Restaurant review: Crafty meets creative at Craft Street

Oldsmar's Craft Street Kitchen has casual, fresh comfort food with enticing craft beer and cocktails.

click to enlarge Craft Street Kitchen bartender Alex Vollmer pours a Smoked Old Fashioned. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
Craft Street Kitchen bartender Alex Vollmer pours a Smoked Old Fashioned.

Craft Street Kitchen pulses with kinetic energy. Everywhere you look, patrons are clearly having a ball as they drink a favorite libation and sample the “seriously fun food.” The tone is set by big-screen TVs and the dangling clear Edison lights that are so in vogue. Huge chalkboards feature famous quotes from notables such as W.C. Fields: “Fell in love with a beautiful blonde once. Drove me to drink. And I never had the decency to thank her.” You get the idea.

There are plenty of taps with rotating drafts and an intriguing list of well-priced, “soon-to-be-classic” craft cocktails. For instance, the Smoked Old Fashioned: The bartender torches a blackened log slice and inverts a rocks glass to capture the smoke before pouring bourbon. Add some Demerara sugar and walnut bitters, and you’ve got a sweet, smoky wonder with a bite.

Owner Jon Rehm’s flagship of the same name opened up in Trinity in 2013. In the three months since flinging the doors wide in Oldsmar, this comfort food-style gastropub has developed a following through fresh, local, sustainable ingredients and “street rules,” including “We know you’re hungry so we keep the kitchen open late. We serve food until everyone goes home. Celebrate all you want, but we don’t sing happy birthday. Remember you don’t have to go home, but you can’t sleep here.”

click to enlarge Short rib sweet potato tots, with Buffalo cauliflower in the background. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
Short rib sweet potato tots, with Buffalo cauliflower in the background.

The appetizers have winning flavors. They’ve turned tangy Buffalo wings on their head by substituting chunks of cauliflower. The scratch-made hot sauce packs a punch, while the house blue dressing is decidedly mild. The huge plate also features the usual celery sticks, so you can tell your mother you had two vegetables.

Thai chili-braised shredded short ribs with green onion, red peppers and garlic aioli top sweet potato tots in a small cast-iron skillet. Though the meat is tender and slightly sweet, the tots are soft instead of crisp. Still, it’s a tasty and satisfying combo.

Three sliders of smoky cedar plank salmon, finished with crisp yuka-papaya slaw on toasted brioche buns, are a great way to be sure you get your daily allotment of omega-3. There’s lots of emphasis on snacks to share, with everything from meatloaf sliders to fried green tomatoes to shrimp in ginger beer butter sauce.

Then, there’s an appealing selection of flatbreads, from pork with plantains to chicken pesto, but when given the option, I try to strip away ingredients so there’s nowhere to hide. Craft Street’s T.B.M. flatbread (roasted tomato, fresh basil , EVOO and fresh mozzarella) succeeds with flying colors. Each element is fresh and well distributed. The chiffonade of basil gives dimension to each bite, and the ultra-thin crust delivers grill marks and smoky flavor in every piece.

click to enlarge The restaurant's Bird is the Word spotlights citrus-rosemary half chicken. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
The restaurant's Bird is the Word spotlights citrus-rosemary half chicken.

A range of “handhelds” — grilled cheese, corned beef with cabbage and, our choice, the Brie burger, among them — are offered. The burger highlights the restaurant’s humanely raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free prime beef with pistachio-crusted Brie, sweet fig jam, prosciutto and arugula on a toasted sesame brioche bun. It’s a nice effort; next time, I’m opting for the burger with pork belly.

Lobster mac and cheese uses corkscrew pasta, called either cavatappi or cellentani, depending who you ask. It’s not cooked to death. However, despite being topped with plenty of lobster chunks, the cheese sauce with orange zest, Parmesan and shallots is thin and, while tasty, lacks the viscosity to coat the noodles. The dish loses the textural seduction that makes this comfort food sing.

“The bird is the word” has a long history in popular culture from early ’60s rock ‘n’ roll to Family Guy in recent years. The restaurant uses it to dub its scrumptious entree of tender, slow-roasted citrus-rosemary half chicken that has so much flavor it almost dances off the plate. The truffled green beans are a crisp al dente, and roasted garlic smashed potatoes are on point. The three elements are worthy companions.

We’re stuffed, but duty calls for dessert.

click to enlarge Raspberry chocolate cheesecake made with a Founders Brewing porter. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
Raspberry chocolate cheesecake made with a Founders Brewing porter.

Imagine a cheesecake that pairs Founders Brewing Co.’s porter and dark chocolate with raspberries and ganache. On paper, this combo should work. The dark porter alone has hints of chocolate, but in this recipe, what stands out on the palate are the grace notes of raspberry. And although this is welcome, the chocolate doesn’t really make its presence felt despite a dark crumb crust base. The filling is dense without being particularly creamy, and the overall effect is underwhelming. This one needs to be rethought to pump up the chocolate.

According to the menu, bourbon banana bread pudding includes chocolate chips and caramelized bananas. What shows up on the dish has no chocolate chips, sliced brioche without enough custard to bind it together, and a 2-inch banana piece (that’s cut, yet intact, and not discernibly caramelized) plopped on top. While the sweet bourbon sauce is delicious, the flavors are not integrated. The conception is sound, but the execution fails to deliver. Soak the bread, brûlée the slices individually and don’t forget the chips.

Still, Craft Street is among those places riding the wave of casual, fresh, local plates to share, paired with the best of the craft beer and cocktail scene. Have serious fun, stay late, but remember “you can’t sleep here.”

Jon Palmer Claridge dines anonymously when reviewing. Check out the explanation of his rating system.

About The Author

Jon Palmer Claridge

Jon Palmer Claridge—Tampa Bay's longest running, and perhaps last anonymous, food critic—has spent his life following two enduring passions, theatre and fine dining. He trained as a theatre professional (BFA/Acting; MFA/Directing) while Mastering the Art of French Cooking from Julia Child as an avocation. He acted...
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