A Blogger Tasting at Zesto Burgers & Ice Cream

This week I organized a blogger/food writer tasting at Zesto Burgers & Ice Cream at 2600 New Walkertown Road in Winston-Salem. Algenon Cash and his team knocked it out of the park as they do every time I eat there. But, this time it was to sample just about everything on the menu. And, when we left, there was not one of us who needed to eat the rest of the day. In fact, Stephanie, Trey and I didn’t.

BLT

The three of us were joined by my co-host Ray Morgan, Tim Clodfelter from the Winston-Salem Journal, Carroll Leggett, Nikki Miller-Ka and Ja’Net Adams. Once the food started coming, it seemed like it never stopped coming. So, I’m going to recap what we ate but know that as the day went on, I got a little food fatigue and may be vague in my descriptions. Also, we may have tasted a few things in a different order than the other writers, so if you read their accounts it’s not in any real order, here.

Let’s get to it!

Let’s start with the BLT. Who doesn’t love a BLT? All buns and bread sold and served at Zesto are now from Martin’s Bread out of Pennsylvania. Trey and I use Martin’s buns when we make “Beeman Burgers.” The butter bread from Martin’s is what this is on. It replaced the old “Texas Toast” that it used to be on and adds another dimension to the sandwich alongside the hardwood smoked bacon with lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo. Great stuff.

The Chuckwagon

Shrimp Po’Boy

Up next was the spicy veggie burger, which is a black bean burger and, surprisingly I liked it. Usually, my burger needs to be some kind of sacrificial animal but I could have one of these and be happy, only if there was no meat to be seen. But, Stephanie, who loves and pushes veggies on me thought it was good. The general consensus at the table was that it was good, but some said it may be too spicy for those not into spicier foods. I liked it.

The Chuckwagon was next which is basically chopped beef with onion and spices, battered in buttermilk with lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo. Stephanie gets this a lot and she’s a fan. It’s not in my top of what we had, but that just shows that Zesto has something for everyone’s tastes. I know a few others who think this may be their favorite item on the menu.

Carolina Cheesesteak

Some of the more exotic sandwiches on the menu was the shrimp po’boy and I understand it’s not really exotic but for a “burger joint” it is. Lightly battered and fried popcorn shrimp, in a healthy portion, on a hoagie roll with lettuce, pickles, and chipotle mayo. This may or may not be on Martin’s bread but it was very good. I had it late in the afternoon so I don’t know that I got the full effect because I was being the “full effect.” A great visual sandwich, too

Chicken Philly

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Algenon and Jasmine brought out a few baskets of fries with the first round of samples, so that added to the fullness. They also brought out an order of their crispy and their charred wings. The sauces available for the wings are “Buffalo,” the spicy honey, BBQ and one more, that I didn’t catch. I had one of the crispy wings and they nailed it. Later they also brought sweet potato fries topped with a house-made seasoning which I know consists of maple sugar. I’m not a fan of sweet potatoes or sweet potato fries so I passed, but everyone else seemed to enjoy them.

I never realized how much I love Philly Cheesesteaks but lately, I’ve been finding cheesesteaks that are really up my alley. We were served two different styles, the “Carolina” cheesesteak and a chicken Philly. Zesto’s is just the right size, not too large that you feel bloated afterward and not to small that you feel you don’t get what you paid for. The steak was juicy and the mushrooms, peppers, and onions were just right with the creaminess of the provolone. That really goes for the chicken Philly, too. In fact, as much as I never choose chicken over beef, for this sandwich, I choose chicken. It was really good!

Chicken Tenders

A hot dog is a hot dog and I will say that while there isn’t anything that jumps out and grabs you about the Zesto hot dogs, they are certainly a solid hot dog. It is everything you want it to be and the toppings are fresh. I have one about once every two weeks or so, much to Stephanie’s chagrin. I just like them.

