu has many things from the aforementioned burgers (make it a double for just $2 more), po boys, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, salads (Cobb, Caesar, add a protien, etc) and so on. Sides include crinkle cut fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings. You can add on to your burger with avocado, an over-easy egg, bacon, or caramelized onions.

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The Local Burger w/ Onion Rings

The Local Burger is a quarter pounder with lettuce, tomato, “local sauce,” which isn’t quite 1000 Island but is beyond mayonnaise, and muenster cheese. Another nice touch is the top bun is branded with the logo from Local 27101. I had one with an extra patty, hold the lettuce. The homegrown tomato along with the local sauce made the bread a little soggy as the tomato was really ripe, but it didn’t detract from the burger. You want the burger to be juicy without being wet, save the tomato, it wasn’t wet, it was cooked just right. I think the only thing it was missing was a few dill chips on it.I also had the onion rings with it, which if you know me, you know I don’t like onions, but oddly enough, I can eat onion rings, when they’re good. There’s a good batter on the rings and weren’t overly greasy which is all too common with onion rings from many places. My pal had his a single without the tomato but with lettuce along with crinkle fries. The fries looked to be topped with herbs that are grown in the windows around the restaurant (so there are some things that are local to 27101). The flavors, to me, were exactly what I was looking for good meat, great cheese the sauce was tangy. Again, I could have done without some of the moist bun from the tomatoes but that’s okay, the flavor was worth it.

The restaurant itself is a lot of brown and natural wood with each window adorned with herbs to be used in the restaurant. The slat work accentuates the bar area. A very large menu is stuck to the wall and the chalkboard was being decorated as we walked in. They have beer, wine and are formulating a drink menu. How the whole thing works is: you walk in, stop by the counter where the bar is, order your food, get a buzzer, scope your seat and wait for the buzzer. When it buzzes you go to the counter and pick up your silver tray. The bump in the road for me is when you want a refill you have to either jump in front of people at the order counter to get the order taker to refill it or alert someone else to do it, or you have to wait until someone notices you’re there and waiting. We did wait for a bit, but not too long. Another thing is that they serve the burger with the bun already on the burger. I know it’s an aesthetic thing but the presentation would be better if the top bun was off to the side. We often eat with our eyes and it would make the burger even more attractive; but that’s no deal killer  They have a few kinks in the system to work out but I think that Greg finally has something on his hands that will be a boon for him, for the downtown lunch crowd and the downtown foodies and their searches for a good and affordable burger.

For now, they’re open only for lunch but sometime in September, probably after Labor Day, they will also be open during the evening, keeping the current (and presumably constantly modified) lunch menu as well as some dinner options. Greg also said to expect a “true blue plate special.”  You can get your own $5 fast burger at Local 27101 which is located at 310 W 4th Street in downtown Winston-Salem. Their website and Facebook pages show the menu to get your ready to experience the good food. It’s good, it’s fast, it’s easy, it’s Local 27101.