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.


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


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.


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.

A Roundtable of Food at Uncle Buzzy’s

This Wednesday, I was invited to a “food blogger” tasting at the town’s favorite fried foods joint, Uncle Buzzy’s. I got to hang out and eat a ton of food with my foodie friends Michael Hastings (food editor at Winston-Salem Journal, who you’ll hear me talk about on the podcast a good bit), Tim Clodfelter (also a WSJ guy), Nikki Miller-Ka (WSNC’s very first food blogger) and Carroll Leggett (food hype man extraordinaire also mentioned on the podcast some).

We passed around a lot of food. We sat around a small round table and they had to pull another table just to stage the stuff because we went through so much. I joked at the end about someone putting me in a wheelbarrow to get me to my car. We “tasted” 10-12 items and these weren’t small portions. I didn’t eat again until midday Thursday. I can keep telling you it was a lot, but I can also show you what I’m talking about.

Super Roast Beef

Beef on Weck

We started with two different kinds of roast beef sandwiches. First was the Buzzy’s Super Roast Beef, which is rare roast beef, Memphis BBQ sauce, lettuce tomato and onion (lto) and American cheese. It was a great starter. It was at this point that we realized we needed to cut down the portions as we were going to get full right quick, fast and in a hurry. The rare roast beef which was seasoned in a house rub melted in your mouth. It juicy but I didn’t notice if it had soaked through the bun, so that’s a good thing, I believe. 

Next came what Dave Hillman, owner of Uncle Buzzy’s, calls their best seller which is the Beef on Weck. Carroll kept trying to ask what Weck was and I don’t know if he actually got his answer but it seems that Beef on Weck is a Buffalo-area thing popular up north. Weck is short for Kimmelweck, which is a kaiser roll that is topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds. Traditionally, the sandwich is served with an au jus and spread with horseradish. Uncle Buzzy’s is dipped in seasoned au jus, horseradish whipped cream and on a salt crusted caraway roll. Dave says he gets heck from a friend of his who is from Buffalo that says it’s not the same. But, Dave says this is their spin on that Buffalo classic, adding the horseradish cream instead of straight horseradish. I had never had it and the bun was a great compliment to the beef and the horseradish cream. Not too spicy but enough that it made the roast beef pop. I liked it a lot. 

The Buzzy’s Hot Chicken

The new fashion statement in food lately, as far as I can tell is this “Nashville” hot chicken sandwich. Uncle Buzzy’s Hot Chicken Sandwich is chicken thigh meat, not breast, slathered in Buzzy’s Burn sauce (a proprietary blend of hot sauces and sriracha, etc.), pickles, lto, mayo. The mayo, to me, kind of cooled it down, which is good, I don’t need spicy to get me through the day. Good flavor with just enough burn. While I’m not usually a fan of chicken thigh (I’m more of a white meat chicken kind of guy), I have to say this had some great dark meat flavor to accentuate the spiciness. I dug it. It’s better than many hot chicken sandwiches in this town. Dave also gave us a tasting of the house Fried Chicken Sandwich, which has Memphis bbq sauce, coleslaw and lto. I thought it was a honey bbq when I first tasted it because of the sweetness. I still think there was honey in it. I thought that was a great sandwich, too. My table compadres seemed to enjoy all we had at that point, as well.

Any ordinary tasting would probably have ended there. This was no ordinary tasting.

REAL Philly Cheesesteak

Next was The REAL Philly Cheesesteak. With shredded beef, onions, mushrooms, American and provolone on a sub roll. There are four slices of cheese in each sub and it’s piled onto a super-soft roll. I don’t like toasted or hard bread for my sandwiches and this bread was oh-so-soft. You could really taste the cheese in the sandwich. The ingredients all melded together for a glorious flavor combo. Add on the cherry peppers and you’ve yourself a treat. I loved that sandwich!

Spicy Garlic Wings

Korean Thai BBQ Wing

Next was the wings. Yes. Wings. Uncle Buzzy’s broils their wings, fries them and then runs them through a charbroiler to finish them off before bathing them in your favorite sauce. We tried two different wing flavors on that day, spicy garlic and Korean Thai bbq. These aren’t wimpy wings, either. There’s meat on these bones. I found it funny we had a “flats vs bulbs” discussion and it seemed that flats may be the winner although some really love their bulbs. I’m a flats-kind of dude, myself. I believe Nikki was, too. The spicy garlic was, well, garlicky. It looked odd to have a white sauce on the wing (as Carroll remarked) but the flavor was good. The bbq wing looked like it would be more along the lines of a honey bbq wing but it had some oomph to it. The flavor was thick. I know that’s a texture, but the sauce just tasted thick. Again, hefty wings are good wings. These are hefty wings.

Full yet? We’re not done.

BLT and Pimento Cheese Foot Longs

Two footlong Hot Dogs were cut into fifths and we got to try two of them. One was a pimento cheese dog that is on the menu at all times and the other is a BLT dog that was on special for that day. I’ve had the hot dogs there and they are good dogs. The toasted bun (I said I didn’t like my bread toasted, didn’t I? This is an exception) wrapped its proverbial arms around the cased meet and a blanket of pimento cheese piled on top? Oh yeah! I liked both, but I have to say I’m a fan of the build-your-own and the Chicago-style dog Uncle Buzzy’s masterfully makes.


A Burger came next. This is something that I’ve had plenty of from Uncle Buzzy’s. It’s about a bi-weekly thing at this point. Dave said their “burger philosophy” is a thinner patty. That allows a more even sear/cook. I love the way the lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese, buzzy sauce all compliment the beef and don’t overpower it. The burger is served on a brioche bun. Their burger is one of my favorites in town. Top 5 definitely.

