Making the Grade: Zazu Gastropub

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By Stacey Patton Wallace

 I absolutely LOVE downtown Opelika. It has so many interesting shops and great restaurants at which to dine. Also, this railroad town has maintained its small-town atmosphere and charm, unlike other cities which have gone 21st century ugly with hulking, high-rise condos which try to swallow up the overwhelmed, normal-sized buildings. In addition, the free parking is plentiful for everyone; that is a real bonus.

 Zazu Gastropub on 8th Street in downtown Opelika is a true treasure. The interior of the building is beautifully made of brick, and hanging, decorative light fixtures add to its lovely décor.

 Also, Zazu wins the prize for following COVID-19 safety protocols. When you enter, the hostess takes your temperature. Furthermore, employees wear masks, and social distancing is observed. In addition, when customers leave, an employee immediately disinfects the table. Of all the restaurants at which I’ve eaten since we’ve come out of lockdown, I feel safest at Zazu Gastropub. This is a very BIG deal to a “Pooh-sized” diabetic woman.

 My friend Amelia, whom I have known since kindergarten, came to have lunch (really dinner to Southerners) with me at Zazu’s. Since Amelia and I have been friends for 53 years, we are very close; she is really family to me. And you know how family can be. Sneaky.

 Once, when we were high school seniors, she filled out a card with my name, address, etc. and sent it in to the United States Army Recruiting Office! She, of course, didn’t tell me.

 A few weeks later, a woman called and asked if I were still interested in joining the Army. In shock, I sputtered, “No!” and hung up the phone. I’m too much of a coward to serve in our military but admire those who do, such as my niece Capt. Brittney Patton, who is my hero.

 Amelia finally admitted what she had done when I told her about my phone call. You have to watch Bama grads.

 Adam, our waiter, was really great; he was kind, courteous and attentive. Amelia and I both selected the 8-ounce burger, which included lettuce, local tomato and onion. It was truly delicious, a brawny, beef masterpiece. All burgers are served with fries or kettle chips. You may also substitute with soup, salad or duck fries. Yes, I had to ask what were duck fries. They are cooked in duck fat; also, they had some melted Parmesan cheese, onion and chipotle aioli, which is a spice, on them.

 After we had finished our meal, Amelia, who is also a diabetic, asked about their list of desserts. I protested; I was TRYING to be good and not have a dessert. After hearing the choices, Amelia decided NOT to have one. However, the list of desserts weakened my resolve, and I ordered the bread pudding with caramel sauce. This diabetic downhill slide was Amelia’s fault, so I told her that she would have to help me eat it; I didn’t have to twist her arm.

 Chef Gary Thorne did an amazing job. The bread pudding was so light and fluffy; the caramel sauce really enhanced the flavor of the dessert. Miss Cora, this review was for you. Miss Cora is a sweet friend at my church, Central Baptist of Opelika; she knows how to make amazing desserts, too, and loves Zazu’s.

 Zazu Gastropub makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!

 Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in the Observer. Stacey may be reached at retiredlangartsteacher2020@gmail.com.

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