We just got back from dinner at the hot, new Zelko Bistro in the Heights. I’ve been eyeing it for months, waiting and hoping they’d have at least one interesting meatless entree. I’ve gleaned everything I could from Greg Morago and other reviewers, but couldn’t find Zelko’s menu online and got an answering machine every time I called to ask if they had a vegetarian option. We decided to check it out after seeing it listed as vegan friendly on Urbanspoon. Turns out, it is not vegan friendly. It’s not even veggie friendly. The only thing I could order was a dinner salad, so I did.
Because they had no vegetarian entrée, I have to give Zelko Bistro no carrots. A first for Veggie vs. Houston.
I was really, really hoping Zelko was going to be veggie friendly. But after excitedly scanning the menu, I soon realized there was nothing for me. We ordered the only veggie thing on the menu, which was an appetizer. It was spin on brushetta, instead of French bread, it was pita with hummus, red peppers, olives and feta. It was very good, but I agree with this review from the Chronicle’s Greg Morago, it would have been even better on crunchy bread. Greg was sitting a few tables down from us tonight. I never know if he works undercover, so I didn’t want to bring attention to his table by saying hello. He seemed to enjoy his dinner much more than I did.
My entree consisted of a dinner salad with blue cheese, pecans and apples. I ordered it without the bacon and pancetta. I told the waiter I was a vegetarian and asked if the tomato soup was meatless, but I was told it was likely made with chicken stock. I’m sure the chef could have whipped me up a plate of vegetables, and to be fair the waiter did say “she could probably fix you something,” which I had forgotten when I wrote this original post. It didn’t stick out in my mind, but my omnivore reminded me of it when I mentioned a comment I’d recieved.
Zelko is still listed as vegan friendly on Urbanspoon and I still disagree. A vegetarian commenter on the site said she and her friends have been treated well, and fed wonderful meatless sandwiches at Zelko. She implied that maybe if I was friendlier I could have had a veggie meal too. I want to let everyone know I was not rude to our server. However, the restaurant was slammed and no one seemed like they had time to chat and get to know each other.
And the bottom line is this: I would rather see an item on the menu, or at least have the server give me an example of what’s available. Saying the chef might be able to make me something, implied that she might not be able to. I don’t like to feel like a burden or that I’m putting anyone out. And I don’t want to have to throw out my own dinner idea or know someone in order to get a meal. I just want to sit down, scan the menu, relax and enjoy my evening.
And while I’m on the subject, I think whipping something up in the kitchen is different than thinking through an interesting meatless dish and having it on your menu. Again maybe it’s just me, but it seems like it would be easy enough to a offer a mushroom burger since they had a regular burger on the menu, or stuffed mushroom caps with veggies. Am I the only person who thinks croquettes are the best things ever? I’d love to see them on a Houston menu. Or maybe an artichoke po’boy sandwich. Zelko had a polenta dish that could have been served with a tomato reduction and grilled veggies instead of shrimp. But what do I know. I’m just a lowly blogger and not a bigtime chef.
Zelko had one other dinner salad on the menu, but I’m not a huge fan of vinaigrette. My omnivore ordered a hamburger minus the cheese and bacon. He liked it. I liked his French fries.
I still can’t forget the conversation I had with the owner of Stella Sola, which is also in the Heights. He made a huge deal about the fact that Height’s restaurants were crazy not to offer a vegetarian entrée. He strongly believed the market was there. I wholeheartedly agree, but apparently we’re in the minority. Textile, Glass Wall and now Zelko Bistro don’t think they need to court the deeply-loyal veggie crowd. It’s too bad. I was really hoping Zelko, with it’s great location and fair prices, would be our new Friday night favorite.