The newest restaurant at The Arbors opened on Jan. 29 with a big crowd and full parking lot. Social media had done its magic, and many regulars at Zoës Kitchens elsewhere in Charlotte had come to enjoy their favorite Mediterranean-style entrees. The fast-growing chain promotes both healthy foods, prepared quickly, and a “Mediterranean way of life.”
“I’m trying to decide between my two favorites,” said a Davis Lake resident who recommended both the “Gruben” turkey Ruben and the Protein Power Plate – flat-grilled chicken with caramelized onions, served over slaw.
What is Zoës Kitchen?
Zoës Kitchen describes its restaurants as fast casual. Customers order at the counter from the expansive menu overhead, then take a number to a nearby table or booth. The wait staff brings your meals. Rather eat outside? Several tables are available on a patio that is sheltered from the nearby highway.
Zoës offers fresh Mediterranean food prepared from the original recipes of its founder, Zoë Cassimus, who opened the first Zoës Kitchen in Homewood, Ala., in 1995.
“We like to say we’re born in the Mediterranean and raised in the South, serving up wholesome family meals with a few favorite Southern staples, always with genuine Southern hospitality,” say the website marketing materials.
Fresh and healthy foods
Regional Operator Eric Greeno says that the secret ingredient in all of Zoës Kitchen meals is the emphasis on fresh and healthy preparation.
“At Zoës, ingredients are delivered to the kitchen fresh daily. Our team hand-washes, cuts and prepares each item from scratch,” he said. “Fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, olive oil and lean proteins are abundant in our recipes, all while keeping our guests’ dietary concerns in mind.” Greeno describes the menu as “Mediterranean with a few Southern staples,” and no frying. “Grilling is the predominate method of cooking.”
The menu includes the expected Greek Salad, Hummus and Pita appetizer, Greek Chicken Pita and several kinds of Kabobs. Many other dishes embrace the Mediterranean emphasis on fresh vegetables but wrap it in contemporary packages, like the Quinoa Salad or the Spinach Roll-Up.
Do you require a gluten-free meal? Choose from among 20 salads, soups, entrees and sides.
Prefer to keep a cap on calories? The Simply 500 area of the menu offers numerous pitas, salads, kabobs, sandwiches and sides that are either under 500 calories or can be prepared that way.
Busy opening day
The Arbors marks Zoës fourth location in the Charlotte area and 14th statewide. On our grand-opening lunchtime visit, the restaurant was always close to full with several people waiting to order.
“We had a wonderful opening at The Arbors,” Greeno told us via email a few days later. “We look for expansion opportunities in thriving family communities like The Arbors, where residents value their time and a good, wholesome meal.”
Catering and take-home servings, too
The restaurant offers extensive catering services and many items in take-home quantities. “We can accommodate a party of any size, and our local catering managers can help you customize a meal that fits your needs and meets your budget,” Greeno said. “We also provide Party Packs for guests that want to pick-up a variety of fresh and wholesome options for any social event- whether it be a tailgate, kid’s birthday party or just a girl’s night in!
Want a good meal at home but don’t want to prepare it? Green says one option is the Fresh Takes tubs. Monday’s Facebook posts included a tempting photo of kabobs, humus and Greek salad with the suggestion to “avoid the hectic restaurant scene” and celebrate Valentine’s Day at home with a dinner from Zoës Kitchen.
“We offer our homemade hummus, chicken salad and other Zoës favorites to-go so that our customers can enjoy our delicious recipes in their own homes,” Greeno said.
Building a following in University City
The next step for the new Zoës Kitchen is to build a loyal following in University City. The location certainly more than fits the demographics that the company is after. For instance, our median household income within a mile of the restaurant is 60% above the $70,000 figure that Zoës targets.
You’ll also spot unique local art for sale at the restaurant – made by our kids. All Zoës Kitchens partner with schools and children’s organizations through a children’s artwork program, Greeno said. The restaurants display children’s artwork, which the public can “buy” as a donation, with the money going to the participating school or organization.
“We believe in sharing goodness, and this is one of the ways we love to give back to the community,” Greeno said.
Visit Zoës Kitchen
• Address: 1823 East Arbors Drive near Trader Joe’s.
• Hours: Open 11-9 daily.
• Phone: 980-207-4204
• Website: Menu and more: http://zoeskitchen.com
• Facebook: For specials and healthy-eating ideas: https://www.facebook.com/ZoesKitchen