Guest Post: Hungry Games: A Hometown Favorite: Zoe’s Kitchen opened in Ballston!

Hungry Games goes Greek.

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, home of the original Zoe’s Kitchen.  Zoe’s serves up some delicious Greek fare of the upscale fast food variety (think Panera or Cosi, but Greek.)  Their menu has things like chicken roll-ups, kabobs, homemade hummus and pita, Greek salad, and other fresh and light options.

Whenever I go home to visit, Zoe’s is an obvious spot to grab a bite to eat.  The food is consistently good, and I’m bound to run into at least one or two people whom I haven’t seen since high school—I kind of love those random, awkward interactions.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia for home, or maybe it’s because the food really is quite tasty, but I nearly hit the roof when I found out Zoe’s was opening up a location in Ballston, right next to the metro stop—which means THIS GIRL can go there!  So, I decided to take a suburban adventure on the orange line and see how this Zoe’s measured up to my hometown version.

Zoe’s Kitchen in Ballston (4245 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA) was pretty similar to its Birmingham counterpart.  It has a bright and colorful outdoor patio, and an equally cheerful indoor dining room.

The menu has my favorite staples:  chicken roll-ups (tortillas, feta, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions), pasta salad (fresh basil, feta, no mayo), potato salad (baby reds, no mayo), marinated slaw (feta, scallions, light vinaigrette), and chicken salad (all white meat; it’s the best!). The restaurant sells all these salads by the pint, as well, which is awesome for picnics and barbeques.  I walked away with some chicken salad so I could make myself some tasty sandwiches for lunch this week.

This Zoe’s also sells beer and wine, which is something I don’t remember from the Birmingham version, but which I greatly appreciated about this one.  I wonder if I could put the beer in the cute Zoe’s take-away cup and have a roadie? (Just kidding.  That would be illegal! But, you have to admit, the placement of the display kind of suggests it, which made me laugh.)

They also sell their homemade Greek dressing and spices so you can recreate some Zoe’s cooking at home.

Since I made the trip out there, I decided to dine in.  I was about to order my usual chicken roll-ups and marinated slaw, when I saw spinach roll-ups (tortillas, mozzarella, fresh mushrooms, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, scallions) and braised white beans on the menu!  “What is this?” I thought to myself.  So, I tried them (I had them add chicken to the spinach roll-up, and I still ordered an extra side of slaw, because, let’s be real, I had been craving it the whole metro ride over.)

The roll-ups were as I remembered them:  warm, juicy chicken on the inside; the wrap, lightly crisped from the grill, which adds a nice texture contrast.  They taste great alone, but Zoe’s always provides salsa for dipping.  It’s a little unexpected for pairing with Greek food, but it really tastes quite good.  The slaw was light (it has no mayo) and refreshing.  I love the feta cheese and green onions in it.  And, the braised white beans with fresh rosemary were creamy and delicious.

Of course, no meal is complete without dessert.  I really enjoyed Yaya’s handmade chocolate cake, which I took to go, because my lunch was really quite large and satisfying on its own.  The big-as-your-face cookies also looked delightful, but too much for this trip.

There’s no question.  I’ll be going back.

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