Should we be surprised that ZaZa has taken the "Best Salad" award after years of domination by U.S. Pizza's ranch dressing-topped monster? It was only a matter of time. Calling it simply a "pizza place" seems ignorant of its sudden significance to the restaurant scene and its Heights chic, its creative revitalization of the natural culinary duo of pizza and salad.
The etymology of the word "salad" reminds us of a time when the primary embellishment for a plate of raw greens was "sal," Latin for salt. Not exactly the salad days, to say the least. They've since become an art form, and more than just something you chew on before dinner to make sure you get your serving of vegetables for the day. At times, though, a salad can get carried away with dressing and toppings and playful ways to heap on beguiling calories. The most successful salads are inventive without betraying the earthy healthiness they represent.
ZaZa puts the customer right at this intersection of originality and wholesomeness. The house salad, The ZaZa, is a combination of greens with strawberries, blueberries, goat cheese and pecans. Not quite eccentric — something a housewife might throw together to stay fit — but big enough a portion to be satisfying. Some of the others are more unusual, like the Tandoori Chicken, which includes mango, chickpeas and a yogurt-cucumber-dill dressing. The rest of the menu isn't any more run-of-the-mill: The Baja Shrimp, The Steakhouse, The Cobb.
Besides the appreciation from Times readers, more good news is on the horizon for ZaZa. Owners and chefs Scott McGehee and John Beachboard are opening a new location in Conway that will include a full bar — making it right off the bat one of the classier places in Faulkner County to get a drink, much less a salad. National franchising talk continues.