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Review: Zeal

Published on: June 16th, 2014

Zeal is located on a stretch of Pearl Street that comingles classic favorites with the new. Quintessential Boulder haunts like The Laughing Goat and Full Cycle are across the street, while fellow contemporary eateries like Pizzeria Locale are just a coin’s toss (or you know, a Ben Franklin’s toss) away. The coveted spot suits Zeal, a new restaurant which itself draws from classic influences and merges them with modern.

Industrial in design, you’ll notice exposed everything right off; and that’s the point. “Everything is open and it’s all about transparency,” tells Zeal’s culinary director Arik Markus. With everything out there for all to see—the kitchen, the juicer, the snappily-dressed wait staff—the relaxed feel of the space rivals that of your own dining room.
But not everything is so clear-cut. The menu, which features 95% organic and mostly locally-sourced food, also warrants that Google be at your fingertips while figuring out your order. Dulse (a type of seaweed) and pepitas (squash seeds) are delicious, but I had to first figure out what they are.

Once you do figure it out, you’ll be rewarded with nourishing, quality ingredients. Nearly everything is simple in nature but full of bold flavor, like the bowl of chili lime pepitas which easily substitute for a spicy chip that’s hard to stop shoveling into your mouth. Or the loosely-named Caesar salad, which combines massive grilled romaine wedges with a sweet avocado and lemon dressing, sprinkled with a coating of raw brazil nuts in lieu of parmesan cheese.

The range of dishes brings in timeless elements from all over the world, namely the Middle East, north Africa and Asia—like the chicken Tom Kha soup or tempeh and beet reuben. It’s one of the ways that the restaurant positions itself to stand out amid an upswing of health-conscious faster food dining. (The blue mason jar glasses, chalkboard and other hipster nods don’t hurt, either.)

And while you might have a hard time swallowing some of the prices (upwards of $8 for a smoothie), keep in mind that it’s all GMO-free and extremely conscious of customers’ dietary restrictions. The menu even comes with a guide to what is vegan, what has dairy, soy, nuts, etc. As someone with a food allergy, I appreciate this. But note that if you don’t have Celiac disease and you do still consider gluten to be a friend, you’ll have to hunt for the two items here that aren’t exclusive of the substance.

As its name tells you, Zeal is excited about offering food that’s sustainable—both in terms of the environment and your body. As such, no matter what meal or snack of the day you stop in for, they have you covered—and probably with something that includes chia, hemp milk or cashew cheese (look it up). In the quest to eat better, Zeal is eager to take what you’ve thought of as health food and raise you a quinoa.

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