Back to the Future – Zanzabar gets a second life in Germantown

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Since moving to just south of Eastern Parkway outside of Germantown, my husband and I have missed the selection of bars and restaurants we took for granted when we lived in the Highlands. But trading rent for a mortgage meant we gave up Old Town and Cherokee Park as neighbors and got Preston Highway’s fast food joints and the Dairy Kastle instead. I whine regularly about how far we have to drive for Blue Dog Bread and good places to eat, but wouldn’t trade my ‘217 mortgage to move back. Bit by bit things may be improving though. We got sushi on Preston last year, for one. And now, now, it looks like we’ll have our very own neighborhood pub. I’d heard of the Brown Bag and Zanzibar on Preston since moving to this neighborhood, but they were part of a history that didn’t belong to me. We’d seen work going on at the site of the old Brown Bag, but didn’t know what was up until I heard the news on Broken Sidewalk. Zanzabar’s web site (they haven’t filled in all the blanks yet but it’s at http://www.zanzabarlouisville.com/) invited people to email for invitations to the soft opening. My reply warned that it’s a “soft, soft, soft” opening so we went prepared for chaos. After the 15 minute walk and entrance under the big black tile “Z,” though, we found a lively pub that felt like it had been around for a hundred years. Families, middle-aged folks sporting old-school Zanzibar T-shirts, and local 20- and 30-somethings filled the restaurant, digging into Chef Jamie Jones’ (lately of Bistro 301 downtown) “comfort cuisine.” I liked the laid back atmosphere, the gorgeous wall-sized Derby opening gate photo up front (shot by Antz, one of the brothers running the new Zbar), and the friendly staff. But as a bit of a food snob, the true test of whether this could become our place is the menu. I loved the names: Germantown Club, Preston Pulled Pork, the Brown Bag Club, and even more, dug the love they showed for diners who don’t eat meat. The Veg Out sandwich and the Mozzarella Salad both tempted but I chose the salad, and my husband went right for the cornmeal battered fried fish. Sipping a vodka and cranberry (I bypassed the Barefoot wine) while my husband enjoyed a Boddingtons from the large beer list, we chatted with the original Zanzibar owner, Joe, dining there with some of his family. Reminiscing about the old days when students danced all night, drinking beer and whiskey and eating frozen pizzas and hamburgers, Joe positively beamed at what the new generation had done with the place. For myself, I just gave thanks that frozen pizza had been replaced with homemade yummies made with local vegetables. We both gave our meals enthusiastic thumbs up. For a place with nothing more expensive than $8 on the menu, they’re pulling off some tasty fare. The fried fish was crispy and tasty and my salad featured gorgeous fresh tomatoes and a sweetly addictive honey balsamic dressing. The fries were pub-style -- unfortunately I don’t get into thick French fries like that. My husband polished them off with no complaint though. We happily concluded that we’ve found a neighborhood place -- an inexpensive pub to drop in for a drink or dinner and maybe a game of PacMan. No small feat living in our little piece of the city. I look forward to making my own Zbar memories. Zanzabar 2100 S. Preston St. 635-9227 open till 4 a.m., food till midnight, cafeteria steam table 11-3
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