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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.