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Alfresco Dining in This Heat? It Works at Zinc. At Least for One.

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Zinc on North Presa Street

When I walked into Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar early Monday evening, the temperature was hovering in the mid-90s. The bar area was filled with people having a great time over their drinks and plates of food, and the air conditioning was blowing a welcome sense of calm. Yet something was calling me to the deserted courtyard out back, still warmed by the sun.

Soon, I was settled at a table near the water fountain with its tranquil burbling while I enjoyed a slight breeze in the air. An icy cocktail helped, and I almost instantly felt some blessed relief from the rush hour traffic out front. The only activity around was the line of servers passing from bar to kitchen and a trio of overfed pigeons strutting around waiting for any crumb.

Wild mushroom and arugula soup

There were few to be had from my table. Zinc’s Restaurant Week menu features a series of choices, starting with a salad or the soup of the day. I opted for the latter, a wild mushroom soup with fresh arugula added at the last moment. The broth was a light gray color and did not look terribly appetizing, yet the mushrooms were earthy and ephemeral, accented by the slight, complementary addition of bacon. And the crunch of the fresh arugula with its peppery note offered a pleasant contrast in texture while contributing to the depth of flavors in the soup.

Seared scallops

Steak or seafood for the main course? OK,  so the infamous “crack” burger wasn’t an option. That’s my usual favorite at Zinc. But I was willing to lookpast that. I went with briny scallops, which were well seared, almost caramelized, and placed atop a welcome bed of sautéed spinach. A generous ring of julienned squash, zucchini, carrots  and jícama added a good crunch, though the sauce was somewhat wan.

Dessert was a heaping portion of bread pudding with plenty of fresh peaches and brown sugar. A scoop of caramel streaked ice cream melted into the top while the serving cup was surrounded by crushed brittle. It was large enough to share with two or three people, though served for one.

Bread pudding

Zinc has a $15 Restaurant Week lunch menu, while the dinner menu is priced at $35 a person. Where to next? For a list of participants, click on the Culinaria ad above. And don’t forget that parking in city lots downtown is free on Tuesday nights.

Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar
207 N. Presa St.
(210) 224-2900

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