Zeytoon Restaurant at VineRipe Market
Persian and Mediterranean cuisine
8191 Fletcher Parlway
La Mesa, CA 91942 (next to CostCo)
By Megan McGlamery
Nestled in La Mesa next to the VineRipe Market is Zeytoon, a delicious Persian and Mediterranean restaurant now under new ownership. Zeytoon, which translates to olive, serves a wide variety of flavorful appetizers, salads, entrees and sandwiches, all of which are reasonably priced and generously sized. The market is also a treasure-trove of specialty foods from around the world.
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Ghulam Sarwar purchased the restaurant and adjacent market, acquiring ownership on June 13. Since then, he's made changes to appeal to a broader audience, reeplacing less popular dishes with new favorites, reducing prices, increasing the staff, and bringing back the restaurant's original chef, Reza Nazeri.
“The prices, we took them down a bit and took out some appetizers that weren’t selling. Now what we have, every day we sell them out,” said Nazeri, who is from Iran (formerly known as Persia). “We use fresh ingredients, Persian cucumbers, red onions, parsley, cilantro and olive oil. We have the best Basmati rice – 40 pounds of this costs $45.”
Along with Miriam Raftery, editor of East County Magazine, I sampled a variety of Zeytoon’s menu items. We started with the eggplant stew (the stew of the day, $2.99), a hearty dish that featured sirloin beef, beans and eggplant in a rich broth.
Next, we tried Zeytoon’s Persian salad, (or Shirazi, $3.99) which is a mix of finely chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and parsley. The salad is topped with a zesty Persian dressing. Sarwar informed us that all salad dressings are made daily. “We use yogurt, red wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, oregano and dill.”
We also sampled the spicy chicken kabobs ($9.99), which were incredibly tender and juicy. The boneless charbroiled chicken is seasoned with a special spicy sauce, giving it an extra boost of flavor. We also tasted Kubideh, (ground beef kabobs, $8.99) which were delicious. “All our meat is Halal beef and it is fresh, not frozen,” Sarwar assures.
All entrée dishes at Zeytoon are served with a generous portion of saffron rice and a Greek salad. The bright yellow of the rice matches its bright flavor, making it a perfect compliment for all the entrees. The fresh Greek salad, which can also be ordered on its own for $5.99, is a combination of lettuce, cucumbers, red onions and olives topped with feta cheese and Zeytoon’s special house dressing.
I look forward to sampling the spinach salad, Zeytoon’s newest dish, on my next visit. It includes spinach, tomatoes, feta cheese and walnuts and is also served with Zeytoon’s house dressing.
Zeytoon provides both indoor and outdoor seating, with fans around the outdoor patio for hotter days and heaters for cool winter nights. There is also a take-out menu, so you can enjoy dishes at home.Changes include some interior modeling, with Moorish arches open to VineRipe Market next door.
Customers of Zeytoon will also enjoy shopping at VineRipe, an international marketplace with many exotic and unusual items at affordable prices.
“Through these doors walk the world’s most beautiful people,” reads a hanging sign inside the market’s entryway. VineRipe Market features food from over forty-five countries around the world, including Italy, Bulgaria, Russia, Pakistan, India and Palestine.
“We have a wide variety of customers,” says Sarwar. “Our clients are not Middle Eastern, but mostly Anglo. All nationalities and religions shop here.”
With products from all over the world, such as delicious tandoori bread and olive oils from Italy and Palestine, VineRipe Market is truly an international shopping haven.
An in–store bakery prepares flat breads, pastries and more. Want to take home some Greek salad or hummus? Check the deli.
If you crave fudge, Russian candies or Turkish sweets, visit the candy counter. Find everything from gourmet beef cuts to goat meat at a halal meat counter. Need pomegranate syrup, taro roots, ripe eggplant or succulent dates? You’ll find all these items and more at VineRipe.
You can also find locally grown mushrooms, heirlooom tomatoes, and colorful peppers at amazingly low prices (three orange bell peppers for a dollar, for instance). There are even holiday favorites, such as chestnuts ready to roast over an open fire.
Zeytoon certainly brings an appetizing taste of Persia and the Mediterranean to La Mesa while VineRipe Market adds a feeling of true internationalism to the community. Both provide delicious contributions to increasing diversified cuisine within East County.
Coming soon, the market will be adding a bazaar upstairs with items for the home.
If you want to sample lunch or dinner at Zeytoon—or take a shopping trip around the world at VineRipe Market--print out the coupons below to save money on your next visit.