Sunday, December 7, 2008


Who pays for dinner? At the risk of sounding overly sexist, when couples dine out, I believe the man forks over the cash most of the time. In our cozy casa, my lovely wife the Rock Star more than holds her own with our expenses, so I have no cause for complaint. Still, when she sidles up to me and announces in her own sweet way, "I'm taking you out for dinner," and the occasion is neither my birthday nor trash day, I've learned to ask no questions, but to agree quickly lest she change her mind (which is always a Woman's Perogative). She had received a valuable tip that ZEA Woodfire Grill in Granite Park might just be worthy of exploration, and so we set out one evening Northward upon the Tollway, an avenue that so often defines our vehicular travel these days.


ZEA Woodfire Grill's name is pronounced "zee-ahh" and according to various sources, either means "grain" or "life"; taken together, they suggest the Biblical concept The Bread of Life. Bread, warmth and hearth are furthur suggested in the decor, with the taupe and beige color scheme enlightened with postmodern fixtures and warmed by wood, stone, and a fireplace with comfy couches and chairs in the bar. In short, a setting as suitable for family-night-out as for young, hip singles, who tend to gravitate toward the aforementioned bar whenever the '50's-cool jazz combo is playing. After some quick discussion, we decided our stomachs needed more attention than our ears, so off to dinner we went, where Gordon was waiting to take charge of us.


If you like Southern comfort food with upscale appetizers at affordable prices, then surely you must consider adding Zea to your list. If so, you can't go wrong by starting the meal with the Mediterranean Hummus Supreme. Sun-dried tomatoes and calamata olives make this chickpea-dip standby a standout, boasting unexpected carrot notes in its garlicky goodness.
We quickly followed this success with a disappointment: the Zeasar Salad was rather ordinary, lacking the anchovies that can make this dish memorable. Since my lovely bride and I often share our repasts, we decided that one of us should order beef and the other seafood, because I had remembered that Zea began life as a Louisiana chain, a state which thrives on the fish dishes. At Gordon's recommendation, my wife tried the Rotisserie Special of the Day: Beef sirloin steak twirled over hickory. Unlike most women (there's that sexism again!), the Rock Star is often ordering her beef medium-rare these days, and the steak that was finally presented to her was juicy and tasty, although her cut sported a bit too much gristle. My bayou gamble paid off with the Hickory Trout Lafitte, a beautiful filet which slid right out of its skin, mated expertly with a Cajun cream sauce so good that the accompanying fried shrimp were rendered almost superfluous. Slowly but surely, trout is insinuating itself back onto menus alongside the ubiquitous salmon preparations, and as I have always been a trout fan, it's a move I applaud. Don't forget to order this dish with the red beans and brown rice, which tastes of Creole goodness and lazy bayou afternoons listening to zydeco. We finished our meal with the fresh peach crackle a la mode, redolent of cinammon and nutmeg and Southern hospitality.


Gordon's dining suggestions proved spot on, and his customer service skills were quite laudable as well, taking pains to keep us abreast of the progress of our entrees. After dinner, we enjoyed bracing drinks in the bar, ably attended by Corrina and assisted by the same manager type who was so helpful at dinner. Website is for the Texas locations, or you can use, which will give you info about the chain as a whole.


No matter how you pronouce it, ZEA Woodfire Grill offers good fare at family-friendly prices, in an atmosphere as suitable for hip urban professionals as it is for the SUV crowd. Indulge in the bread of life soon, and as always:



Margie said...

That sounds very good! I like that "...standby a standout" line. Very clever.

Food Czar said...

Margie, thanks so much for noticing my wordplay. It means a lot to me, as I usually put a lot of thought and effort into it.