Over the years, readers have accused me of harshing their foodie vibe by injecting politics into my writings. To them, I say, tough. If you want incessant poofery removed from the reality that goes into making one meal, go find some Instagram/Snapchat food-porn maven or read the latest breathless french-fry review from the Orange County Register's Brad A. Johnson. In these crazy times, we need more restaurants to step up and engage in discussions about where we get our food and how. It happens everywhere else in the United States, wherever there's a great food scene—why not Orange County?
That's why I was thrilled to hear that zcafé in Costa Mesa recently declared itself a "sanctuary restaurant"—the first in the county to do so. It's not any legal distinction or a form of amnesty; all the designation declares, as defined by sponsoring orgs Restaurant Opportunities Center United and Presente.org, is that the participating restaurant has "zero tolerance for sexism, racism and xenophobia" and is working to "help create the inclusive and equitable world we want to see." What a sad world that even something as nice as this draws critics!
The bistro seems an unlikely warrior for the cause: At the beginning of the Bridge of Gardens at South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court section, zcafé is a great place for ladies who lunch or to get a quick, delicious bite. But dig in a bit, and you'll see this place is a natural to step up. It's the serious-yet-playful sister of the zpizza chain, the pioneering outfit that was doing fusion, non-GMO pies while Wolfgang Puck was still tightening his lederhosen in Austria. General manager David Hastie makes sure to stock local craft beers, and the café currently offers a luscious lima bean soup in honor of South Coast Plaza's 50th anniversary. It cares about community, which makes zcafé's transformation into a sanctuary restaurant a natural. But I don't do affirmative action, so it's especially awesome that its hefty sandwiches (the grilled asada is bae), crunchy salads and ever-chewy pizzas now come with a side of righteousness. Mmm . . . righteousness. . . .
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zcafé, 3333 Bear St., Ste. 316, Costa Mesa, (714) 545-5500; www.zcafesouthcoast.com.?