Saturday, December 17, 2011
Z Bar and Grille
Sometimes you don't know what you want until you look up and realize it was there all along. This is what happened last night at Z-Bar, my around the corner, always welcoming, little neighborhood restaurant. After checking menus on fifteen sites, we opted for Z-Bar, knowing it would be comfortable and easy. We weren't even hoping for sensational, but what we got delivered on satisfying a taste I didn't even know I wanted.
I remember when Edible Rhody Publisher John Schenck and I were writing our book on Providence’s 91 Best Restaurants, John said Z Bar was his favorite go to spot. It is the perfect neighborhood bistro for a casual quick dinner. I’m often so busy trying out new places that I forget what is in my own backyard.
Z Bar is terrific at lunch with a great menu of tempting salads and wonderful freshly made soups. They do a white bean and sausage tomato based soup that is unbeatable. They make a turkey/spinach/feta burger that is served with a creamy tomato basil sauce and thin-sliced oven roasted potatoes. The Caesar salad is among the best in town, and especially marvelous with the beef tenderloin. The daily specials are always good and change according to fresh ingredients and the chef’s whim. I have never gone wrong when I ordered one of the specials.
When your waitress asks you whether you want the bread, always answer in the affirmative. It is baked to order and served with a red-pepper flaked, parmesan sprinkled, olive oil dipping sauce. We manage to rip through a couple of loaves as soon as they arrive.
The cold fall night when we went for dinner, I was craving their pasta bolognese. The nightly special, however, was a rabbit ragu and I couldn’t pass it up. I am so glad. Rabbit is not so common on local menus and it has so much flavor and this rich ragu was hearty and deep. It was too much to finish, but when I had it as leftovers a few days later, I revisited my utter joy at tasting the dish. Z-Bar makes a great filet, and has a sushi grade Tuna nicoise salad that is never disappointing.
There are always several desserts that are worthy of the meal we just finished. A bananas foster cheesecake was on the menu today, along with chocolate mousse and tiramisu.
It feels a bit like Cheers when you get to know Z Bar. The daytime bartender is a glorious redhead named Elizabeth, who upon seeing my friends, has my diet coke on the table, which she refills endlessly. She is funny and fun and never misses what is going on in this restaurant she has managed for years. One time I called ahead and said to the foreign speaking person who answered the phone, tell Elizabeth I am coming and please save me the booth. She came to my table (not booth) when I arrived and showed me the message. “Debby is coming, save all the booze.” I may not have gotten the booth, but she never forgot who I was after that, and I am treated like a queen. At Z Bar, that is the norm.