Food wasn't the only thing on the owners' minds when conceiving Z Garden. Making this the neighborhood hangout is also a priority.When weighing options for what to eat for lunch or dinner, if someone has "experience cooking for royalty" on the ol' resume, it'll likely help us decide. "My partner was a chef for a Saudi Prince for three years," said Shadi Abed, co-owner of Z Garden in Santa Monica. "We had some ideas for what we wanted to do here." Like? Keeping it fresh. Abed says all the meat is halal and local from California. "When we get meat in, we use it in 2 days, max," says Abed. "We only use the freezers for the fruit smoothies." Which brings us to idea No. 2: Abed says making Z Garden as healthy as possible was a big priority. "There are things other Mediterranean places serve that we don't because it's just all oil." Some fresh healthy favorites include chicken shawarma (sauteed marinated chicken breast), the veggie combo with hummus, baba ghannouj, tabbouleh, grape leaves and falafel (the baba ghannouj has a deliciously intense smoky flavor) and of course, the flaky-sticky-sweet baklava.
And while it may sound like it, food wasn't the only thing on the owners' minds when conceiving Z Garden. Making this the neighborhood hangout was also a priority. As we spoke, Abed would duck out intermittently to serve food to regulars he knew by name. "People now stop me in the neighborhood to talk to me about the food," he says. "The kids are starting to call me Mr. Z. I like that." It may not be the title of Saudi Prince, but the hours are better.
Fattoush Salad, $6.95
Chicken Shawarma, $9.95
Veggie Combo, $9.95
Sun. - Thurs., 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fri. - Sat., 8 a.m. to midnight