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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Zoës Kitchen

A cross of chicken kabobs

A cross of chicken kabobs over orzo salad

When this chain of health-minded fast-casual restaurants started hitting the Atlanta area, I got an email from its publicist warning me to pay close attention to the spelling of its name – Zoës Kitchen — dieresis over the “e,” no apostrophe. No explanation was given, which left me wondering if there was one Zoë or two behind this restaurant chain, or just an O.C.D. typographer designing the logo.

In fact there is just one Zoë Cassimus, who opened a small cafe in a Birmingham suburb about 20 years ago. By all accounts she had a knack for presenting the cooking of her Greek heritage within the framework of a comfortable Southern café — a place where chicken salad and pimento cheese coexist comfortably with Greek salads, kabobs and hummus.

Cassimus’ son, John, would help to open more company-owned and franchised locations. It has been a successful venture, and the company is now majority owned by a Los Angeles private equity firm. There are now outlets in 15 states, with six around Atlanta. I visited the Emory Village branch.

Should the current owners push the origin story of the nice Greek-American lady in Homewood, Ala., with an aversion to possessive adjectives? Probably not. It’s a pretty anonymous entity this restaurant chain has grown into. You’re not looking for a relationship here, just a non gut-busting lunch.

I like the easygoing way the menu provides healthier options without hectoring. The “Grüben” subs out grilled turkey for corned beef and replaces the Russian dressing with spicy mustard. Sounds good — better probably than those oddly presented chicken kabobs. Decent flavor, but cold in the center as if they had been precooked and not quite heated to order. I picked at the orzo and Greek salads on the plate, which reminded me of food from a decent hotel buffet.

IMG_7466

My kid enjoyed this steak roll-up with Swiss cheese mushrooms and caramelized onions, served here with a side of hummus. It was like a tricked-out 3-D quesadilla, with enough cheese strands to encourage another bite.

IMG_7464There’s also hibiscus tea for a fun drink option.

After one visit, I’m thinking Zoës Kitchen doesn’t quite hit the Greek/Mediterranean button as well as I’d like, but it could be useful when lunch needs to happen in a reasonably tasty manner without too many calories or fat grams.

Think of it this way: It would be a great alternative to that cheeseburger served at the restaurant next door that you really want.  You don’t need the cheeseburger, and you really don’t need the fries. Get thee to Zoës, but bring your own apostrophe.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

21 comments Add your comment

[...] 30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Zoës Kitchen [...]

BrownEyedGirl!

August 14th, 2013
3:02 pm

We have had Zoes here in Louisville for the last three or four years, including one in the building where I work. The problem with this food is there are a couple of authentic Mediterranean restaurants within walking distance. The best thing on the menu is the chicken salad, however, it is loaded with fat. The restaurant is not as healthy as you would expect a Mediterranean restaurant to be. I think you can do better anywhere else!

Pimento Chicken

August 14th, 2013
3:03 pm

Try the Pimento BLT with chicken or the spinach wrap with chicken. Delicious. Get creative with the menu and spice it up here. Also, take home a pint of chicken salad – it is cheaper than most chicken salad you’ll find in the deli at the grocery store.

nona

August 14th, 2013
3:05 pm

iI the franchised locations would comply with health department code and raise their health scores above mid-90’s instead of floundering in laziness and lack of concern for the consumer by wallowing in the 80’s and less, the concept would no doubt be a great alternative to other fast food options. Bye the way, this suggestion applies to all food servers.

Ziza

August 14th, 2013
3:11 pm

I ate at the one near Perimeter Mall and was very under impressed. Probably would not go back.

crackbaby

August 14th, 2013
3:15 pm

Tough crowd in here. Thanks for the writeup, JK.

I’ll pass Zoes. Mediocre Mediterranean doesn’t ring my chimes

Never that Impressed

August 14th, 2013
3:17 pm

The greek chicken pita is decent enough, but Zoes always seems to leave me unsatisfied

T-Bone

August 14th, 2013
3:17 pm

John, next time you’re there you should try the chicken roll-ups. The chicken salad sandwich is really, really good.

BrownEyedGirl!

August 14th, 2013
3:22 pm

By the way, John:

Chicken Salad and Fruit Plate @ Zoes – 44g fat, 710 calories
Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendys – 36g fat, 680 calories

ABC

August 14th, 2013
3:26 pm

I was VERY unimpressed with Zoe’s Kitchen. Seems pretty expensive for very blah food.

Brie

August 14th, 2013
3:37 pm

I like Zoe’s Pimento Cheese Sandich.

Brie

August 14th, 2013
3:38 pm

Hummingbird

August 14th, 2013
3:47 pm

hey – this is just a fast casual restaurant with a simple menu – they do not try to be any more than that. It is a decent place to go for lunch or dinner. They do not claim to be an “authentic” greek restaurant.

I eat at their P’tree Battle location & I like the steak kabobs best!!

weird email from their publicist, tho – I had not noticed that they omitted the apostrophe on their logo.

Neal

August 14th, 2013
3:54 pm

I think that the Club Pita with chicken and ham is right good sandwich.

Art

August 14th, 2013
4:11 pm

I haven’t been and don’t think I want to göe.

C Pittman

August 14th, 2013
4:19 pm

I so enjoy this place! The food is consistently good and I have enjoyed each menu item that I have tried. The steak kabobs and chicken salad are my favorite items. I have always found the restaurants to be clean, the staff very courteous, and the food served just the way that I ordered it. It is much more enjoyable for lunch or an easy dinner than grabbing a burger at a drive thru.

Dan

August 14th, 2013
4:35 pm

I call the one in North Buckhead “The Suburban Housewife Convention”. Go there during lunch on any day and it is PACKED with Buckhead Bettys and strollers.

War Eagle Girl

August 14th, 2013
11:13 pm

I LOVE Zoe’s and my favorite location is in Auburn Alabama. To say I have a favorite menu item would be difficult. I love the Gruben, Grilled pimento cheese sandwich, Orzo Tabouli salad, chicken rollups, steak kabobs, roasted veggies and grilled potatoes. Honestly I haven’t had a bad meal there yet. The staff is friendly and helpful and make me feel like I’m having dinner at a friend’s house. The restaurant is clean (which is something I always look for) and comfortable. At any given time I’ve noticed the dining area is packed with college kids, Auburn University employees and families. Another option to enjoy Zoe’s is through their Catering service. Recently they added several new catering packages. I’ve tried the ‘Guilt Free Girls Night’ and ‘Game Day Goodies’. You can tell a lot of time and thought went into creating these. Kiddos to the master minds behind that. From what I’ve experienced they go the extra mile to make sure your event goes off without a hitch.
I would recommend Zoe’s Kitchen to everyone.

Cancer Breath

August 16th, 2013
3:00 pm

I’ve never really thought of it as a Mediterranean place, so I guess I was saved the disappointment of it not being all that Mediterranean.
I think of it as a good place to get a salad, although it is not super healthy or low-cal.
The salad I get has pasta and chicken on it.
I guess it is relatively healthy, like John said, when you compare it to a double cheeseburger.
But it’s probably two to three times more expensive than fast food (when you count calories/dollar).
It is one of the few places my wife allows me to go with her.
She thinks she’s so cute.
I don’t why she has to be so mean.
I know I have a gross name and I make dumb comments, but I’m still a person with real feelings.

Baltisraul......

August 17th, 2013
4:27 pm

Cancer Breath…….easy remedy. Change your name and don’t make dumb comments. End of problem. Don’t we all have real feelings? I thought we did.

AzCat

August 19th, 2013
12:29 pm

I only have fake feelings, at least in public. I buy them by the gross from Amazon.