Insert Ball Joke Here
Chef Doug Brown reinvents the burger joint with Zeno's Meatball Kitchen
While others continue to follow the by-now-wearying burger trend, Zeno's Meatball Kitchen will go where no burger has gone before: meatball sandwiches, meatballs in chili, meatballs in salad. Meatballs!
This new concept, opening April 22 on 10870 Plano Rd. in northeast Dallas, comes from chef Doug Brown, owner of Beyond the Box in downtown Dallas and a former chef at 4-star restaurants such as Nana.
"I've been thinking about a meatball concept for the last two years," he says. "This is the next step for the burger. Meatballs are similar to burgers, but you can do a lot more with them. To me, they're better."
"Meatballs are similar to burgers, but you can do a lot more with them," says Zeno's founder Doug Brown. "To me, they're better."
Meatballs are not only fortified with other ingredients like chopped onions, breadcrumbs and spices, but you can make them out of different meats. Zeno's has eight varieties, including beef, chicken, turkey and chorizo.
Brown has also devised an extensive menu of items, all of which have cutesy ball-themed names. Sandwiches include the Old Ball and Chain, a basic burger setup with lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion. Mama's Balls goes Italian with marinara and mozzarella. The Buffalo Balls is a hot wing riff, and the BBQ Balls has barbecue sauce.
Mediterranean-style Zorballs has chicken meatballs, cucumbers, tomato and feta cheese. Blue Balls is like a blue cheese bacon burger. Great Balls of Fire has chorizo meatballs and spicy tomato sauce. Cojones is a fajitas version of meatballs, with pepper and onions. Fowl Balls are turkey meatballs with avocado and bacon. Ball Buster is beef meatballs topped with fries, cheese and sauce.
All the salads come topped with sliced meatballs: Greek, Buffalo, chopped Italian and wedge. Brown is doing chili, plus baked potatoes with meatball toppings. Shake flavors are vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream, strawberry, and salted caramel.
Brown, who says he was inspired by The Meatball Shop in New York, took over the space vacated by the short-lived Gina's Organic Kitchen. "I'd been working on the concept, but when that space came along, it was perfect and at the right time," he says.
That area, just outside the 635 loop, is mostly office and industrial — which fits his vision of Zeno's as a lunch stop, open at 11 am and probably closing at 7 pm, depending on demand. "We're not doing any beer or wine or liquor," he says. "Lunch is the focus."
The bright yellow-and-red interior and logo design have a certain chain-like polish, and that's no mistake.
"We sure hope there will be more," Brown says. "We have a monstrous kitchen in that space. We set the whole thing up to try and knock a couple more out. That’s the way we went into it."