zeal – zēl/
noun: great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor. Passion, ardor, fervor, fire, devotion, enthusiasm, appetite, energy, intensity.
There are several things I notice when I walk into a restaurant. The decor. The lighting. The menu. The patrons. The overall feel.
Have you ever been to a place that from the moment you opened the door, you just knew you were going to love? I’m not talking about the ones you walk away from thinking “…that was pretty good”, or “I’ll probably go back.” I’m talking about the ones that you KNOW when you open the door there is something undeniably very special about where you are; a place that you are completely head over heels for?
It’s rare these days for that to happen to me. To have THAT particular feeling that there is something very unique about where I am, something very different. But it is possible. That happened at Zeal.
Don’t get me wrong. I love finding the special things about every restaurant I enjoy and they all have their own fantastic qualities. Sometimes it’s the incredibly attentive staff, sometimes it’s the eclectic and unique menu items, sometimes it’s the sheer talent of the chef. Every once in a while though, when the stars align and everything seems to be exactly as it should be, that is when we find the most amazing experiences.
The fact that I enjoy a nice meal out is certainly no surprise. What is a surprise though is when we find ourselves somewhere I haven’t planned. Somewhere not on my restaurant bucket list. Somewhere that came as a complete and utter surprise. Sweet Hass and I found ourselves in that very situation a few nights back. We happened upon Zeal by chance.
After realizing we weren’t going to make it home in time to cook, or it would be extremely late, we decided on a meal out. I reached for the phone and hurriedly began scouring menus and looking for a restaurant. I came across a few that showed some promise, and then I found Zeal. The menu was interesting and the photos were appealing. Done.
The Old Fashioned | Cocktails & Wine
We walked in and as usual, had a seat at the bar. You have the best experiences at the bar. There were two bartenders; always a good sign. There was a band playing really great music and the patrons seemed to be enjoying their cocktails and meal selections. The lighting was perfectly dimmed and the decor was warm and welcoming. It felt very comfortable.
We began by ordering our cocktails. I ordered a traditional Old Fashioned while sweet boy went for the Zeal’s Angel. The bartender was intriguing and immediately caught my attention. The first question he asked was,” Do you prefer a traditional Old Fashioned?” Hmmm.
As that is my standard cocktail of choice, I asked him to explain his question. He was very thorough and very detailed in his response, “Over the years the traditional old fashioned has taken a twist to a sweeter drink with more ingredients as opposed to the traditional version that’s stronger with only a dash of bitters, a sugar cube, one cherry and a slight peel of orange.” This guy clearly knew his stuff.
Ethan’s descriptions throughout the evening of cocktails, bourbons, scotch and wines was unreal. He seemed to have stepped straight out of the 1930s. To say he was impressive would be the understatement of the year. The even more impressive factor was this bartender couldn’t have been a day over 21.
Throughout the course of the evening, we sampled bourbons, scotch, and wines from their fantastic wine list.
Our ultra impressive bartender ended the evening with this picture perfect creation of a true Sazerac. If you are ever in Marietta, stop by and see Ethan. Tell him we sent you. Ask for the Sazerac. Watching this is sheer poetry in a cocktail glass.
Creative & Delicious Small Plates
Goat Cheese Fritters with Habanero Pepper Jelly
Insane! I’ve sampled many, many goat cheese fritters, but none quite like this. The goat cheese was a creamy, velvety texture with the right amount of tart flavor to blend seamlessly with the medium heat from the pepper jelly. With my Old Fashioned in hand, I could have stopped with just this. However, at this point, I really wanted to know what other decadent morsels this menu had to offer.
Chicken Lollipops – Frenched Chicken Wing, Tandoori Spices, Sweet & Spicy Szechuan Sauce
I have looked at this photograph several times since I took it. This y’all, is unedited, unadulterated poultry love. The color of that sauce is as vibrant on the plate as it is in this photo. I am a lover of all things wings, but these are something else. This is like the Daytona 500 of Chicken Wings! And that sauce? THAT sauce…..sigh.
There are Two Kinds of Oysters…
Fresh oysters are my lifeblood. Lifeforce. Necessary to exist. Give me good, fresh oysters and a fabulous Sauvignon Blanc and I am golden. Zeal takes it a step further and offers daily specials:
“HAPPY DAYS FROM THE DOCK”
- ½ Price on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, & Saturday 4:30 – 7 pm
- $1 Featured Oyster on the Half Shell with Pink Peppercorn Mignonette
- $2 Famous James River Chargrilled Oysters with Gremolata, Pecorino
- $3 Smoked Bacon & Maryland Crab Oysters, Chargrilled with Smoky Bacon-Anchovy Butter
- $4 Blue-Pointe Oyster Fonseca -“it’s better than your traditional Rockefeller”
All of that happened.
I had the opportunity to speak with Zeal owner, Scott Sawant. At 24 years old, this restaurant is his passion. The attention he gives to selecting every bottle on his wine list, choosing every band that entertains, and every selection on his menu is impeccable.
As I was watching Ethan mastering his craft at the bar, speaking with Scott, feeling his passion for the restaurant, and listening to several other members of team Zeal, I couldn’t help but hear the song, “Youth of a Nation” playing in the back of my mind. They are all under 30, and they are brilliant.
When I walked in, I knew I was going to love it. I was right.
Life is too short to live it without a little Zeal y’all.
|LUNCH MON-SAT: 11:30AM-3PM DINNER MON-THURS: 3PM-10PM | FRI-SAT: 3PM-11PM | SUN: 12PM-9PM
SUNDAY BRUNCH STARTS DEC. 15TH: 10AM-2PM
*A special thank you to Scott, Ethan and the amazing staff at Zeal. Although dinner was complimentary, all ideas, comments, thoughts, swooning and drooling are completely my own.