About this time some of us were starting to pass on food. My Beeman-Wastes-No-Food ideology was put to the test here. But, there was the “carney” aspect to veer into, so there we were…

Fried Mac-N-Cheese

The Smoked Mac n Cheese was next to come out and Dave had asked if we wanted it plain or with the four-pepper cheese sauce. We agreed “with.” I will go on record to say that “fried foods” themselves are not my thing. I don’t eat a lot of them, other than sauteed. That being said, these were good. Cheesy and I really liked the pepper-cheese sauce. But, I think I was running out of juice. I don’t know that I could give a fair review of them other than “good” or “cheesy.”

The Gooey Deep-Fried Reese’s Cup

Deep-Fried Oreos

We all did give it one last hoorah for the Deep-Fried Desserts, though. We tried both the deep-fried Oreos and deep-fried Reese’s Cups. Each was served with a special “vanilla dip” which is malted soft serve ice cream. Decadent, to be sure. The batter was great and rich, a nice compliment to the prize inside and covering them in the malted dip was a delight. I’m going to say that while I really love Oreos, Reese’s Cups are some of my favorite “candy bars” so that wins for me, hands down.

One thing we discussed with Dave was that while Uncle Buzzy’s started off with more of a “carnival food” atmosphere, the deep-fried novelties aren’t where they are now. Yes, they have stuff like that, but it’s more about good food in plentiful portions. A good bit is fried but even more is grilled. I’ve talked about this on the podcast, it’s not who they are. It is just how they started marketing themselves. And, as far as I know, or am concerned, they have moved more into a good place to grab grub.

The Aftermath… (actually just 4 courses in)

They have some seating and you’re welcome to hang out and eat, but to me, it isn’t a dine-in kind of place. Chef Brian Duffy (of TV’s Bar Rescue fame) helped devise a menu that foodies and Ordinary Joes can get behind. Sergio and Viery (pronounced Veer-E) prepare it and have been with Dave since the opening of Uncle Buzzy’s. They made our food and gave us a quick tour of the kitchen on Wednesday. They know what they’re doing.

Uncle Buzzy’s is located at 1510 W 1st Street, nestled between West End, West Highlands and Ardmore. You can order directly from them and pick it up, or go through many of the popular meal delivery services. I can’t speak for my friends in the tasting group but I loved the tasting, even if I did need help into my car after (I’m kidding). Thanks, Dave, Chef Duff, Sergio and Viery!!!

The Willow’s Wine Dinner Part I

On January 31, we attended a wine dinner at Willow’s Bistro. An elegant dinner with delicious food, lush wines and fantastic community. Owner Will Kingery was a gracious host welcoming around fifty food enthusiasts and letting his star chef, Travis Myers, willows-logo_optshow off his culinary super skills. Chuck King, from American Premium Beverage was there to guide us through the wine adventure while Chef Myers enlightened us to his culinary treats. Some notable food names that were in attendance was Tony and Maria Dilisio, from DiLisio’s Italian Restaurant (I’m sure you’ve read about them here before), local “don’t call him a foodie” food enthusiast, Carroll Leggett and Winston-Salem Journal’s very own food editor, Michael Hastings, who we had the pleasure of having with us at the table at which we were seated.

In this two-part reflection, I’ll give you an idea of what you missed and why you should be on the lookout for the next pairing event happening at Willow’s Bistro.

Amuse Bouche: Roasted Old Salt – Rappahannock Oysters 3 Ways

This was paired with Gloria Ferrer Brut

I believe the consensus around the table was that we all enjoyed the roasted garlic, truffle butter and caviar the best. It was the most balanced. Not that flavor was an issue in any of the three, this was just the clear-cut winner. The bubbly Brut was a good pairing with the oysters.

First Course: Goat Cheese Truffles

Goat Lady Dairy goat cheese rooled in Willow’s own crushed candied pecans, port poached figs & pears, frisée, Fair Share Farm microgreens, Cloister Honey wildflower honey & lemon vinaigrette.  This was paired with Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc.

The goat cheese was tangy but those flavors were tamed a bit by the candied pecans, but I WillowsDinner2don’t mean that it dumbed it down. I just mean that some people don’t like the tang of goat cheese. Instead, they want their cheese to be more savory, yet not void of the creaminess that goat cheese offers. This dish preserved that tang while adding a crunch and when paired with the port poached figs and pears and the honey and vinaigrette gives a breadth of tang and savory.  The Sauvignon Blanc made the whole dish, especially the tangy cheese, sing.

Fish Course: NC Golden Tilefish

Tilefish with a puree made of Evangeline sweet potatos from Hunter Farms, “dip” beurre blanc liquid ravigote (which means reinvigorated) drops, the secret weapon, microgreens and manchego cheese shavings. The best part of the dish – something you’d not expect to WillowsDinner3go with fish – is a bit of Border Springs lamb belly prepared Lexington BBQ “style.” Lamb belly with tilefish? Well, yes, exactly BBQ’d lamb belly with tilefish. It was the fish course, to be sure, but the lamb belly stole the scene. The tilefish was quite meaty and worked with the sweet potato puree and the beurre blanc sauce. That would have stood up on its own, but once you add the lamb belly the flavors jumped into the sapor exosphere. The manchego was a somewhat odd addition and it probably wouldn’t have mattered had it been missing, but what would be missed, the microgreens and the lamb belly. This dish was paired with Stonestreet ‘Bear Point’ Chardonnay.

This was the first three of the six (with a palate cleanser) courses. I’ll catch you up on the rest of the courses in the next post. Part II will be here, soon and i promise it will be worth it!