Zeal Modern Eatery
1255 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 42
Marietta, Ga. 30068
Monday – Friday: 11:30am-3:00pm
Saturday – Sunday (Weekend Brunch) – 11:00pm-3:00p
Monday – Thursday: 3:00pm-10:00pm
Friday: 3:00pm – 11:00pm
Sunday: 3:00pm – 9:00pm
On Tuesday, I braved the ridiculous and nonsensical Atlanta traffic to have dinner at Zeal Modern Eatery with the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society.
Zeal opened up 8 months ago, and from my research before my dinner they’ve gotten a lot of mixed reviews. Some people sang its praise and gave it 5 stars on Yelp while others complained of mediocre food and slow service.
I arrived trying to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did.
The venue itself is wonderful, with large banquet size tables, small tables of four, booths and a huge bar that sits in the “living room” where you can grab a seat or play some shuffleboard. They do have an outdoor patio and I would probably come all the way back out to Marietta just to take advantage of that alone.
The table ordered a variety of dishes and we all kind of mixed and matched.
Before I go into what we ate and what we thought of everything – let me just say this: Zeal has only been open for 8 months and they are going through growing pains. However, the owner was at our table a few times throughout the night asking us to be explicit with our reviews. He genuinely is looking to improve in any way that he can, and I believe that they will. You don’t always come across restaurant owners who want to hear the truth…and he was gracious and sincere about it.
They’re good eggs over there.
Fried Green Tomatoes (gf) | Fig Goat Cheese, Arugula | 7
Duck Poutine (gf) | Duck Confit, Fries, Gravy, Mozzarella | 12
Tandoori Chicken and Lamb Skewers (gf) Mint Raita 11
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin* (gf) | Stuffed with Peaches, Mascarpone, and Jalapeno, Mashed Potatoes, Jalapeno Glaze | 19
Blue Cheese Tenderloin* (gf) | Topped with Blue Cheese Butter, Wild Mushroom Risotto | 22
NY Strip Steak & Frites* (gf) | Garlic Herb Compound Butter, Fries | 27.5
Pan Seared Airline Chicken (gf)| Peach Chutney, Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes | 17
Truffle Mac and Cheese | 7
Wild Mushroom Risotto (gf) | 7
Honey goat cheesecake with a raspberry compote
So we were asked to keep an eye out on service and quality of food. Service was okay. Our server was friendly, but seemed nervous. A lot of complaints on review sites mention slow or generally bad service. I know what it was like when I first started serving…I was always nervous, I had to push through my shyness to deal with customers who expected and demanded, the service they’d get from a seasoned waiter versus the girl who had been doing this a couple of weeks. Things like forgetting to ask how some of my colleagues wanted their steak done were small oversights that seemed to repeat themselves. It all screamed “growing pains” both for the restaurant and for the server. So, if you go…be gentle! They’re on the right track and it seemed like they were all really looking to improve, which is half the battle.
Right off the bat, I’d say go to Zeal to share some appetizers and wine either on their patio (which I was slightly obsessed with) or the bar. I felt like these plates and the desserts were the strongest of the night and I loved the wine we had.
As you probably noticed, Zeal is a Gluten-Free haven! So, so many dishes are geared towards GF allergies and I love it. I have a couple of friends who struggle with Gluten allergies and aside from salads or salmon, there never seems to be much on the menu for them when we go out.
The fried green tomatoes were good. The cornmeal batter was crunchy and stuck to the tomato without an issue…and the tomatoes were cooked all the way through. What made this dish next level was the, wait for it: FIG GOAT CHEESE.
Each tomato was topped with whipped goat cheese that was mixed with figs and topped with fresh lemon zest. Oh. My. Life. I could have sat down with a bowl of this cheese; a spoon and a bottle of wine and just bask in the gloriousness of this combination. *Fans self*
I also got to try the Duck Poutine – it was decadent. Definitely a dish you should share (thanks Milla!) but one that will go quickly. The duck was tasty and they certainly aren’t stingy with it either, which is always nice to see.
The tandoori chicken and lamb skewers were…confusing. I think both my skewers were all lamb. The meat was moist, but it lacked a lot of flavor and the charred marks on the skewers were visually appealing but tasted bitter.
Oysters? Delicious. They’re not on the menu but they had them in house for National Oyster Day. Although they forgot the token rule for oysters (separate them from the shells!) I managed just fine (hands up for my New England roots, woot woot!).
I didn’t get to try all the entrees, but I did ask everyone how their meals were. My lamb and couscous was a hit and a miss. The couscous was to die for, light, fluffy and super tasty. The lamb was slightly over cooked for medium and lacked flavor. I am a purist, and I can often eat any type of meat of food in its original state without it being transformed and be content. But meats like lamb NEED a decent seasoning or else it tastes gamy and dry. I ordered a side of the mushroom risotto as well. Although the texture was a bit off, the flavor was on point and they didn’t skimp on the mushrooms.
The folks at the table who ordered their steaks all had their steaks come out at the perfect temperature, which was a big thumbs up!
The chicken dish came out and I couldn’t help but giggle. A small bit of chicken and about a half a bushel of fingerling potatoes…whole. They weren’t cut. I have never in my life seen that at a restaurant before. I think they were aiming for something in the presentation, but it was a miss. It won’t hurt to cut the potatoes up, and in fact it will make the dish look better! No one wants to get his or her plate to see that the color scheme for the entire thing is BROWN! Maybe it’s just me…
Dessert was a whole other thing…another gluten free option, I tried the Honey Goat Cheesecake with a Raspberry compote.
You heard me.
Honey GOAT CHEESEcake. GOAT CHEESE. IN A CAKE. Unf.
I inhaled that cake, and I would drive all the way to Marietta just to drink wine and eat that cake. It was phenomenal. The goat cheese gave it a light creaminess, which was a great change from the sometimes-oppressive heaviness of regular cheesecake. It was slightly sweet because of the honey and the raspberry compote was PERFECT. Not too sweet, just the right compliment. The only disappointment here was when I realized it was gone.
Overall, Zeal seems to be on the right track. They’re struggling with consistency and are scrambling to get service on point but I have no doubt in my mind that they’ll get there. I think they’ve set a bar way, way high for themselves with the amount of food they have on the menu…but the dishes that they get right, they get RIGHT. They’re worth the chance. The ambiance is very conducive to hanging out for some time, so grab a group of friends take advantage of that patio and for goodness sake try that fig goat cheese and let me know what you think!
Disclaimer – My meal was comped by Zeal, but my opinions are 100% my own and were in no way influenced by any outside sources.