Things didn't get off to a stellar start at Crafted Block & Brew, a MetroWest eatery that opened in early August. Beer, one would guess from the name, would be a focus of the menu, at least the bar menu. But when my guest and I were seated we were surprised to see that no beers were listed on the menu we were given.
My companion stood and walked over to a server who was entering information into the POS system nearby and asked if there was a beer menu. The young man looked up briefly and said, "They're at the hostess stand," then went back to the task at hand.
That is never the right answer when a guest asks for something that is in the server's power to fulfill.
And, by the way, they weren't at the hostess stand, either, as my friend discovered after walking across the restaurant to fetch one. Eventually, one was found.
We considered our selections and waited for a server to greet us. After a time, the waiter who couldn't be bothered to help us get a beer list came by the table and announced that our server was apparently otherwise occupied, so he would be taking our table. O, happy day.
I had looked at the menu on Crafted's website and had been intrigued by an appetizer that featured a Scotch egg made with a crab cake coating rather than the traditional sausage. However, the online menu doesn't have prices (something I always find annoying), so I was surprised to see its $11.95 fee, or the same price as some of the entrees.. Never mind. I decided on the Totchos instead.
These had the possibility to be creative, another attempt to riff on a nachos theme. These replaced the mundane tortilla chips with tater tots, promising toppings of melted cheddar, green chili sauce and pork belly. It was a nice try, but the soft potatoes basically turned to mush. And at $8.95, these weren't a great bargain.
My friend ordered the PBLT burger, pork belly being the first two initials. Although it had been requested medium-rare, it was delivered well done. The fries, served in a small metal pail, were cooked just right and had a nicely crisped exterior and a good dose of salt.
I opted for the meatloaf, which was wrapped in bacon and looked for all the world exactly like the burger. I suppose it's a fine line. The bacon was thickly sliced and added good fatty flavor, but the loaf itself was fairly dry. Neither the macaroni and cheese nor the collard greens that accompanied the dish had any distinguishing flavors. None.
One saving grace on my visit, you may be surprised to learn, was our server. That's right, the same young man who greeted us with rude indifference stepped up and offered attentive service and knowledgeable advice. And to his credit, when my friend mentioned that the burger had been overcooked, the server offered to remove the charge from the bill. Still, it needs to be said that at no time during my visit did I see anyone I could identify as a manager.
The large, open space has a rough-hewn look that is not unpleasant and it entirely appropriate for the theme. It's more sports bar than casual dining; not a place for an intimate tete-a-tete. We've been to this space before. I recall a lovely dinner with winemaker Warren Winiarski of Stag's Leap in 1992 when it was Luciano's Ristorante and Liquors (it had a package liquor store attached). It eventually became another Italian restaurant called Riviera Italiano and then a second, and ultimately less enjoyable, location for Winter Garden's Taquitos Jalisco.
Crafted Block & Brew (I can't explain the Block part, although the food is served on wooden trays, so maybe that's it?) looks like it wants to stay a long time. With a little more attention to the food's quality and less time trying too hard to make it creative plus more even service, it could make it.
Crafted Block & Brew is at 2417 S. Hiawassee Road, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-601-6887. By the way, although the website's menu does not list prices, the restaurant's Facebook page has a menu that does.