Zoe’s Kitchen – 1320 Main Street

Posted by The LunchMen Tuesday, October 6, 2009

About a year and a half ago, Zoe’s Kitchen opened its first outpost in the Palmetto State on Forest Drive, in the heart of Forest Acres. It immediately garnered praise among the country club crowd for its delicious chicken delicacies and famous “dinner for four” options that provided busy soccer moms with ready-made family sized meals at their drive through window. On September 29, 2009, the owner of Zoe’s transported his concept to Uptown, opening a new Zoe’s in the space formerly occupied by Birds on a Wire.

FULL DISCLOSURE – The owner of Zoe’s is a good friend of mine that I have known for years. With that in mind, I tried to rustle up the largest contingent of diners possible for the Lunchmen review so that we would get a candid and accurate portrayal of the Zoe’s Uptown experience. After receiving feedback from everyone at my table, as well as some other diners sprinkled throughout the place, I can say without any reservation that Zoe’s is destined to be a go-to destination for all downtown office workers.

Three of my comrades, Take-Out, Tank, and Kali, all went with the “Gruben” on Take-Out’s suggestion – a restaurant favorite consisting of turkey, swiss, slaw and spicy mustard on grilled rye – with pasta salad as their side choice. Everyone was equally impressed, and the sandwich is available for $6.99 – right on par with most Uptown locales. The Publican was enticed by the free samples available when you walk in and went for the chicken salad sandwich, also with pasta (Another solid choice from the $6.99 section of the menu). Tex mixed it up by ordering the chicken roll ups, a Zoe’s staple featuring grilled chicken mixed with feta, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, and rice rolled into tortillas with salsa and a side - Tex's side was the unique, low fat marinated slaw (no mayo, it’s a vinegar based slaw).

Everyone at the table agreed Tex had the second best looking option. The first, of course, belonged to yours truly, who used his extensive Zoe’s on Forest Drive experience to order the truly bold chicken kabobs – grilled chicken on skewers with peppers, onions and tomatoes served on top of rice pilaf with a side of greek salad and pita bread. The kabobs are admittedly a bit pricier at $8.95, but well worth it for a true meal prepared fresh and served quickly to our table. Several people commented that their next trip to Zoe’s would be for these kabobs – which are also available in shrimp.

Another table, this one featuring Lunchmen supporter Knasty (who bemoaned the archaic laws preventing a marriage to his Gruben), ordered Greek chicken pitas and was, as expected, delighted with their choices (also $6.99 with a side). Of everyone surveyed, there were no complaints beyond a little difficulty finding seats for our rather large party.

As for the rest of the menu, all of the favorites from the Forest Drive location are available on Main Street, as well as some additional options featuring beef instead of chicken. There is a lot of intriguing stuff on this menu, including but not limited to: side dishes of braised white beans, no-mayo potato salad, and roasted vegetables; sandwiches such as a Mediterranean tuna pita with capers, red onions, olives, lettuce and tomato (again no mayo); pita pizzas with chicken and vegetables; and the especially captivating “Stacks” – the Olympus, The Grilled Veggie, and the Steak Stack. The Main Street location also serves beer and wine, and plans to open for breakfast in the near future.

As you can tell, Zoe’s has impressed the Lunchmen thus far, and their menu demands further exploration. Look for updates as we return to this new spot on our rotation.

- Rabbit

p.s. Zoe's Kitchen is undoubtedly the Lunchmen's latest Lunch Spot of the Week.

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Rabbit, Tank, and The Publican are three dudes just trying to get through the work week here in Columbia. Rabbit is a Columbia native, Tank is from Charleston, and The Publican hails from Greenville. Rabbit's favorite lunch spot is the No Name Deli on Elmwood, where you may find him putting down a grilled chicken salad and a side of vinegar pasta. The Publican usually wants to find food to cure his all-too-common hangovers. Tank claims no favorite lunch spot - he lives for the thrill of the hunt.