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Dining out: Zinn Bistro

Back in the early '90s, my husband and I spent almost a year in Wales.

One weekend, some friends took us on a day-trip to Devon, during which we stopped for lunch at the Cott Inn, open since 1320. That's right, in business for going on 700 years.

As you might imagine, the ambience was a little old-fashioned: delightful bubble-paned glass, beam ceilings, dining tables set up in little nooks and crannies, and the kind of enormous, painstakingly prepared lunch that would keep a famished field hand or hungry duke going all day.

I was irresistibly reminded of the Cott Inn last week when a friend and I stepped into the Zinn Bistro. Though it's part of the Ivy Place shopping center, step through the door, take a left and you're in another world.

The beam ceilings are there, as are the various tchotchkes set on shelves, whitewashed walls, wooden banquettes, intimate dining spaces and a most unusual lunch.

When I first looked over the menu, prices seemed a little steep. But that was before the owner brought over a plateful of airy homemade popovers and sweet pastries with tart raspberry butter, and before the waitress brought us little cups of steaming cider, and before our ordered food arrived, also in ample portions.

Take that into account, and the place is a bargain. We had enough leftover pastries to divide up and take home for our families' breakfast the next morning. It was sort of like eating at your mom's house, as she lovingly insists you take all the best leftovers.

Though we ate the pastries first, our actual appetizer was the Thai-avocado egg rolls, a melange of avocado, red onions, seasonal veggies, rice noodles and cilantro rolled and fried. It's served with both earthy cashew tamarind and sweet Asian sauces and tastes comforting and eye-opening fresh.

For lunch, I had the fettuccine with chunks of Gorgonzola cheese, artichoke hearts and pimento. This dish is hard to explain, because to say that it's sour and mellow makes it sound odd. Instead, it's tasty, with the diverse flavors working together to elevate classic Alfredo into something more challenging — and more rewarding.

With it, Zinn Bistro offered a simple salad of absolutely dry and fresh baby spinach, tomato, green onion and feta cheese in which the quality of the individual ingredients shone.

My friend had a very good rendition of the Monte Cristo, with powdered-sugar-dusted crispy-batter sheathing bread stuffed with moist turkey, ham and American and Swiss cheeses. It's just fine alone, or you can dip it in the accompanying berry jam for an extra sinful thrill.

The sandwich was served with pasta salad, thin-sliced melon and homemade Parmesan potato chips.

Though I liked our food, there's plenty more on the menu I'd like to try: the meatloaf sandwich with Muenster cheese, for example, or the roasted chicken Cobb salad with maple-smoked bacon dressing, or the smoked bacon and three-cheese potato stack, an upscale take on cheese fries.

One note to parents: even during the day, the restaurant's owners discourage children under 7 from visiting. This may be a little off-putting to some, but I must say I understand why: This is a place of retreat and pampering, which is best left to older kids and adults.

Besides, I didn't know the suggestion when I visited and therefore brought my 2-year-old, and our welcome was perfectly gracious. But I think I'll leave her home when I come on a weekend for dinner. That dinner menu is just as enticing as the one for lunch.

Lunch: appetizers $9.95-$10.95, salads $10.95-$12.95, sandwiches and pasta $10.95-$14.95. Dinner: appetizers $6-$15, entrees $17-$22.


Zinn Bistro

Rating: ***

Where: 2020 E. 3300 South

Hours: Lunch: Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Dinner: Friday-Saturday, 6 p.m.-close

Payment: Cash, credit cards

Reservations: Accepted at dinner, none at lunch

Phone: 485-6644


Stacey Kratz is a free-lance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com