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New Zest mixes up a cocktail bar with health-conscious food

Published November 15, 2012 12:59 pm

Bar exam • Former owner of W Lounge serves organic wine, beer and spirits — and vegetarian fare.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As the name suggests, the new Zest Kitchen & Bar combines a supper club concept with a vegetarian menu.

It's on 200 West, between 200 and 300 South, where Hapa Taqueria — and before that, Acme Burger — used to be. It's operated by Casey Staker, who owned the now-closed W Lounge.

"We focus on organic, local, sustainable ingredients on both our kitchen and bar menu," said Staker, noting that the club also offers organic wines, beers and spirits.

Besides sustainable food and fresh drinks, there's live music and dancing, which Staker said is aimed to give the club a more East Coast or European vibe.

Staker said he's always wanted to be able to serve food with cocktails. "I decided to take it to the next level and open a bar with an amazing kitchen," he said. "Now we make cocktails with fresh herbs and fresh-squeezed juices." Prices range from $9-$16 for large plates and $5-$12 for small plates.

On a recent visit, my husband and I started with a couple of the Nutty X's ($8), a triple espresso vodka martini with Frangelico and almond milk; then he tried a Hangover Hydrator ($6), coconut water with organic coconut vodka. (Fun fact: Did you know Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine and country superstar Blake Shelton use coconut water to ease their hangovers?) Both drinks were full of taste but not overpowering, and paired well with the food we ordered.

We visited the bar around 10:30 p.m., so we were seeking just a snack. We were impressed by the cucumber slices with cashew cheese ($7), a simple dish consisting of four raw slices, each with a generous dollop of topping. Though the plate sounds snooze-worthy, each bite actually offered a pleasurable taste explosion, which was also true of the large slice of carrot cake ($6) that followed.

I'd like to go back to Zest and try the kalamata olive-stuffed marinated mushrooms ($8) and the stuffed avocado with spicy seasoned walnuts, lettuce, salsa and cashew sour cream ($12). It's worth noting that the menu clearly states which items contain dairy, so it's easy to navigate.

The overall vibe at Zest is friendly but laid-back. The bar has been arranged so it's one large space. As you enter, the dance floor is in front of you, flanked with comfortable bench seating and decorated with a to-die-for chandelier. The bar, with more seating, is on your right, with the kitchen behind that, then the rest of the space is occupied with a mixture of tables and chairs for dining and watching the action. Food photography by local artist Spencer Baugh hangs on the walls.

Besides the atmosphere, I loved the music; the DJ who was opening that night was playing mainly old-school hip-hop, my absolute favorite, and the volume was at a level where you could still hear people talk.

Zest is a lot like W, only better, because it now has food and atmosphere.

features@sltrib.com

Zest Kitchen & Bar

This 21-and-older establishment offers hand-crafted cocktails paired with seasonal cuisine. The sophisticated, social atmosphere features live music, DJs and dancing.

Where » 275 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City; 801-433-0589 or ZestSLC.com

Open » 4 p.m.-1 a.m., serving food until midnight, Tuesday through Saturday. Dance hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Events • Wine Wednesday should be starting soon, with specials on by-the-glass organic wines. Stir Fridays dance party with Flash & Flare, and house music on Saturdays with Jesse Walker, Alastair, MamaBeatz, Justin Rinker and Trevor Armani.

Details » Walk-ins and reservations for parties of eight or more guests are accepted. Available for holiday parties and catering.