- James Coller/Daily
By Conrad Foreman, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 24, 2013
Brunch (noun): the mystical meal that bridges breakfast for the late-risers with lunch for the early birds in a hellacious fury of scrumdiddlyumptiousness.
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Brunch is a wonderful thing. At any joint with a good brunch menu, the spread includes everything from standard scrambled eggs to artisan sandwiches and a plethora of deliciousness in between.
It was on a cold Monday that I set out for a perfect brunch-date experience at Café Zola, a place I’d heard about from several people but had never visited myself. To me, it had always been one of those places, to borrow a phrase from Yogi Berra, where nobody goes because it’s always too crowded.
Our timing on this day couldn’t have been better, though, as we walked into a mostly empty Zola (apparently other people don’t think 3 o’clock is a normal meal time — poppycock). We were promptly seated and left with water, menus and the daunting task of deciding what to order.
I’d never tried crepes before, so I ordered the complete savory crepe filled with egg, ham and cheese — with a side of potatoes, of course (Breakfast!). My lady friend chose the Italian sandwich (Lunch!). I also got a cappuccino, because I like to pretend to be an adult when I go out to eat.
I devoured my crepe and potatoes while, across the table, someone could only finish half of her loaded sandwich (no complaints on her part — she had won the leftover lottery).
After our tummies were filled and our plates cleared, I had the chance to chat with Lucia Lagoy, the assistant to the owners, Hediye Batu and Alan Zakalik. First things first, I had to ask about the enormous menu.
“They designed the place to be a café that did crepes and coffee,” Lagoy said. “That’s kind of how it started. We didn’t have the dinner menu until about five years ago; they added that later on. Over time, they built the menu, but it started off as a smaller operation.”
Crepes and coffee … sounds oddly familiar. So what was the inspiration for this expansion from a simple coffee-and-crepes place to the smorgasbord of foods from all over the world that Zola offers today?
“Hediye is Turkish, and Alan is Polish,” Lagoy explained. “And they have a lot of international friends.”
Variety is all well and good, but what really makes a great restaurant is the quality, not quantity, of the menu options. Of course, Café Zola offers an abundance of both.
“One thing I’d want to emphasize about our menu here is that everything is either made in-house, or we get it from the very best suppliers,” Lagoy said. “Our maple syrup comes from a company in Michigan, up north. We could get maple syrup from Vermont, but we get it from Michigan because we try to support local businesses when we can, but we’re always looking for the best ingredients.”
Lagoy went on to rave about some of her favorite brunch menu items.
“We make eggs right,” she said. “Our potatoes are delicious. They’re not hash browns; they’re roasted rosemary potatoes, cut really well — we cut them by hand.”
Not even the coffee was free from her ringing praise.
“It comes from a company called La Colombe. … They just make amazing coffee, and they’re also a company that’s really into ethics and helping out communities.”
But those are Lagoy’s taste buds speaking. What do the people love? According to Lagoy, the Turkish eggs and the crab cake benedict are two of the most popular items on the brunch menu, along with the farmhouse and artichoke omelets.
Of course, a bad atmosphere can ruin even the best of meals. But even here Zola excels, providing a friendly experience and interesting decoration, including a diverse set of pictures lining the walls and a concrete bar.
“At Zola, we strive to give somebody a whole experience,” Lagoy said. “It’s not just about the atmosphere; it’s not just about the food and the service. Our staff, our team, what we look for is to give someone an overall great experience.