For more than three years now Z’s Café, located in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, has been a purveyor of fast, friendly, high-quality lunches for the Cultural District crowd. Owner and chef Janet Z. Capua, who also operates a family catering business, opened another Z’s earlier this year, this one across from Harris Methodist Hospital on the South Side. The new spot is a small old-fashioned lunchcounter space that seats about 20. While there’s nothing fancy about the sandwiches, salads, or side items on Z’s small menu, the food is memorable both for its tastiness and the obvious care with which it’s prepared.
Daily entrée specials are listed on a sign on the counter — on a recent visit, it was chipotle pork loin with mac-and-cheese. The pig was marvelous. Two thick slices of tender flesh had been cooked in what appeared to be a red-pepper sauce that was both sweet and mildly hot. The mac-and-cheese here was made up of firm seashell pasta and a pale savory cheese sauce that didn’t try to overpower you like the instant boxed stuff. The meal walked a nice balance between hearty and light, which made for a satisfying lunch experience.
Z’s sandwiches are simple, but the kitchen clearly sweats the details –– each component is chosen for maximum eye and mouth appeal. The smoked turkey and Swiss consisted of lean turkey cold cuts layered with thin slices of mildly nutty cheese between soft slices of whole-grain bread with a fat red cherry tomato pinned with a toothpick on top. No condiments were used, and none were needed — the flavors of the bread, meat, and cheese came through solidly on their own. Meanwhile, Z’s popular chicken salad was a thick spread of finely shredded bird mixed with a sweetish dressing and raisins. It was a cool and fruity pleasure, especially with the fruit cup of colorful strawberries and mandarin orange slices with red and white grapes on the side.
The Chicago-style hot sandwich, a sausage and beef combo, was a much heartier affair. Windy City foodies can determine for themselves just how “Chicago-style” this is, but it wasn’t wimpy. On a large, soft hoagie roll, the first layer was a single large slice of medium-spicy Italian sausage. On top of that was packed juicy, thinly shredded roast beef, with a final stratum of grilled red and green bell pepper slices for extra zest. This was one of those hard-to-get-your-mouth-around sandwiches, and it was a delicious mess. If the good folks at Z’s keep up the attention to quality, their second location should earn a loyal lunchtime crowd on the South Side just as their original café draws fans in the Cultural District.
1116 Pennsylvania Av, FW. 817-348-9000. Closed Sun, 11am-2pm Mon-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Sausage and beef sandwich ………. $6.99
Chipotle pork loin w/mac-and-cheese .. $6.99
Smoked turkey w/Swiss ………………. $5.99
Z’s signature chicken salad ………… $5.99