Chain Gang: Zoës Kitchen
Surprisingly tasty and filling fare was the order of the day.
Company description: " 'Zoë' means 'life' in Greek, and this is embraced in every aspect of Zoës Kitchen. We embrace the Mediterranean way of life - that a fulfilled, happy life is one shared with family, good friends, great food and that eating wholesome, fresh ingredients is key."
Location: Marlton, N.J. (also in Collegeville and Newtown, Bucks County; coming May 20 to Bryn Mawr).
Nutrition information: Zoës is one of a new breed of fast-food chains that emphasize healthy eating. To that end, there is a "Simply 500" menu boasting a selection of sandwiches and pita sandwiches that clock in at 500 calories or less, as well as other menu dishes (e.g. chicken, veggie and shrimp kebabs) that can be prepared with fewer calories by request.
Price: We spent $24.57 (including tax) for a chicken pita pizza, shrimp kebabs and two regular soft drinks.
Review: Surprisingly tasty and filling fare was the order of the day. The chicken pita pizza ($8.99) was a smallish but extremely flavorful disc with mozzarella and feta cheeses, fresh basil and an excellent, sweet and tasty marinara sauce. It was accompanied by a nice-sized Greek salad of romaine lettuce, green pepper, olives, banana peppers, cherry tomatoes, onion, feta and pita bread - all topped by Zoës' signature Greek dressing (available by the bottle).
The shrimp kebabs ($9.99) were two skewers of medium-sized shrimp (3 per stick) decorated with zucchini. The plate's open spaces were filled with the Greek salad, and the platter also came with rice pilaf, pita bread and cucumber raita (a yogurt-based condiment). The flavors were vibrant and interesting, and, as with the pizza, the tab represented a pretty good value.
Bonus: The meals (delivered by the staff; orders are placed at the counter) are served on solid plastic, not flimsy paper or cardboard dishes.
Summary: Zoës definitely represents a nice change from typical fast-food fare and takes such dining to a slightly higher level with fresh ingredients, interesting flavors and an aspirational upscale vibe.