Zoe's Kitchen is a chain with about 50 locations, based in Birmingham, Alabama. There are four in the Houston area and one located 3701 Shepherd, which is the location I visited earlier this evening. I had the steak stack with a side of rice pilaf, and it was freaking delicious. No, seriously. Their rice was so buttery; whether it's intentional or not, Zoe's definitely gives off a health food vibe but there was no way there was less than a pound of butter in that rice. A. Mazing.
I know people don't go to restaurants for the food (seriously, who does that?) but one of my arbitrary criticisms today comes from their menu itself. To start us off on a positive note (and I had a very positive experience), the potato and pasta salads they sell have no mayo. I don't usually eat potato or pasta salads because I think they're disgusting, but when people ask me why I don't like them, to be polite I usually say it's because I hate mayo. In reality, it's because both of these foods should be served hot; potatoes should be served mashed or fried and pasta should be covered in Alfredo sauce. Neither one should be cold. I mean I hate when I look at something and think, man, this is really going to warm my mouth up, but when I take a bite it's been in the refrigerator for at least six hours. I hate it! But Zoe's has really done me a favor today by compelling me to admit out loud what exactly it is that I hate about these food, and I really appreciate what they've done in forcing me to give up the walls I've built around my culinary heart and finally let someone know my true feelings on chilled side dishes.+8 for disabling my defense mechanisms.
What I liked most about Zoe's Kitchen, however, was the artwork they had lining the walls. I asked an employee about it; apparently they have a deal with a local elementary school where they donate art supplies to the students, who are then encouraged to paint these paintings. And despite the fact that they were all done by six-year-olds, they weren't bad. I mean, I've seen much less convincing still-lifes at MFAH; some of these kids obviously have futures in the art world. The rest should probably stick to their day jobs. Anyway, Zoe's Kitchen sells these paintings to their clientele (I'll admit I just used that word because it's fun to spell) and then donate the money back to the elementary school. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm still a hard-hearted Republican, I don't want anybody to think that I care about cute little intercity kids or anything like that. But I think it's a really neat program, especially considering how much I appreciated my art classes in elementary school. +10 for caring about kids and +10 for the original decorating scheme.
My other favorite part of Zoe's Kitchen was the unobtrusive music they were piping through their speakers. I don't want to give you the wrong impression at all; Zoe's is not a hipster joint. But it is in the part of town where you'd expect "Listomania" to be played over and over until you break out in hipster chill and start biking to work. I have a problem with restaurants who play their music just loud enough that it detracts from whatever it is you're saying to your dinner companion, in this case my lovely roommate. I also hate restaurants who play the music just low enough that it just tickles your eardrums; you have to listen to hear what song it is, no matter how compelling your date's conversation is; the tune is just present enough to annoy you. I'm happy to report that the music was the proper volume and none of the songs were catchy enough to listen to at all, let alone sing along loudly to, like some pizza places in West U that I could mention.* +4
Anyways I want everybody to know that I'm a serious journalist, and I'm not just going to give mindlessly great reviews to everyone. I did have a problem with Zoe's, and that was their lack of booth seating. They had this weird hybrid thing going, where the booth was against the wall but the seats in front were regular chairs. Like all good Americans, I prefer a booth to any other kind of seating, because then I can sit concealed, sipping on my iced water, pretending I'm a cop or a spy or a cheating spouse and can't have everybody knowing what I'm up to. At Zoe's only one person in your pair can be the cheating spouse; the other has to sit, exposed to all for their infidelity and dealings with foreign governments. It's just not fair, and I don't like it. -13
Overall, though, I did enjoy Zoe's Kitchen. They're a good restaurant if you want food that makes you feel clean rather than greasy afterwards, which I'll admit even I sometimes do. I definitely recommend stopping in if you get a chance. As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy eating!