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Zola Wine & Kitchen: Fancy Food For Less

July 6, 2011

I’m currently eating home-cooked Nicaraguan meals but until I can regale you with stories of frijoles, arroz y plátanos, how about a new DC dining find?

Zola is a fancy restaurant. While I’m sure this upscale restaurant across the street from the National Portrait Gallery is an incredible place for a nice meal, my friends and I want to eat great food without paying an arm and a leg. Enter, Zola Wine & Kitchen.

Sure, it’s not as fancy as its neighbor a few blocks away. But Zola Wine & Kitchen offers the same fresh, seasonal, local food at a much lower price, plus lets you peek inside the kitchen to watch your meal being made. Cameras are even trained on the kitchen and live-broadcast into the dining area for diners not sitting at the counter.

Of course, sitting at the counter is the best seat in the house. Lunch and a cooking show for $12!

Zola Wine & Kitchen is only open for lunch and is usually packed, so we got there as soon as the doors opened to beat the rush. The only thing holding us back was what to order — everything on the menu sounded delicious. It was one of those moments I wished mezze and tapas were common in American cuisine so I could have tried a bite of everything.

That’s why you dine with friends, right? Everyone got a different salad + sandwich lunch combo and we passed the sandwiches around. (Although I heard the truffled mac and cheese is to die for.)

As soon as I saw this seasonal roasted vegetable sandwich (Chef’s assortment of grilled vegetables, fresh house-made mozzarella, pesto, rosemary-parmesan focaccia) on the menu, I knew that’s what I wanted. Plus a cold squash salad on the side.

The whole combination of flavors was good but I was especially enamored of the herb-y, slightly salty focaccia.

Other options included the pressed pork sandwich (Pickle relish, mojo mayo, semolina baguette)

and braised lamb sandwich (Arugula, grilled onions, harissa on ciabatta roll).

The most beautiful sandwich had to be a friend’s grilled manchego with blackberry jam on rye, but I was too absorbed in my meal by that point to take a photo. Since I’m not a big cheese eater, I never would have considered the cheese + jam combo but I loved the flavors of this melty cheese and sweet jam. I guess it follows along the same lines of brie + cranberry sauce, always a winning combination in my book.

Sometimes you want a good meal and are prepared to pay a lot for it. But when you’re young and living in the city, it’s fun to find a deal without receiving sub-par ingredients. If you’re in DC and want a great lunch — and near the monuments and museums, too! — Zola Wine & Kitchen is a must.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 10:55 am

    The truffled mac and cheese IS good at ZWK! I got it for lunch to-go once with a ride of roasted vegetables and I loved it. I only wish I worked closer so that I could go more often!

  2. July 10, 2011 1:35 am

    I’ve been waiting for the perfect “splurge-worthy” occasion to try Zola for quite some time, however I had no idea that it’s casual sister restaurant even existed! Thanks for the great review. I’ll definitely be stopping by some time. 🙂

    Hope you’re having a wonderful time in Nicaragua!

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