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Zest! brings zing to Eagan

Photo by Todd Buchanan

It’s such a great name: Zest! (emphasis theirs), so full of flavor and promise. And for anyone who lives around the southeast suburbs, any promising restaurant is highly appreciated—the area could use more.

I loved that the bar had only craft beers, an ambitious cocktail list, and a menu that brings some original choices to the southeast suburbs. I didn’t love how loud it was, though. When we went to Zest! on a Saturday night, we were dumped right into the bar, which was packed with sports fans watching giant flat-screen TVs. I wish the dining room had a little more separation from the bar, visually and acoustically.

The food was hit or miss. One hit: the cheese curds. Creamy, crispy, and made with Brie, these were the perfect bar food. Also, be sure to get the Minnesota egg rolls, made with walleye and wild rice. I admit, I ordered them to make fun of them, but they were delicious. Skip the sausage flatbread. Although the sausage is made in-house, it lacked compelling flavor.

As for bigger food items, the sandwiches we tried were also disappointing. The Monte Cristo was served as a soggy mess: the raspberry-chipotle jam on the side was delicious, but couldn’t redeem it. The menu promised the grouper po’ boy would be blackened fish, but there was no evidence of blackening or even seasoning on my sandwich.

A few entrées hit the mark, however. The Mediterranean burger was a delight—the flavor of the gyro seasonings and tzatziki cucumber sauce worked together nicely. The highlight, though, was the Midwest bison Bolognese. The five bison meatballs were juicy and flavorful, and the pasta had a rich red-pepper-and-tomato sauce that we couldn’t get enough of. This dish had zest! (Emphasis mine.)

And that’s what I wanted more of. The prices are good, the portions are perfect, the service is friendly: with more consistent execution and an unwavering emphasis on bold flavors, Zest! will be a highlight of the southeastern suburbs.

Zest! Bar & Grill, 525 Diffley Rd., Eagan, 651-340-6797, zesteagan.com

Jason DeRusha is a reporter for WCCO-TV.

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