Saturday, May 18, 2024

Dining First Look: Zinc Cafe & Market in West Hollywood

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The New Year is here! For many of us it’s a good time to kickstart some healthier eating habits—or at least emerge from Christmas food comas. Whatever your situation, the new outpost of Zinc, an all day café and market, has opened on Melrose Avenue, offering tasty meals that won’t bust your budget or gut.

After 20 years waiting for a West Hollywood location to become available, owner John Secretan has built a light-filled indoor space with a seductive garden in back that he’s filled with olive trees and climate-appropriate plantings. The outdoor space is important to Secretan, having studied landscape design before joining his mother, Rosemarie, in opening the first location in Laguna Beach in 1988.

The first thing you see as you enter the front door, is a buffet line. Ever since schooldays of cafeteria queues, I haven’t liked buffets. Everyone has a few peccadillos. I prefer to think of them as personal preferences, opinions, if you will. Even an elaborate brunch buffet at a $1000-a-night hotels is still just a line to me. Ugh.

Zinc saves the day, allowing guests to choose between picking up their food from the counter or being served at the table. In the large front room, a friendly host seated us with menus and we ordered from the wait staff. Then and only then, did we get up to see what was on offer at the buffet. My eating pal likes to see what the food looks like, and even I enjoyed browsing along, asking questions of the guys behind the counter. That’s not say, I’m a convert, but I definitely liked the experience simply because they offered me an option other than just the dreaded line.

We were in for brunch soon after they opened and found it pleasantly busy, with the neighborhood retailers, artist types and families, the buzz of conversation all around us. Zinc is a vegetarian restaurant, though it doesn’t announce itself as such. They want the kind of vegetarian who might balk at the idea of “all veggies” to be happy. Like my dining companions, who had no idea even after they finished the meal that it was 100 percent vegetarian. In fact, we overheard one diner say, “Who cares? It’s good.”

Zinc’s Mushroom Dijon Burger is a triumph. (Courtesy Zinc)

Healthy yes, but they’re not pursed lip prudes. Zinc has lots of desserts, muffins and scones, and smartly offer a carefully curated wine list—in case you need a New Year’s hair of the dog.

The Scrambled Eggs & Leeks ($14) were softly scrambled, the bright leeks perking up the dish. The Mushroom Dijon Burger ($15) was a triumphant melding of mushrooms and Gruyere cheese topped with arugula. Adding the Zinc Fries ($8), which can be tossed with za’atar, truffle or thyme, was a genius choice. They cleverly make their pizzas ($18-$20) gluten free or as usual. They have a range of soups and salads, entrees including pasta, a burrito and of course a Grain Bowl ($15).

Zinc is a neighborhood place, which just happens to be healthy, making it a cheerful destination for good food and drink, meeting old friends and making new.

Zinc Café and Market, West Hollywood

8607 Melrose Avenue


Hours: Monday – Sunday 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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