Includes: Zoe’s Kitchen, Raleigh, NC; and more
I went to a huge event at the newly re-opened East Wing of the NC Museum of Art last night and had hoped to share some lovely food photos and taste descriptions. But alas, the food was pretty forgettable.
So instead I thought I’d mention just a few chains I like, since I ate at one today.
Most of you know I abhor most chain restaurants. With a very small handful of exceptions.
One is Bonefish Grill. I’m sure you’ve been there. Never mind the plethora of cheffed-up (a great term coined by my friend Lewis Clarke) concoctions described with words like diablo, imperial, encrusted and of course the famous bang bang. I prefer their straightforward grilled-fresh-catch-and-a-sauce selections. (However, their web site is irritating as it plays music.)
Another chain I enjoy is Noodles. They try to use relatively healthy ingredients and everything is made fresh to order. It’s also one of those trendy, fast, casual places that elevate things a notch with beer, wine and real dishes and silverware. My favorite isn’t a pasta dish, but a salad that has some cavatappi in it — the Med salad. With tofu (theirs is delish), please. Plus, the web site is too cute, with the little animated pastas. And only cute little noises once in a while — no music.
And then there’s Zoe’s Kitchen. Similar to Noodles in style (order at the counter, alcohol, etc.), its paint, furniture, typefaces and etc. are rendered in bright, cheerful, contemporary designs and colors. Pretty healthy food, loosely Mediterranean based.
But here’s the main reason I frequent Zoe’s so often:
The braised white beans. A lowly side dish that is anything but. Zoe’s beans are the penultimate comfort food — creamy, nearly stew-like, with the homey, recognizable flavors and aromas of rosemary and olive oil.
The only other simple white bean dish that has bested them, in my opinion, is when I followed the recipe for Tuscan white beans from the nonfiction memoir 1,000 Days in Tuscany (Marlena DeBlasi). I made a big batch once and feasted off them for days. But it was a relatively time-consuming process. And it’s so easy to run over to Zoe’s — which is right across the street from my workplace — to grab their version. I had them today for lunch. I highly recommend them. (The grilled shrimp salad is my other favorite pick.)