NOTE: Zebra’s has closed. In a very ironic twist of fate (or perhaps karma), Living Kitchen, a mostly-raw, vegan restaurant, opened in their space May 1, 2017.
Foie gras has just been banned in California!
Unfortunately, it’s still legal – and popular – in North Carolina. Which prompts me to write a review – or rather a warning – of one of Charlotte’s most veg-unfriendly restaurants – Zebra.
In addition to being one of Charlotte’s most veg-unfriendly restaurants, Zebra is also one of Charlotte’s most popular. Located in an office building in the heart of the SouthPark business district, it’s a popular spot for business dinners and company parties. It’s a four-diamond, award winning restaurant and a constant darling of food critics. A typical gushing review by Heidi Edidin of The Leader – “Zebra’s menu is spectacular… There is more foie gras available on this menu than almost all other Charlotte restaurants combined!”
What a recommendation! NOT!
Chances are, even though you’re veg, at some point in time you will be with a friend or colleague who wants to dine at Zebra. I’ve been there many times myself. Several times for company dinners and functions (where I had absolutely no say in choice of dining venue). And several times with my dad. When Zebra first opened, I was transitioning to veg and still eating a little fish. I must admit the smoked salmon (“Zebra Short Smoked Potato Crisp Salmon, Asparagus and Beurre Blanc”) was awesome! It wasn’t long, though, before I stopped eating all animal flesh. It was then I noticed the menu was a slap in the face to vegetarians and vegans. A hard slap. How can such an award-winning, critically acclaimed restaurant have so very, very little for us, unless it is a deliberate decision?
Here’s what Zebra has to offer. At lunch, you can have a salad of lettuce, pine nuts, feta cheese, capers, olives, lemon juice and olive oil – $9.50. (Vegans would have to leave off the cheese, of course.) Or, there’s “Chilled Angel Hair Pasta Salad with Tomato Confit, Basil, Olives, Roasted Portobello, Roasted Red Bell Peppers, Charred Red Onion, Asparagus and Reggiano Parmesan – 11.95”. This I’ve had and it’s an icy cold pasta salad, tasty enough, very light on the vegetables and more like a side dish. (It would be perfect, for example, as a side for a veggie burger.) If you are hungry and wanting something substantial – or maybe just something warm – this won’t satisfy.
But at least the lunch menu is better than the dinner menu, which has only 3 possible starter salads ranging from $10-$11 and not one single vegetarian entree.
Not a single token offering.
I suppose you could always ask the chef, Jim Alexander, to prepare a special veggie dish for you, but at a four diamond restaurant – why should you have to? And, while I’m pretty open about my veggie status, if I’m at a restaurant because of a business or client function, I don’t always want to draw attention to my choices by asking the chef to make a special dish that’s not on the menu.
Worse, if you became veg out of concern for animals, this restaurant regularly showcases what I consider extra-cruel meats: veal, lamb, and not one, not two, but three foie gras dishes on their current menu.
Ironically, Zebra seems to pride itself on being extra-ethical. On the menu, they list “free range chicken” under the foie gras sliders (a little kindness for chickens but none for ducks and geese!) and stating: “Zebra supports local, organic and sustainable farming. We source the finest local, regional and global foods. We cook from scratch, applying classic technique and methodology. We recycle.”
Maybe, but they still have “more foie gras on the menu than almost all other Charlotte restaurants combined!”
And no respect for vegetarians.
- California Foie Gras Ban Kicks In (huffingtonpost.com)
- Hey Californians: Here Are The 11 Weirdest Foie Gras Dishes That It’s Now Illegal To Put In Your Mouth (businessinsider.com)