Zzest Market & Cafe: Rochester, MN

17 Feb
by Deanne

Zzest Market and Cafe:  Rochester, MN

While in Rochester to visit a friend who was seeing doctors at the Mayo Clinic, we decided to look for interesting places to eat.

Zzest caught our attention with this tag line: Market by day, Restaurant by night. We were unsure if they had food at lunch, but we decided to drop in and check out the market a little before noon on a Saturday. The menu looked interesting and the place smelled good so we were motivated to stay for lunch.

Zzest is easy to reach from various locations around Rochester; it’s near the Apache Mall and next to the Trader Joe’s parking lot. A photo of Zzest

Review: (See Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

Both local ingredients and speciality food items sold in the market are used in the restaurant.  My take is that they cater more to foodies than locavores. For example, you are as likely to see asparagus and octopus, which is very far from local to Minnesota, as you are to see braised local pork and fall veggies, which is what I ordered.

We don’t mean to speak poorly of this approach. It highlights the fact that true foodies seek the best in taste and dining experience, and they know that local is often the best way to get quality ingredients.  The purpose of our restaurant reviews is to seek out “real food” and the food at Zzest was carefully prepared using quality ingredients…some local and some exotic speciality items.

Flavour: 3

The Roasted Vegetable Salad was very good; best described by my friend as having “layers of flavor.” The roasted vegetables, which included one beet, some Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, were lovely. The pure deep taste of roasted vegetables came through. Underneath the roasted vegetables, the greens were laced with balsamic dressing and which brought forth another unique flavor. My pork was wholesome and enjoyable but provided no lingering memories.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

When we walked through the door we found ourselves in a kitchen/gourmet food shop. We wandered around and then saw people dining in the restaurant area. Soon we discovered that the menu changes twice a day. This is an ambitious undertaking which requires creativity and fresh insight on the part of the three chefs.

We had a chance to look at the evening menu from the night before and the lunch menu for the current day. The dining room attendant explained to us that when the evening chefs arrive they figure out what they plan to cook that evening and then the menu is produced.

My preference is to “discover” things as I go, so I was pleasantly surprised to uncover more and more about the place. If you like to know what will be on the menu before you arrive, you might not find this approach a pleasant surprise.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 2
A photo of the menu

The restaurant and store was a fun place to shop and dine; however the service was a little cool for Minnesota, which my friend, from the East coast, had experienced as a land of helpful and caring people. It seemed like the person in charge didn’t want to get too close.

Since we visited at lunch, we were told to order at the counter and serve ourselves water. Afterwards I checked online to see what others were saying. Mostly I wanted to find out that if you visit in the evening would the service be different. From what other reviewers posted, the service, in general, seems to be a bit spotty.

Overall Rating: 8+

Even though the overall rating is lower than the other places we’ve visited and reviewed, I would still recommend visiting Zzest Market & Café when you are in Rochester. It is part of the Creative Cuisine Company which owns several restaurants in Rochester. Next time I head back to Rochester, I’ll visit again and see what’s on the menu and poke around in the shop.

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