Craft 14 Kitchen + Bar is the sort of place you want to wander into on a winter’s day with its warm, welcoming reclaimed wood interior accompanied by the nostalgic aroma of decades-old wood burning ovens and fireplaces. The restaurant, which opened at the end of last summer, greets a steady stream of diners throughout the day and well into the night, as I was witness to when I went to meet owners Cristina Ramirez and Mario Lopez.
Located in the heart of Wilton and easily accessible from all surrounding towns, Craft 14 offers a fare of traditional American comfort food with a twist. Designed by Cristina, the interior evokes a traditional country ease with a bit of modern urbanity. The generously sized bar, also fitted with reclaimed lumber, lines the far wall of the restaurant. Even though it is just late afternoon, the bar has already started to embrace those eager to end their day early.
Cristina and Mario are no strangers to the restaurant scene or to Wilton. The duo has long been a part of the town’s dining landscape since opening Bianco Rosso. A few weeks ago they opened the highly acclaimed Mason-Dixon Smokehouse. To say that Craft 14 is a just new American restaurant seems not to do it the justice it deserves.
Diners will find a healthy assortment of dishes that are both traditional and contemporary, offering up variations both familiar and surprising. Nothing is as warming perhaps as a hearty dish of their Classic Mac and Cheese comprised of Cheddar, American and Swiss, decadently creamy beneath the well browned crusty top. Mac and cheese lovers won’t be disappointed.
Their Wood Fire Craft 14 Burger will satisfy even the fussiest burger connoisseur. With its special blend of beef, charred tomato, warm cheese sauce and fried egg sandwiched in between two Brioche buns, one bite will send your taste buds soaring. Let us not forget the fries. I don’t know what was on them or how they were seasoned but I can say that they were so memorable that 2 weeks after the fact I remember how good they were. Offering up a Southern twist this North’ner had her first exposure to Chicken and Waffles (seen above), and the experience was nothing less than delicious. Crispy waffles of cheddar and scallion accompany pieces of fried chicken done right, a crunchy exterior envelopes a succulent, juicy white meat interior. Colonel Sanders ain’t got nothing on these guys. It was accompanied by a pretty purple slaw and a dish of warmed syrup for dipping or pouring.
From traditional to the twist I went, as I sampled their version of Steamed Buns; Bao Buns filled with braised short ribs, pico de gallo, jalapeno and a Black Barrel tequila glaze draws inspiration from the south as well as the east. The meat was melt in my mouth tender with a touch of heat from the jalapeno and immensely flavorful. The Wood Grilled Fish Tacos might be the best I have had yet. Made with branzino, a Haguk Marinade, pico de gallo, avocado and mango, the tacos were tender and flavorful with flaky fish cooked to perfection.
Don’t let the name Seared Tuna Roll fool you and don’t expect the ordinary. Instead be prepared to be delighted with their creative twist combining cilantro, lime, avocado crema and a soy fusion neatly bundled up in a light phyllo wrapper. My taste buds were doing the merengue.
There comes a time, however, when we want to eat out and watch our girlish figures and not sacrifice taste. For this Craft 14 offers up their Lobster Salad. Generous pieces of lobster sit atop a mound of peppery arugula, crispy bits of bacon, and halved cherry tomatoes lightly dressed in a vinaigrette. This very generously sized plate of greens won’t leave you feeling hungry afterwards.
After sampling the many wonderful items from the menu I had no room for dessert though several caught my eye and I shall have to return. I can’t pick one favorite –I found everything to be delicious. As one who tends to order primarily chicken or fish, I will without hesitation return for the fish tacos, tuna rolls and if someone would share an order with me, the chicken and waffles… But then again, there are so many other items on the menu that intrigued me… It has been a while since I have been to a restaurant and truly enjoyed everything presented to me. Offering something for everyone, even teens and children, I hope you’ll put Craft 14 Kitchen + Bar on your list of restaurants to visit in the New Year.
Craft 14 Kitchen and Bar is located at 5 River Road in Wilton in the Stop & Shop plaza.
Neither CTbites nor the authors were compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the authors. Subsequent to the event, and after the review was written, the author was hired by the owners of Craft 14 for other public relations' assignments.