Chicken sandwich with BBQ sauce

One of the biggest surprises for many of us at the table was the chicken tenders. I know when I think of chicken tenders, there is always some flattened, over-breaded sliver of chicken, usually overly fried and tasting of last week’s cooking oil. This, especially from other restaurants or bars. Tenders at Zesto do not fit any of those descriptions… at all. They are chunks of real chicken that are perfectly fried and you taste the chicken and not the over-done breading (because there is none of that). You can get dipping sauces, as well.

Chubby Decker

Next, we tried The Classic Chicken. 100% natural, fresh, and marinated chicken breast served charred, grilled, or crispy with lettuce, pickles, and mayo and, of course, on those fantastic Martin’s potato buns. We also tried the sweet bbq chicken (sauced) and the spicy honey chicken. I really enjoyed the flavor of the bbq and I have the spicy honey often, too. I enjoy that spicy honey sauce on the pork chop sandwich, too. We didn’t try that, but I like it. You can’t go wrong with the sauced chicken sandwiches.

Patty Melt

The next item I was no stranger to. In fact, I have one at least once a week. This is the Chubby Decker, double cheeseburger and it is so good. I have called it, and I reiterate, my #1 burger in town. Is it the best in town? I don’t know, because that’s subjective, but I know it’s the one I enjoy eating the most. I usually get mine without lettuce and add a little onion.  I get this so much that Joe (behind the counter) doesn’t even ask how I want it, he just rings it up. I’m there a lot, can you tell? Anyway, I stand by this burger. We also had a pimento and bacon burger, as well.

We got to sample the patty melt. The other side of the table got to try it earlier when we were still getting ramped up. We had one made specifically for us at our table and by the time we had it, it was past our stop time. Zesto makes theirs with a beef patty, top it with steak, grilled onions and American cheese on two pieces of the delicious butter bread from Martin’s, nice and grilled and the meat was juicy. I will definitely have another of these when I can enjoy it more.

Ribs

The topper to everything was the ribs. Yes, I said ribs. Zesto’s sauce is slathered on and they’re grilled to where the meat just falls off the bone. Ray said he has ribs all over town and he’d put these up against anyones in town. That’s saying something because there are a lot of places that do it well. I really enjoyed eating them. Tangy and acidic, as they should be, the meat literally can be pulled directly off the bone. I think we were all surprised how good these things were. It was certainly a treat and they came at the end, so even as stuffed as everyone was, we still made room for the ribs.

One thing that Zesto strives to do is make it possible for you to come in and get a meal for $10 or less per person. If you get add-ons, that will be an increase, but for the most part, meals (fries and a drink) come in right around $10. The ribs are a little bit more, but c’mon, they’re ribs.

Soft-serve ice cream, milkshakes, malteds, cones, cups and “concretes” which is soft-serve milkshakes with your choice of premium toppings and blended at high speed to produce a tasty concrete.

Zesto Burgers & Ice Cream is a fantastic little fast casual restaurant. Yes, it’s fast food but it’s not traditional fast food which is why I don’t mind eating it, sometimes more than once a week. What can I say? I love this place. I think you’ll love it, too. Ray and I will be talking about our experiences on the next podcast. We will go into more details about the food than even here, I’m sure. Again, I am telling you, you really need to go try out Zesto Burgers.

From the Home Kitchen: The Introduction

No rights assumed for this picture.

This blog has always been about food. That’s why it’s called The Man Who ATE the Town. I have always focused on restaurants in Winston-Salem and fear not… that’s what I will continue to do; no doubt. I moved into being a food news source, as well. Most of that again, focusing on WSNC, but sometimes venturing outside of that realm when need be. Then I added the podcast on The Less Desirables Podcast Network (which I also own). All of that is fun and good and I’m not stopping any of that.

