Revisiting A Habit

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris May 10, 2023 08:32 in Dining Diary

Maybe other people are like this as well, but we are real regulars and even sometimes weekly visitors at restaurants, and then one day we simply stop going without any discussion or even reason. It’s strange but it happens often enough it’s a thing in this household.

The best example of this weird phenomenon is our ZEA habit. Ten or so years ago we went to ZEA every week. Tom was still fully working and I rarely dined with him, but it was sort of a “date” restaurant for us. We always sat in the bar and enjoyed the food. I have often said I could eat there every day, get something different, and be completely satisfied. I think the food is really very good, and the now-dated but still very handsome space is comfortable.

And then one day we stopped. I have no idea why. Maybe it was that I had taken over the business and had to eat for content, or maybe so many new and interesting restaurants I liked better opened. It was this need for content that brought us back to ZEA for dinner, though we have had nearly everything on this menu, and the menu never changes. I have said many times about how small our orbit is these days, dictated by Tom’s condition. I just wanted something different to say on the radio show (airs 2-4 pm weekdays on WGSO 990 AM.)  We left powerfully impressed at how delicious it was. 

We don’t order a lot because I am never hungry and I had no real intention to eat much this evening. But it was so good I couldn’t stop. I had been wanting to go back to one of my menu favorites here, the Thai Ribs, which we have not had in many recent visits. This is an unlikely dish for me to be enthusiastic about, because it is an Asian sauce, and I am immediately suspicious of anything that possibly contains sesame oil. Sesame seeds are delicious, especially toasted, but for some reason, the oil is very unappealing to me. This sauce on the Thai Ribs is sticky to the lips, with a hint of sweetness. It’s not especially assertive, but it is rich and dense in flavor.

The ribs themselves settle an argument Tom and I have had forever. When we started dating we had a disagreement about whether ribs should have meat that falls off the bone or gives some resistance when you bite into them. Tom has been a member of the latter club, and I wanted it to fall off the bone. These Thai Ribs are a wonderful hybrid of both philosophies. They are first meaty, deliciously fatty in parts, and very tender, but they do not disintegrate. The meat remains on the bone but there is no tugging involved. This pile of ribs was just divine. Heavily dusted with sesame seeds and sprinkled with chopped scallions, it’s no wonder these signature ribs have remained a favorite since Day One.

The corn grits that we got with it were a little off from what I remember, but they did the trick. Zea put creamy corn grits on the map so it’s a high standard they set for themselves. These were very good grits, and maybe the hoopla about them all these years made me feel that I needed to be more excited, but they didn't impress me as they had. 

We also got the appropriately clever named  Zeasar Salad. It was a nice pile of pale green Romaine hearts so fresh they actually crunched. The dressing had that dense Caesar taste with a respectable hint of anchovy, and the Parmesan cheese dusting was quite generous. Really crunchy herbed croutons were properly scattered about. 

I can’t decide if I liked all of this so much because it had been so long since I had it, or if it really was that good, It is not hard to assume that it really was that good, because this restaurant, and a chain at that, has always been very good, and even very consistent, across its locations.

Maybe this experience will cause us to turn in more often again when we pass it, just like we used to do.