Friday, July 27, 2012

Zoes Kitchen; Knoxville's fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant

At Zoës Kitchen in Knoxville, the food was a freshness explosion from the very first bite. Some restaurants claim that they use the freshest ingredients but few restaurants deliver like Zoës Kitchen in Knoxville. The fast-casual restaurant is a welcome presence in Bearden Station in Knoxville, TN.

Zoes Kitchen Bearden Station
Forget deep fried products that are laden with grease. Zoës Kitchen is a new type of healthy, Mediterranean dining experience that appeals to the taste and senses. Take out tubs, reusable sports cups and coolers should make tailgating a breeze. In addition to dining in my husband and I were able to try the chicken salad, potato salad and a pasta salad mentioned below.
The dining room in Zoës Kitchen is decorated in lively hues of lime green, deep red and a cheerful gold. A large patio offers outdoor dining, free Wi-Fi and catering are available. Zoes Kitchen in Knoxville is a family friendly casual place that might also work for a quick business meal.

Large patio at Zoes Kitchen
Hubby and I were guests on the first night at Zoës Kitchen. Restaurant opening nights can be tumultuous, but this was as smooth as a calm day on Douglas Lake.

The friendly staff members could have worked there for years. I was told that Zoës Kitchen has room for employees to advance and the company recruits top talent. Each employee that we spoke with was upbeat, knowledgeable about the menu and ready to answer questions. This is particularly comforting to those of us who have food allergies.

Dining is easy. Step up to the counter, order and pay. The cashier will hand you a stand with your number on it and hand your cup to you. Step around the corner to the fountain and fill with your favorite Coke product or Zoës specially created hibiscus tea.

You take care of your own refills and then sit back and relax. From delivering your meal to clearing your table, the rest is on them. A brief check with management revealed that tipping is not necessary. Employees are not paid the typical server's wage.

Tabbouli Salad at Zoes Kitchen
My choice of the evening at Zoës Kitchen was the Tabbouli Salad with a skewer of shrimp and zucchini. Hubby chose the Steak Kebobs. We also tried the hummus, Ya Ya Cake and chocolate chip cookie and weren't disappointed.

The Tabbouli Salad at Zoës is their own rendition of a classic Mediterranean dish. Fresh spinach, salad greens and cucumber grace a bed of orzo pasta. Cherry tomatoes, hand crumbled feta cheese and olives complete the picture. It's mixed in a tangy light vinaigrette dressing. Lemon wedges are served on the side for those who want extra zing.

The salad is a feast for the eyes and palate. I ordered my dish with skewer of shrimp. The two skewers were the crowning touch on the top of the salad. Extra large shrimp are placed in between slices of zucchini. The spicy seasoning worked well with the Tabboule Salad. This is definitely a dish that will bring me back to Zoës Kitchen.

Steak kebob at Zoes Kitchen
Hubby was equally delighted with his choice at Zoës Kitchen. Skewers of balsamic marinated beef were nestled between slices of red pepper and carmelized onion. A pile of fresh vegetables came on the side. Along with this was an almost fist-sized scoop of roasted potato salad. The potatoes are tossed in a light, healthy sauce that doesn't include mayonnaise. The end result of the plate is a fork tender dinner that this meat-and-potatoes guy loved.

Equally delightful was the hummus dip appetizer. This is drizzled with fresh lemon and garnished with a few pitted olives. Untoasted pita points are served. However; toasted wheat pita points are available. I found the crunchiness is a good contrast with the flavorful soft hummus.

When eating at Zoës, you must save room for the Ya Ya Cake. Missing this chocolate delight is a travesty. The recipe has been in the family for over 60 years. (Yes, there is a Zoe who draws on her Greek background to found this creative restaurant chain.) The Ya Ya Cake is a decadently sinful delight that must be tasted to be appreciated. Cookie fans can enjoy an almost equally decadent chocolate chunk cookie.

Student art Zoes Kitchen in Knoxville
I spoke with the Dawson McGough, manager the Zoës Kitchen in Knoxville. He tells us that in addition to great food and a fun atmosphere that, “Zoës Kitchen wants to grow roots in Knoxville.

One of the ways that Zoës Kitchen accomplishes this is through a unique arts program. Materials are provided to schools by the company to provide grade school students an opportunity to explore their creative side. Student masterpieces are displayed and then sold at Zoes Kitchen for $20. It's a unique partnership that combines corporate and student creativity to raise needed funds for their school.

Zoes Kitchen soft-side cooler
Catering Sales Manager, Lisa McGough tells us that any sized group can have their meals catered. Boxed lunches can be as simple as a half-sandwich and side item or they can include a drink and dessert. Hot meals, salads, soups and all menu items can be catered. 

We left Zoës Kitchen with an ice filled, soft-sided cooler that contained takeout tubs of homemade pimento cheese, chicken salad, potato salad and a pasta salad. I will have to let you know how these are when we get back from our picnic. All I need to add are drinks and plates before heading out.

Zoës Kitchen
6638 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN 37919
Phone: 865.450-2412
Fax: 865.450.3375
Hours: 11-9 daily

Zoe's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Zoës Kitchen is committed to the environment. The cooler is made of recycled materials and bags are 100% recyclable. Purchasing a refillable sports cup gets you .99 refills and saves landfill space.