Former Greenbriar chef tackles & tweaks “clean” food menu.
Zeal, a downtown Boulder restaurant catering to health-conscious food enthusiasts, opened November and developed a following from those allergic or averse to certain foods or food groups. Vegetarian? Zeal has many dishes for you, including sustainably harvested proteins of various kinds. Carnivore? They serve only pedigreed meats from grass-fed animals. Gluten-free? The only gluten is in the beer and the little spelt-flour bread that is served. Avoid processed foods or concerned about GMOs, pesticides and chemical fertilizers? Zeal is the restaurant for you. On the Paleo diet bandwagon? It’s easy at Zeal. Interested in the Conscious Cleanse? Jo Saalman and Julie Paleaz, authors of the bestselling book by the same name, are hosting a three-course, $39 Conscious Cleanse dinner at Zeal on November 11.
From the beginning, Zeal has used whole fresh ingredients, served as simple flavorful combinations. But like many a new restaurant, Zeal has experienced some growing pains. In addition to the service glitches common to new restaurants, there has been turnover in the kitchen. It is on its third chef in less than a year. Opening chef Arik Markus had left by June, and his successor, Sean Smith, was replaced about a month ago by Leslie White (that’s a he-Leslie), who has made a rapid shift from the butter-and-cream kitchen of The Greenbriar to the “clean” ingredients used at Zeal. I don’t know any details about these changes, except to speculate that since founder/owner Wayde Jester, a prototypical Boulder endurance athlete, comes from the real estate realm and though a cooking enthusiast, didn’t have restaurant experience, the owner/chef combination has taken a few tries.
Zeal hosted a group of foodies and food bloggers to sample a few of White’s creations, plus artisanal cocktails, other adult beverages and the sensational cold-pressed juices.
Zeal is participating in First Bite Boulder but has not yet posted its menu — perhaps to busy serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and recently added happy hour ($2 off beer, wine and spirits and $5 small plates). In addition to the popular bowls and sandwiches, Chef White is presenting more large and small plates and has brought dessert-making in-house. Zeal is pickling and fermenting in-house too (think kimchee and kombucha). During the warm months, the restaurant closed for two hours for Movement Mondays or Trailblazer Tuesdays so that staff and guests could go on a local hike. The concept might soon be transferred to a climbing gym or other indoor venue. And then there’s the Zeal food truck, which debuted at the Hanuman Yoga Festival and most likely dispatched to Uptown Denver, where Jester hopes to open a second restaurant. Stay tuned.