Tired of looking to Europe for a model of traditional cuisine?
Zingerman’s Roadhouse, the seventh and most recent addition
to the Zingerman’s Business Community, celebrates the rich
mélange of culinary traditions that have evolved from the
American melting pot. The Roadhouse, since its opening Sept. 15,
has been tempting customers with “really good American
food.” If this seems like a grand departure from the
innovative Jewish deli that initially brought fame to the
Zingerman’s name, it shouldn’t.

“Each business that we do has to be unique within our
context of values because we don’t really like to start out
with six of the same thing. It gets kind of boring and
they’re never as good as the first,” says co-founder
Ari Weinzweig.

Painted in warm red and yellow hues and adorned with framed map
collages, the walls of the Roadhouse are just as comforting as the
savory scents wafting from the kitchen. Hopefully the aroma
won’t tease your stomach too much because you might be facing
quite a line. Customers have turned out in large numbers —
exceeding Weinzweig’s expectations. If you lack the time or
the patience to wait, keep an eye out for an empty stool at the bar
where you have the option of full service. Weather permitting,
there are an additional 80 seats on the outdoor patio.

A quick glance at the menu, dominated by Southern fare,
reaffirms the Zingerman’s commitment to quality ingredients
and the depth of the research involved in the preparation of the
dishes. The flipside of the menu reveals an extensive domestic wine
list and the limitless options of a full bar.

Upon sitting down, fresh bread and butter were brought to the
table, showcasing the new Roadhouse bread, made with wheat, rye,
cornmeal and sweetened with molasses from a recipe popular in New
England in the 18th century. The meal began with a wild mushroom
ragout of sautéed wild mushrooms with baby leeks, baby
fennel, brandy, veal stock and herbs. It was tasty, but the
delicate flavor of mushrooms was dominated by garlic, leaving the
texture of mushrooms as the only indication that they were actually
a part of the dish.

Entrées include specialties such as pulled BBQ pork,
fried catfish, cornmeal fried perch and pot roast. I indulged
myself with pit roasted Niman Ranch pork loin served atop corn
grits and a soy bean succotash. The pork was tender and flavorful,
laboriously prepared in the whole-hog style of Eastern North
Carolina barbecue, but it was the grits that stole the show.

I have been converted. As a bona fide Yankee, I was never
particularly fond of grits. This is because, as Weinzweig admitted,
most of the grits that people have been exposed to taste
“like library paste which people have an emotional attachment
to because they grew up on it but it really doesn’t taste
good. But when you taste the good ones, they are good.”

At the Roadhouse, the germ (the embryo of the corn kernel),
which contains the bulk of the flavor, has not been removed,
leaving the grits with a very natural corn taste which, when
blended with Vermont cheddar produces a delightful result. The
hearty portion size prevents anyone from leaving hungry.

If you are looking for a smaller meal, the Roadhouse burger is
exceptional and redefines the concept of burger. Made with Niman
Ranch free range beef, ground twice daily, and trimmings from the
steaks, the burgers are grilled over oak wood giving the meat a
distinctive smoky flavor that accents the true taste of the beef.
Vegetarian options are fairly limited to the meatless macaroni
& cheese dishes, grits and a variety of salads.

A number of tempting options vie for the sweet finishing touch,
including Yankee style strawberry shortcake, pecan pie and homemade
s’mores.

The Roadhouse is still striving for perfection. Service was
slow, and confusion behind the bar revealed a freshly trained wait
staff. Though the crowd is mature and the off-campus location
requires a car, students should still check out the Roadhouse for
themselves. Entrées are a bit pricey for the student budget,
ranging from $17.50-$23.00, but burgers and sandwiches can provide
an equally satisfying and less expensive option.

Zingerman’s Roadhouse is located at 2501 Jackson Road.
Open Monday-Friday 11am-11pm and Sat and Sunday 10am-11pm. No
reservations accepted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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