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A Sedate Spring Lunch at Zed’s

This entry is part of a series, Restaurants»

Zed's

Usually I eat lunch at home these days. Oh, I have plenty of time mid-day, and there are lots of options for lunch in the area. However, I don’t like eating alone, and wifeyperson has a Real Job that often keeps her chained in her cell busy enough she can’t afford to leave campus for a meal. It’s a good thing I cook large for dinner, so she always has plenty of chef quality leftovers for her lunches!

I made an exception today, though. I really, really wanted to go out, and PJ said she was available. So I fired up the Red Beast (poor wittle car, hadn’t been out for a spin in days) and zoomed over to her office to pick her up.

Once she was aboard, the only decision left to make was where to go. After a few false starts (meaning, I didn’t want the usuals), PJ reminded me of a newish place nearby: Zed’s Restaurant. A quick left turn or two and we were there.

First thing we noticed: The parking area was full and overflowing into the lot next door. It was just going on noon too, so I knew that was a good sign about their food. Seating options, though, maybe not so much. We parked and hurried in out of the bright Austin sunshine.

The walkway into the reception area has stone; lots of stone under foot and on a big wall, with flowing water. Very striking, and at the same time soothing. The building isn’t quite like any eatery we’ve visited before, either. Very architectural and stylish, with more stone and plenty of glass, shiny metal and dark woods. Combined with the luscious smells that flow out of the main entrance, the effect is almost stunning. You spend a lot of time looking around. I was so taken with the structure and furnishings that I completely missed what our greeter was saying, and he repeated it all with a smile that said he was used to that.

The indoors seating was pretty much all taken, except at the bar. (Several stools were occupied there as well.) We were led out onto the patio and shown to a cozy table for two, along the railing. Our table was partly in the shade and partly in bright sunshine, a deep contrast that accented the themes of stone and metal. We had a wonderful view across the lawn and down into the flowing water of the nearby creek. That lawn is ideal for outdoor concerts, I thought. (Turns out I was right; more on that later.)

Service was fast, unobtrusive and friendly. As soon as we were seated we were presented with a basket of hot rolls and honeyed butter. With a tall glass of iced tea handy to ward off the afternoon’s warmth, I perused the menu. Zed’s has different menus for lunch and for dinner, a specialization you don’t often find these days. Right away you notice touches in the dishes that signal chef-style food. For instance, the appetizers. Lots of places serve calamari; you know, those chewy little rings made from squid? Well, Zed’s serves theirs with banana peppers, pickles and a special, spicy sauce. No Ranch dressing from a bottle here! The also have ribs, taquitos, baked goat cheese, shrimp and baby portabellas, each with a distinctive treatment. And that’s just on the appetizers column.

Chicken Fried Steak

Paula Jo and I chatted about her work day while the sunshine moved across our table and we received more cooling shade. Time to order an entrée. Quickly I zeroed in on what I consider to be the definitive test of an American-style restaurant in Texas: Can they cook a decent chicken-fried steak? I skipped right by the generous selection of salads (we were planning rabbit food for dinner), and only spent a few minutes vigorously drooling over considering Zed’s hand-made burgers and sandwiches. PJ ordered their Big Pig, a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and a generous garnish that included jalapeño slices.

We’d barely given up the menus to our server when our meals arrived. It was so fast I was sure they had brought somebody else’s meal! This place understands that many folks have to get back to work after lunch, and they may not have a long while to eat. I was very impressed. Our tea glasses were never allowed to go empty either.

To make a short story long: Yes, Zed’s can do a Texas-quality chicken fried steak. With stomped taters on the side. And plenty of rich gravy on everything. (I asked for extra, they obliged.) Paula’s sandwich was served open-face and looked scrumptious.That meal could easily feed two diners, especially if they’d already had some appetizers. I snitched some of the meat, and it was every bit as tasty as it looked. The pork was tender and smoky, and not buried in sauce as some places serve. Oh, the sauce was good too, as it’s made on-site using Shiner Bock beer. I’m sure they’d bring more sauce if you asked, but the flavor as served was fine, with plenty to complement the meat.

By the end we were full enough that we reluctantly declined to view the dessert menu. We’ll go back some evening for appetizers and desserts, one of our favorite ways to enjoy dinner. And if we go on the right evenings there’ll be live music. Zed’s has shows on the green, many nights when the weather permits. Usually the performances start by 6:30 P.M., and they’re done about 10 or so; don’t want to upset the neighbors! Zed’s also has adult beverages, and Happy Hour comes around twice a day: About the time work finishes up, and then again at 9 P.M. So consider Zed’s to be yet another great Austin location for enjoying live music and unwinding after work.

I give Zed’s a high rating at this point, say 8 or 9 out of 10 chiles. I really need to go a couple more times, at least once in the evening, before locking that in. Their prices are reasonable (say, $$ out of $$$$), especially for the pleasant atmosphere and great service in addition to the tasty, chef-prepared meals.

Zed’s is in north Austin just a bit off the beaten path, and you may not notice their sign from the highway. If you’re coming north, take the Parmer exit of the freeway and turn onto Canyon Ridge Drive. If you’re headed south on I-35, take the Parmer exit, cross over the Interstate and go down the hill to the first light (near Dell’s Parmer campus). Turn right on McCallen Pass, then right on Canyon Ridge. You can’t hardly miss it. (Okay, I did, once; but I was looking the wrong way.)

Zed's on Urbanspoon

Zed’s Restaurant, 501 Canyon Ridge Dr., Austin, TX 78753 Phone 512.339.ZEDS Open seven days a week: Sunday-Wednesday, 11-11; Thursday-Saturday, 11-Midnight. Happy Hour every day, 3-7. Online reservations through their website for parties up to six diners; larger parties are encouraged to call the restaurant. Outside seating, weather permitting. Check the website regularly for info on live music and other special events. Menu changes seasonally.

Enjoy the (New Austin “In” Spot) Heat!

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  2. Restaurant Review: Gumbo's Louisiana Style Café
  3. Restaurant Review: Chola Indian Restaurant
  4. Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin
  5. Restaurant Review: Casa Garcia's Tex-Mex Restaurant
  6. Review: Mesa Rosa Mexican Restaurant
  7. Restaurant Review: Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House
  8. Restaurant Review Update: Fujian Grand China Buffet Restaurant
  9. Restaurant Review: Pho Viet Restaurant
  10. Sunday Brunch Anniversary Celebration: Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar and Grill
  11. Late-Lunch Steaks at the Blue Oak Grill
  12. Mama Roux: So Good There's A Song About It, Sort Of...
  13. Phil's Ice House, an Austin-Weird Place for Great Burgers
  14. Easter Sunday Dinner: A Poor Experience at a Usually Reliable Locale
  15. A Sedate Spring Lunch at Zed’s
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  23. A Little Bit of the French Quarter, Here in Central Texas
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  26. Casa G’s for Lunch (Hint: It’s Awesome)
  27. Chola Indian Restaurant: A Good Indian Eatery Gets Better
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