, the build-your-own veggie bowl restaurant which opened in East Memphis last fall, recently expanded its menu.
Not everybody is happy about that. But first some background.
The restaurant was the brainchild of Ed Cabigao of South of Beale. Cabigao had undergone a major lifestyle change. He went vegan, dropped some weight, became healthier, and wanted to spread the word, so to speak.
Originally, guests could choose from a base of quinoa or zucchini noodles or whatever, then build up the bowl with warm and cold veggies, choose premium items like tofu, and then top it with one of ZB's great sauces. They also offered one or two set veggie bowls for babies like me who get overwhelmed by too many choices.
The new menu greatly expands the bowl offerings under three categories: Salads, Poke, and Zaka. There's the Tofu Poke Bowl with pineapple pico and jicama slaw and the Smoked Portabella Steaks Zaka Bowl with cinnamon chili sweet potatoes and roasted beets. Also among the options are the Tuna Poke Bowl and Herbed Chicken Zaka Bowl.
This once-vegan restaurant now serves meat and you can best-believe Cabigao heard about it. (City Silo received similar blow-back via social media from some frustrated vegans when it veered from its vegan roots. It was crazy packed when I was there for lunch last Friday.)
When we opened Zaka Bowl, we had every intention of staying vegan and promoting the vegan lifestyle. But throughout our first seven months of great reviews but lackluster sales, we spoke with a lot of guests, and people who had never been in, about what they wanted and wished we had. We also asked them about what would draw more people into our restaurant. We went through a lot of testing and surveying. And as a business, and as someone who feels responsible for his employees, we eventually decided that we had to make this pivot of providing a couple of non-vegan options.
We are now repackaging our message as a healthy veggie-centric restaurant serving everyone's fast-paced life. At the end of the day, I want to be able to provide jobs for some awesome people who have helped me open this venture. I totally understand the negative comments we have and will receive from some people, and I would just like to point out that we are still 98% vegan and completely dairy-free and gluten-free. Our chicken and sushi-grade tuna are the only two non-vegan ingredients out of over one hundred that we have in our kitchen. And we are very excited about our new vegan options as well- Baked Falafel, Tofu Poké and Beet Poké!