But one thing has changed for me. I’m cooking at home more, now. Why? Don’t I like eating in restaurants as much? Well, yes. I absolutely love eating in restaurants. Truth be known, I’d much rather eat out all the time, but it’s not financially feasible or realistic. There are two main reasons why I’m doing this, now. My wife and my son. There’s a lot of other smaller reasons but those are the two biggest.

On Thursdays, my son, Trey, and I have “guy time.” That time includes us cooking a meal together and watching a movie (currently that means the James Bond series). I’m hoping that he develops a love for food like I have. He gets to do a good bit of the chopping and stove work. We do some simple stuff and some intermediate level stuff. A little this. A little that.

On Sundays, I have Trey with me, as well. The bonus is that Stephanie is home with us, as well. So, we have started cooking, the three of us, together. We each take our places in the fray and do what we need to do to make the best meals we can. It’s fun. We get bonding time and we get great food out of it. Mostly. Sometimes we overdo something or underdo something. We’re not professional chefs or cooks, we just do what we can. I’d say we’re professional eaters, though. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I like to say it.

So, that brings me to the reason of this post. This is the start of a new column that I’m going to write called: From the Home Kitchen. I will be writing this to highlight the creations that my boy and my wife and I make. If you don’t hear about it, don’t think that I’m going to forget about it, we’ve really messed something up or we didn’t do anything. Sometimes we make things that aren’t that exciting or sometimes we may actually mess up, you never know. Just be on the look out for it. I’ll leave recipes when possible and pictures, as well.

I hope you enjoy it and I’d love to know if you tried the recipes or if you have recipes that you want to share with me that we can do. A few things to remember, onions are okay as long as they’re minced very finely, shallots are okay in the same instance, no asparagus, no grapefruit. Those are the rules. If you have recipes, send them to me via email. As always, thank you for reading and thank you for listening to the podcast…

Slàinte!

Goodbye Tart & Tangy Triad, Hello to…

Since July, 2013, I, along with my wife, Stephanie and local food celebrity, Nikki Miller-Ka, have been co-hosting a food podcast that focused on the Triad, NC and surrounding areas. Tart & Tangy Triad has been the food podcast on The Less Desirables Network. We focused on food news and provided our own food views. We’ve had a few local chefs as guests over the years. We’ve broken news of restaurant openings, closings and chef changes. We’ve attended events and reported on what we learned or did. And, we’ve done a lot of restaurant reviews.

Well, allow this post to be the official announcement from The Less Desirables Network, that Tart & Tangy Triad, is no more. Nikki and The Beemans have decided to pursue different endeavors. We are retiring the name Tart & Tangy Triad, although it will remain property of The Less Desirables Network.Fear not, Nikki will be starting a new vlog coming late spring/early summer, 2016.

Also, The Less Desirables Network will not be without a food podcast for very long. And this is why I’m writing this blog post, today. The new food podcast will be called… wait for it… “The Man Who Ate the Town: a Food Podcast.” I will be enlisting the help of local food folks including chefs, other food writers and everyday food fans to make this show more “your” show and focus on only a few topics every week; not to overload the “palate,” if you will. No more ninety minute shows. The plan is to keep it to around 15-25 minutes, max. No fillers, no preservatives. Additionally, in conjunction, there will a very short video to accompany the podcast and this blog. I will be requisitioning the name “Appetizer” from Tart & Tangy Triad as the name of that video.

The start date hasn’t been determined as of yet, but I do envision the podcast and video starting around the first week of May; perhaps at the same time, perhaps not. Of course, the blog will continue as usual, and the plan is to up the frequency of the posts. So, tell your friends, read up and prepare to listen and see more of The Man Who Ate the Town in your near future. We, the former Tart & Tangy Triad, appreciate all of the listeners of the podcast and and watchers of the video. Followers of our Twitter and Facebook accounts, we thank you, too. I can’t wait to see and hear from you all on the new endeavor and I hope you’d follow those of this blog. You can find my Twitter, here. The Facebook, here.

Thank you all for everything.