OC's Newest Mediterranean Grill Opens its Doors
Check out Zesty Olives, SoCal's newest Mediterranean Grill.
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OC’s Newest Spot for Mediterranean Food
🥙 Wraps, Hummus, Tzatziki, and More
📍 Zesty Olives Mediterranean Grill - Lake Forest
Zesty Olives, the newest Mediterranean grill in SoCal, just had their soft opening a few weeks ago. This new-age restaurant has a unique menu philosophy centered around health and customizability. We were invited to check out their new menu and are excited to share our experiences with you. We were also lucky enough to speak with one of the owners, Boris, about the food as well as his future ambitions for Zesty Olives.
So let’s dive into this zesty issue of The Foodie Maps OC.
🤔 The Beginnings
Meet Boris, who along with his sister, opened Zesty Olives, a Mediterranean grill in Lake Forest. Boris is an experienced Bulgarian restaurateur with several restaurants across Europe, and he has even worked alongside Nigel Slater.
One of Boris's previous restaurants served street food in the densely-packed Central Market of London. Business was steady until Brexit happened, and the UK left the EU. This completely changed the playing field for the establishment. Everything from food suppliers, taxes, and restrictions completely changed. Boris decided to sell the restaurant, move back to Bulgaria, and save up for another project.
The United States
After a visit to Las Vegas, Boris had his mind set on opening a restaurant in the US. With the profits from his previous restaurants, he packed up everything and moved to Southern California. Within just one month’s time, Zesty Olives hosted their soft opening and began serving food to the public.
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💭 Unique Philosophy
One thing that really stuck out to me in my chat with Boris was the clearly defined philosophy around the menu and the food. The owners truly want to understand their customers and place them first in every decision.
I believe the philosophy of Zesty Olives can be best described as both health and customer-oriented.
Health as a Lifestyle
Whenever the topic of healthy eating comes up, Mediterranean diets are always a part of the conversation.
Research shows that the Mediterranean diet is effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
At Zesty Olives, creating a healthy menu has been the front and center goal. Boris told me that the importance of eating well extends beyond long-term well-being, and that eating healthy can also improve your day-to-day mood. He hopes customers will make the realization that the burst of good energy they get after a meal at Zesty Olives is no coincidence!
As I arrived at Zesty Olives, I stumbled in on a customer having a conversation with Boris. As he was making the customer’s wrap, he was asking for their preferences on a variety of different foods. “We provide the quality ingredients and recipes,” Boris told me, “and the customer should have a say in how we can serve a delicious meal to them.”
I believe that Zesty Olives will truly be a restaurant that places the customer first in a new and unique way: open dialogue.
🥙 The Menu
From tzatziki to hummus, Zesty Olives offers a selection of Mediterranean classics. For main entrees, they serve bowls and wraps with your choice of meat and sauce. As for sides and shareables, they offer fries, pita, veggies, and their signature Halloumi Fries.
The menu at Zesty Olives is still very much a work in progress. Boris explained to me that they are iterating to see what works, but one thing is certain: the care and quality of the food will never change.
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🥙 The Food
When it came time to eat, Boris was very generous and let me try every item on the menu. Thanks, Zesty Olives!
First, let’s start with the main course, which for me was a pork wrap topped with tzatziki. Before getting into the taste, this wrap looked so photogenic! I loved the rustic colors and I had a really easy time taking some nice pics. This place is def a spot for any IG foodies out there. 👀 📷
If I could describe the wrap in one word, it would be “balanced”. Everything felt like it was in the right proportions. Most American eateries will use a different method by stuffing their wraps with extra meat or sauce, but Zesty Olives takes this approach in a tastier and healthier way. Every ingredient is hand-picked and thoughtfully planned. Each component of the wrap was present, but nothing was overbearing. This gave off a light sensation after I finished my food. I was surely full, but not at all bloated. I was instead energized and ready for the next part of my day.
This was a new food for me! I had never heard of Halloumi Fries before.
The dish can be best described as Halloumi cheese cut into the shape of fries topped with pomegranate seeds, sauce, and herbs. To the American palate, the fries tasted similar to the inside of a cheese stick, but with the consistency of a French fry and with the tang of Halloumi. Put together with the pomegranate seeds and sauce, the cuisine was very different than anything I had tasted before. Definitely a must-add for anyone with a food bucket list!
Halloumi - a semi-hard, unripe cheese made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk. It is often associated with the island of Cypress and the East Mediterranean.
This one was tricky for me. How can a menu designed around health and lifestyle include French fries? I brought this up with Boris, and he was excited to give me his complete answer. He explained how the fries were only cooked in oil for under a minute and were designed to be lighter than normal fries. To my surprise, he was right! The fries, combined with the feta, tasted quite different from traditional French fries and did not have an oily texture at all. This was a well-executed side for the wrap.
💫 Lost in the Sauce
The stand-outs of the meal for me were the hummus and tzatziki. They are both made fresh daily with hand-picked ingredients and have quite unique backstories.
Tzatziki: A Greek sauce made of salted strained yogurt with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes with vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs.
Every family in Greece has its own unique recipe for tzatziki. Some recipes are even hundreds of years old! In his travels, Boris came across one of these traditional recipes. He used this century-old recipe as his basis for Zesty Olives’ tzatziki by giving it a modern spin and improving the quality in the process. Once complete, Boris went back to families in Greece and was thrilled to receive their approval and highest compliments.
Hummus: a Middle Eastern dip, spread, or savory dish made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic.
Hummus truly is a Mediterranean classic. The hummus at Zesty Olives is made a bit differently than what you may be used to. There are whole chickpeas added to the mix, giving the hummus a much chunkier consistency. There was also a large emphasis on adding just the right amount of olive oil, fresh peppers, and chopped basil as to not make the hummus too sweet, which is something you commonly run into. The result is a unique and chunky dip that is so good, you can just eat it straight!
🏘️ The Future
The crew at Zesty Olives is still in the process of planning their grand opening, but that doesn’t stop them from looking far into the future.
Even before their grand opening, Zesty Olives has already begun connecting with the local community. They have donated to retired police officers and homeless organizations in the area. Boris told me he hopes to become an integrated part of the community following their grand opening.
I asked Boris about his long-term vision with the restaurant. He told me that he wants to scale what makes Zesty Olives so unique. He hopes to create a chain that does things differently than the current giants by making personal connections with regular customers and maintaining a high standard for health and quality.
“I hope to one day see a Zesty Olives in every major city and especially on Las Vegas Boulevard.” - Boris, Owner of Zesty Olives
It was pretty evident to me that the hummus and tzatziki were something special. Boris, the owner, knows it too and I was not at all surprised when he told me his plans to get Zesty Olives hummus and tzatziki onto the shelves of the supermarket. I really hope this does happen, because I would for sure be a happy paying customer!
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