ETW: Zest, Downtown SLC

I did not intend to review this restaurant. It had good reviews on Yelp. How I wish I’d brought a better camera.

Can I just put this out there? Just because I’m an herbivore DOES NOT mean I need small portions. Contrarily, I need MORE food.

Zest Kitchen & Bar

Zest Kitchen and Bar Eat. Drink. And be healthy. (Emphasis on the drink part.)
275 South 200 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Set the scene: I got a babysitter, a miracle in and of itself. I’m paying her by the hour. Located in PF Changs back closet, it’s hard to spot. The only sign is less than a foot in diameter on the glass door. I guess you have to be “in the know” … hard to find joints are hip, right? Fortunately, we’d been to the location when it was a hipster burger joint after I was sworn-in 5 years ago.

Upon Arrival: The space is small and dark. Half is a standing bar with high tables and half is a dining room. We waited about five minutes as all four of the on-floor employees whiled away their time talking to each other. Finally someone greeted us, carded us (that’s weird but cool, I guess) asked us how we found the place, and then ignored our answer. We were abruptly seated with a smile straight off a sitcom. Five minutes later, our hipster waiter with a cartoon character on his shirt, beefy arms and almost no idea what the menu included, asked for our drink order (water) and he left. Five minutes later (or more) he returned with our water – apparently our non-drink buying was a deterrent. His other two tables were getting loaded (read – much better tips).

Upon Ordering: As usual, I asked  for recommendations, and while he couldn’t really tell me, his aloof demeanor was, again, right out of a sitcom. The table to our left (a tipsy older couple on a blind date) just had to tell him during our ordering (because they hadn’t seen him for 20 minutes) that the stir-fry was, “I kid you not, the best I’ve ever had!” So we ordered it. ($7)  He came back 10 minutes later dropped off the stir-fry in cereal sized bowl. After we finished it, he came back to get the rest of our order. Stuffed mushrooms with cashew cheeze ($8), the salad special (7?), and the stuffed avocado w/spicy seasoned walnuts, lettuce salad, salsa & cashew sour cream ($13).

The food took a while to come out. One. Plate. At. A Time. Let’s just say, the service was hilariously bad. It’s like they were trying to be bad because that’s hip.

mygoodcleanfood.comAnd now, the food.

I am not terribly picky, I’m really not, but consider the prices as I give you a rundown.

Stir-fry. $7, probably 1 cup of vegetables. No rice. Tasted like Rumbi teriyaki but with garbanzo beans in it. We kept looking for something to dip in the sauce. DEFINITELY not the best I’d had. In fact it wasn’t as good as the mountain of stir-fry I’d made the night before for the ruffians with the stuff in my fridge.

mygoodcleanfood.comStuffed Mushrooms. $8. Quantity 5. Seriously – five is the worst number for almost any table except one of, well, five. Said served warm, more tepid, and the flavor was uninspiring. And maybe it’s because I make cashew cheeze that I wasn’t blown away by the vegan-ness.

Salad. $7? It was small. The tomato vinaigrette was good. But it was half red onions and to say they were thinly sliced is like that guy at the gym telling you it’s all muscle. Big bites of spicy onion, standard mesclun mix, and three slices of a baby cucumber … three? Really?

And then, my favorite, the stuffed avocado. $13 Admire the above pictures. There may have been the equivalent of a whole small avocado on the plate. A large tablespoon of walnut stuffing with flavor that didn’t seem to land anywhere. Now, look closely at that awesome avocado. The bottom was cut off and still the big, fat bruise on it was visible. It was cold, always weird for avocado.

And still, after all four dishes, I was starving but unwilling to wait another hour or pay more money for mediocre food. We came home and had dinner.

There is a positive spin … it’s a gluten-free restaurant with raw dishes, and that’s cool, right?

Can I tell you the last part which is actually pretty funny? During the time our waiter took a year an a half drop-off, take and return our check and then return my phone which he’d left by the bar (I still feel uncomfortable with that), the slightly tipsy couple on the blind date  was ALSO waiting for Hipster Waiter guy, so they joined us. Literally, they pulled their chairs up to our table and divided my husband and I – just what I need on my once-every-few-months-date. The lovely woman thought the giant photograph of a cippolini onion looked like, well, it made me uncomfortable. I won’t even hint at her thoughts on the bell pepper.


13 thoughts on “ETW: Zest, Downtown SLC

  1. That bruise alone would wreck my dinner. One thing to eat it at home but for $13? Ouch. Bad presentation! Feeling for you….date nights are so rare!

    • yes, yes they are. But what is life without stories and memories, right? I’ll just keep telling myself that and eating my less bruised avocados at home.

  2. Noted. At least it’s an evening to remember? We hit Café Supernatural on our date last night and were happily surprised. While we did have a long wait for food (they were short a chef) they made up for it by giving us a free vanilla crème torte with berry sauce. The raw noodles with basil dressing was DIVINE, you must try it next time out.

  3. Your post was hysterical – although I feel bad for you and your date night gone so horribly wrong. I do disagree on your positive spin – “it’s a gluten-free restaurant with raw dishes”. It’s restaurants like Zest that give gluten free and vegan a bad name!

    • You’re right about the positive not being a positive, but I just didn’t want to put up a COMPLETELY Debbie-Downer post. It took me two weeks to post it because I was struggling with such a negative post, but I should probably give credit where credit is due.

  4. Utterly lame. Thanks for the heads up. I will not be eating there, for those prices, I’d rather go to the raw vegan Omar’s where at least the overpriced food is incredibly fantastic.

  5. Yeah…I don’t think I will travel halfway around the world to eat at THAT restaurant any day soon ;). Take note hipsters…if you want to succeed in this crazy messed up world where “YOU” might be as cool as Pluto, remember that the rest of us have opinions…AND we share them! “Danger Will Robinson…DANGER”! Take note…learn from your mistakes and when you are being foreclosed on, try to learn SOMETHING from this lesson! 😉

  6. By the way folks…here in downtown Tasmania those prices are BARGAIN BASEMENT! Expensive? I think not! Expensive is $40 a plate but $40 is pretty average around these parts…

    • I know, I know. And this isn’t an expensive restaurant really, just not cheap and NOT trying to be a cheap place either. We found NZ to be a bit spendier too, but the food culture is SO different that I understand. We have, and I wish I was kidding, 302 restaurants within 5 miles, 43 within 1 mile. So to drive somewhere as far as downtown, that’s only for special trips, you know? Wish I as in Tasmania sometimes!

      • :). Its just hard sometimes to read about how lucky you guys are! We have 1…count them “1” vegan friendly restaurant in Launceston (our nearest city) and that’s about to close so it’s back to asking the fish and chip shop what oil they are using to get my 1 option “chips”…

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