Kraving a sweet treat? Take a kruise to south Manatee County to Krave n Joy, which is whipping up ice cold kreations with an unusual ingredient: liquid nitrogen.
The restaurant opened a few months back, putting together platters of tacos and burritos, plus instant ice cream that's frozen right before your eyes, all in a strip mall spot near the intersection of U.S. 41 and 53rd Avenue. The taco selection includes a pick of traditionally prepared meats—carnitas, barbacoa, pastor, etc.—with a broad selection of fresh toppings. The corn tortillas come from a bag. Go instead for the shop's flour tortillas, prepared fresh and rolled into Necco-thin rounds and thrown on a small burner to puff and toast.
A trio of tacos costs $7.99 and makes for an excellent lunch. (Individual tacos cost $2.99.) Plentiful helpings of cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, jalapeños, hot sauce, sour cream and corn, plus a squirt of lime juice, obscure the flavors of the meats beneath, the overall packages are splendiferous. The fresh tortillas are a particular highlight.
But as much as I enjoy the tacos, they're really an excuse to advance to round two: ice cream, which comes flavored with stuff like cookie dough, fruit and salted caramel. The twist here comes from the liquid nitrogen, which is stored in a chest-high tank. To prepare a small cup ($4.99), the young woman behind the counter pours a measuring cup full of a gelato base mix into one of three KitchenAid mixers and adds in mango and orange juices and a jolt of mint syrup. She then flips on the mixer and reaches back to slowly open the valve on the liquid nitrogen tank. She grips the wand that dispenses the nitrogen as cold vapor seeps out and envelops the whole counter.
It's quite a show—part science experiment, part mouth-watering anticipation. Luckily, it's not all show. The ice cream tastes quite fresh thanks to the quick process, with tingling fruit and herb flavors. The texture is also new, almost gooey, with a taffy-like stretch I've never experienced. Krazy good.
Krave n Joy is located at 1135 53rd Ave. W., Bradenton, and is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sunday. For more info, call (941) 242-0249.