In downtown Downers Grove, small community shops line Main Street with brightly colored awnings and a variety of offerings–from candy stores to clothing boutiques. But right off of Main there is a small shop that is the focus of Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible – a television show that takes the original design of a restaurant and totally revamps its image in 48 hours. Upon hearing that Zest Bistro, a restaurant that is part of the Lemon Tree Grocer, had been redesigned, I was eager to check out their offerings and see the new corner cafe that adorned Lemon Tree.
I visited on a Sunday, and the daily special at Zest is brunch that runs from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon. Their menu has a great mix of breakfast and lunch foods, with meals ranging from eggs benedict and pancakes to burgers and panini sandwiches.
Sitting in the restaurant, it has a very homey feel. The casual aspect of grocery shopping on half of the store mixed with the small cafe setting in the bistro makes Zest a comfortable neighborhood place. The bistro is separated by large wooden dividers painted yellow and white that open vertically like windows, making the space more open.
The center of the restaurant is a display of wooden crates filled with lemongrass, giving a fresh feel to the atmosphere of the cafe. Booths and tables surround this structure, and full length windows pull light into the bistro and through the spaces between crates, highlighting the springtime essence of the yellow and white walls and other accents. Overall, the restaurant makes you feel right at home.
The host was very friendly while seating us, and our waitress was attentive to get us drinks right away, including a complimentary water carafe for the table to share. I ordered the freshly squeezed orange juice, and it definitely had a certain character that is not present in other fresh juices at different breakfast places. It was very tangy with just the right amount of pulp.
I ended up ordering their half pound original burger, which comes with hand-cut fries. The burger was cooked exactly to my specifications (medium well) and had a generous slice of American cheese sitting on top of the perfectly seared burger. The char was just right, and the fresh tomato, lettuce and onion complemented the buttery brioche bun–which was the icing on the cake. The fries were seasoned very well, and really didn’t need any ketchup to add flavor–it was all there.
I also sampled some meals from my family, and each was above my expectations. I tried Suzie’s lemon ricotta pancakes, which had blueberries sprinkled in the batter and was served with maple syrup on the side. The pancakes themselves were sweet enough with just blueberries, but plain portions of the pancake were served best with a topping of either lemon curd or syrup. Another dish I sampled was the chicken panini, which was topped with spinach artichoke spread that was surprisingly tasty. this dish was served with homemade potato chips, and they were a great complement.
Overall, the bistro surpassed my standards for this type of restaurant. I really enjoyed the atmosphere overall, and the selection of foods made Zest a oneof a kind experience.