Published: 12:00 AM, Fri Nov 09, 2012
Dining Out: Invisible chef turns tacos into tasty temptations at Off the Hook Gourmet Tacos
While executive chef Keith Kurzeja is perhaps best known as the owner of the Invisible Chef catering, the truth is that he's a mad scientist.
Nowhere is that more evident than at Kurzeja's new restaurant, Off the Hook, a gourmet taco emporium on Hope Mills Road that opened in October. The restaurant features Kurzeja's taco creations such as the Bangkok shrimp taco, the Korean kalbi taco and the chicken BLT taco.
"It's a fusion style of cuisine, just with tacos," said Kurzeja. "I'm always experimenting with mixing and matching different flavors. It's very adventurous. I want everyone to come down and try one of my crazy tacos."
Kurzeja said he found inspiration for Off the Hook while researching the popular gourmet taco truck trend on the West Coast, the Asheville culinary scene and the show "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives" on the Food Network.
"We're definitely a dive," Kurzeja joked. "But the food will speak for itself. We've already got a devoted following. Now we just need to grow that and let everyone know we're here."
The menu carries 10 tacos, with a special taco created every day. Diners can find out the special on the restaurant's Facebook page.
Prices range from $3.25 to $3.95 per taco. Tortilla chips are $3, with various toppings and salsas available.
Kurzeja hopes to attract daring diners not just with his menu but with the knowledge that he locally sources as many of his ingredients as possible. He soon will sell locally made microbrews, and he carries diet Cheerwine as a fountain drink.
"We're all about North Carolina here," said Kurzeja. "Just look at our BBQ carnita taco."
The taco in question features pulled pork with east-west sauce, beans and coleslaw, and is fast becoming a favorite - right behind the Bangkok shrimp taco, the restaurant's signature taco.
The Bangkok shrimp taco is served with sesame glaze, house-made kimchi pickles and a Maui mustard sauce.
The Korean kalbi taco features marinated and grilled Asian-style beef short ribs, with baby romaine, onion, tomato, cilantro and sesame Gochugara sauce. There's even a tofu one with avocado and a cilantro lime cream sauce.
Kurzeja said he can work on a particular taco for several weeks before he's satisfied with it.
Other popular selections include the steak and cheese (marinated and grilled flank steak, port wine demi glace, mushrooms, onions, peppers and smoked gouda pimento cheese), and the buffalo chicken (fried chicken breast, wing sauce, blue cheese and celery slaw).
"I think Fayetteville is ready for a place like this," Kurzeja said.
Staff writer Brian Dukes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3523.
Off the Hook Gourmet Tacos
Where: 2425 Hope Mills Road
Contact: 864-2522, theinvisiblechef. us/offthehook.php or Facebook
Hours: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. -3 p.m.
Specialties: Specialty tacos