Coffee, toast, eggs. Three simple staples. That’s what John Secretan, owner of Zinc Cafe & Market says is the foundation of the restaurant. Entering the space, you’ll find yourself somewhere that’s anything but simple. The eatery is modern, grand, and maybe a little overwhelming for first-timers. It’s something that strikes you when you first walk in, as it looks plain and nondescript from the outside. Set in an industrial building in the Arts District, Zinc Cafe has a sleek, yet relaxed feel that still preserves the architecture of its past. The sense of openness makes you want to stay as long as you can, as soon as you find your seat.
Depending on when you go, you can expect a different experience. On weekdays, it’s a selfserve cafe that does well to accommodate the lunch rush. Here, you can choose from their beautiful assorted salads, prepared fresh daily. Grain dishes like a mushroom-quinoa salad with cashews and cheese are plentiful. You can also opt for a gluten-free veggie portion like the corn and jalapeño-stuffed Anaheim chilies paired with a simple medley of roasted vegetables. Or perhaps, you want something hearty, like their cheesy ricotta-spinach or vegetable lasagnas. The simplicity and quality that goes into the food stands out, be it in the wonderful pasta made with Farfalle, lemon rind and juice, parmesan cheese, cilantro, and olive oil. You have an endless option to pile onto your plate, which ends up being calculated by weight. Anything you choose will be a flavor-packed combination of fresh ingredients.
On weekends, you get the full-service treatment. You may choose to sit at the bar with a full cocktail bar menu, as well as a carefully curated list of beer and wine. All of these libations can be paired with the Bar Mateo menu, which includes various savory small plates. If coffee is your drink of choice, expect to be rewarded with their full espresso selection served with Intelligentsia Coffee.
Not feeling the salad bar, or just missed it? Zinc Cafe also offers a variety from their breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. Here, you’ll find sandwiches, pizzas, soups, salads, cereal, bagels, lasagna, mac and cheese, and all the egg dishes you can dream of. Whether you’re craving fluffy scrambled eggs on toast or in a burrito, poached eggs, quiche, deviled eggs, or even a baked Spanish egg casserole plate, you’ll never get sick of them. The cafe even makes one of the heftier versions of avocado toast around. Topped with a generous portion of smashed avocado, butter, radish salad, chives, and lemon zest, it’s an entree all on its own. What makes people fall in love with Zinc, many of whom are regulars, truly is the food. “You leave here fully satisfied and fulfilled,” says Secretan. “It’s much deeper than lettuce and sprouts.”
Basically, Zinc has options whether you want to keep it light, or indulge and go all in. The Reubenesque, their version of the Reuben sandwich, is a hefty meal between strong slices of pumpernickel — baked beets, coriander, gooey Gruyere cheese, sauerkraut-cabbage slaw, sea salt, and their special Zinc Russian dressing, you won’t even miss the corned beef.
Come early, come late. Zinc Cafe is the Arts District bistro you’ll want to keep coming back to.