Tuesday, March 23, 2010

37th & Zen - Norfolk

37th and Zen Logo

Zen opened a little while ago and I had heard good things about it, but until recently, had not been. Laine and I had a ride, from Chas*, which helps us a great deal when we travel out of Downtown Norfolk proper on our lunch hour, hour being the operative word (so, if anyone wants to cart Laine and I to Ghent and help us review, let us know). Zen is located at the intersection of 37th Street and Hampton Boulevard right before the 38th Street intersection, an event-less intersection but widely known to the longtime Norfolkians. Located near the ever-growing Old Dominion University campus, Zen created a student-inspired menu, but should not deter you if you are not still a student (I try to pretend at times). Instead of soups and sides Zen calls them 'Practicing Student', instead of appetizers, Zen has 'Advanced Student', instead of sandwiches and wraps, there is the 'Senior Student' portion, 'Dharma Holder' is the salad section and lastly, entrees are 'Zen Teacher'. A lot of things looked good and at lunch, there is a daily $5 lunch special. This day it was chicken kabobs with rice and another side and the soup de jour was creamy potato. 37th and Zen dish Mother Earth Burger After a few minutes of fretting over what to have because everything on the menu looked so tempting, I opted for the Mother Earth Burger, a homemade lentil and white bean vegetarian burger served on a kaiser roll with fries. The menu does not state this, but the sandwiches and wraps come with their house fries, a mixture of white potato and sweet potato fries. My burger was huge and tasty and came with lettuce, tomato and onion and I think the only thing I would have added would be a little spice to the patty or a sauce of some sort to give it some get up and go. I still enjoyed it and the fries were killer. They were seasoned and seemed to be REAL french fries, not some frozen version from Ole Rida. Chas ordered the Reuben, which came with fries, and said his was equally good. Other menu items include Rooted Pork BBQ, a Tibetan Chicken Wrap, Chi Kung Fried Rice and Bronzed Ahi Tuna. Quite a variety.
37th and Zen dish Reuben
Without beverages, our bill came to $18.50 pre-tip. Not bad at all. Not surprisingly, Zen offers an Asian-inspired atmosphere, has live music and some other nightly treats (including karaoke, not one of my favorites). They have a nice sitting area, which I assume is an extension of the bar and is filled with splendidly colored leather couches, orange, red, yellow. A very pretty and inviting arrangement.

Laine and I are spreading the word about our pleasing experience at Zen and we encourage everyone to visit. A friend told me Zen used to have a drag queen brunch on the weekends when the restaurant first opened, but sadly, that does not seem to be going on anymore.


The restaurant was pretty empty when we had lunch there on Thursday. I think their current reputation may be as more of a club/bar than a restaurant, but if the food stays as good as it was when we were there, that should change. 37th and North Hampton Blvd is a bit of a hike from downtown only because there isn't a good or fast way to get there. You all know what I mean. Lots of traffic, stop lights, stop signs, construction...your everyday experience in downtown. Once there we were told to sit anywhere we liked and were quickly served.

I ordered fish tacos; Whitefish, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, cheese, and a cucumber dill relish for $7.50. Although not on the menu, it came with a heavily peppered bean salad. I am not big on jalapenos, but it was a tasty side. I picked most of the peppers out and enjoyed the flavor they left on the remaining beans. The (2) taco portions were hearty and they were very good. Another plus in my book, sodas were $1.67 AND the server refilled my drink at least 3 times. Caffeine is my friend.37th and Zen dish Fish Tacos

Zen appears to be very vegetarian and vegan friendly. The menu highlights these meals, and notes that "most vegetarian items can be made vegan... just ask your server.We have chickette and gardien burger in-house, available for substitution." Maybe it is because of these reviews, but lately when I go to a restaurant I read the menu cover to cover. Most of them have little stories or some other such nonsense about how they started, who they are, what they stand for, blah blah blah. Does anyone read this other than me? My favorite comment on Zen's menu? "Abandoned bar tabs will be charged with a 20% gratuity. " I assume these are abandoned with a credit card? I thought an abandoned tab was one that didn't have ANY payment attached.

Regardless, if you are looking for a menu with good variety, reasonable prices and a restaurant that seems to know how to prepare a tasty dish, give 37th and Zen a try. I think you will be pleased. On a final note, I happen to like Ore-Ida fries, especially the waffle fries, but I agree with Alex, stay away from any food named "Ole".


A coupon offering 20% off lunch is going on until April 30th. This does not apply to the $5 special, obviously, but a great offer. Click Here for the coupon.

11 AM Tuesday-Friday

Zen Hours
Tuesday-Friday 11 AM to 2 AM
Saturday 5 PM to 2 AM
Sunday 5 PM-Till
Happy Hour
Tuesday-Friday 4 to 8 PM

1083 W. 37th Street
Norfolk, 23508
(757) 533-5151

37th and Zen on Urbanspoon


Michele said...

I love 37th and Zen. I went for dinner a few times when they first opened and had the fried pickles as an appetizer and the shrimp and grits. It was fantastic. I think management may have changed, but it sounds like the food quality hasn't.

Laine and Alex said...

I'll have to send Alex's mom there. She got jipped on shrimp and grits at tortilla west!