Restaurant Review: Zona Fresca

I expected the food to taste good, but I sincerely enjoyed everything I tasted.

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  • | 6:17 a.m. December 23, 2015
Photo by: Sarah Wilson - The steak quesadilla, pictured, and roast pork burrito impressed on a menu complete with customizable options.
Photo by: Sarah Wilson - The steak quesadilla, pictured, and roast pork burrito impressed on a menu complete with customizable options.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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This is a review of a new restaurant, but please indulge me for beginning with a story that is music to the ears of those of us who love living here in Central Florida. Nigel and Susannah Bogaert, happily married for 11 years, with the perfect family of a boy and a girl (ages 2 and 4), did a pro and con review of living in South Florida. They realized they wanted a different life for their children, and weighing their options as to where they would live, they chose Winter Park as the perfect place with the friendly charm, amenities, and schools they wanted for their children.

Yes, we know all that, but isn’t it wonderful when it’s confirmed by another terrific family moving into the neighborhood? Nigel had also decided that Winter Park would be a great place to open the newest Zona Fresca, an upscale, fast-casual Mexican restaurant ready to expand a small-but-energetic franchise. Nigel, a man of serious commitment, has signed an agreement to open five Zona Fresca locations in Central Florida over the next several years with the first now open at 1035 N. Orlando Ave. at the Ravaudage complex. With that in mind, Nigel is a man actively looking at real estate.

The new 3,000-plus-square-foot eatery includes an 800-square-foot patio and serves Mexican-inspired dishes like chicken burritos, fish tacos and pork tacos created with fresh, all-natural ingredients and no preservatives. The new restaurant also offers beer, wine, and some unique fountain drinks.

Nigel and Susannah are very hands-on with their new restaurant, and that means the diner truly gets to order these Mexican-inspired dishes as creatively as you want to be. And the great news is that individual tacos sell for $3 to $9 dollars (for real) and that means that foodies like you and me get to try variations upon variations until we get it just right. Are you ready for more good news? Your food order comes with free fresh chips and a salsa bar.

With all of that, I expected the food to taste good, and yes I know I’m supposed to enlighten with my elevated sense of taste, but I sincerely enjoyed everything I tasted … and – at those prices – my guest and I tasted a lot.

We began with what they are now calling their special “Street Tacos.” The Machaca taco is braised and shredded beef seasoned with mild chili peppers, tomato, and a soft, white Mexican cheese. It’s fantastic. The Chicken Breast taco is served with cactus (I love writing “with cactus”), avocado, cilantro, onions, and dressed with citrus. I liked it; it was my guest’s favorite. The Baja Fish Taco is a beer-battered fish served with shredded and marinated cabbage, pico de gallo, and the Zona Fresca signature dressing. It exceeded all expectations, and remember, we got to modify these little beauties with the salsa bar, which offered us the aforementioned pico (the cilantro-flecked combination of chopped tomato, onion, and fresh chiles), jalapenos, and four kinds of fresh, made-from-scratch-every-day salsas. 

We tried the steak quesadillas. Even with the steak addition it came in at less than $10 and came to the table with melted jack and cheddar cheese in a grilled tortilla with sides of guacamole, pico and sour cream.

My readers know that one of my ‘secrets’ is to ask the waitperson what he or she suggests … what is it they find to be special on the menu. This is good advice, people, because our waiter suggested the new roast pork burrito (at $6.95), and that was some of the best advice I’ve ever followed. Had it not been suggested I never would have ordered that particular burrito but, dear readers, the taste of that over-sized beauty lingers even as I write this. Apparently a new menu item, the burrito features roasted, pulled pork folded into a wrap with black beans, pickled onions and the omnipresent cilantro. I loved it, and I had plenty to share.

OK, this is considered a fast-food experience. You still place your order at a bar, but this is the fast-food experience, and with prices that are competitive with food-trucks plus that funderful never-ending chips and salsa bar, I give this Mexican inspired, welcome-to-the-neighborhood restaurant a highly recommended. It’s sure to impress.

And if you’ve read this far, Nigel and Susannah would like to offer a free fountain drink to all customers who purchase a meal in the new Winter Park location when you say, “Josh sent me.” Socially-media savvy can follow the restaurant on Twitter @zonafrescaotown or add yourself to the email list for promotions and coupons by sending your email address to [email protected]


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