Zookz is Z’elicious: Best sandwiches in Phoenix
Year-after-year Zookz is named one of the best sandwich shops in Phoenix for their uniquely shaped and creative concoctions. Every time I find myself in the Phoenix area, I make an effort to meet a friend or colleague at Zookz to introduce them to this fantastic, locally owned, gourmet sandwich shop.
Unlike some places that falsely advertise gourmet sandwiches (i.e. Jimmy John’s), that essentially dilute the meaning of the work gourmet, Zookz actually delivers.
Each time I invite a friend to Zookz, I tell them that they are in for a treat, that these Zookz sandwiches are not the ordinary run-of-the mill, but rather an experience they will not soon forget.
My friends would ask me to describe what makes Zookz so good or unique, but I’m always at a loss for descriptive words because the closest thing that comes to mind would be a “French Press,” however, that, of course is a phrase reserved for a style of coffee. The other thought that comes to mind is a pita pocket, but these are not made with pita bread.
Zookz sandwiches are round and made with a light and thin style of bread, almost pastry-like, but not really. I have never seen a Zookz sandwich in the process of being made before, so I am only guessing how they are created. I assume they use some sort of custom Panini style press, where one piece of bread is placed, then the ingredients placed on top, then a top portion of bread atop the ingredients. I then presume they put some sort of egg whites along the edge of the bread to seal it all together. Then, it is pressed together while warming the ingredients and toasting the bread, all the while creating a crusty sealed edge.
Your sandwich is served cut in half and comes with a choice of a side salad. While I have tried several Zookz sandwiches, my favorite has to be No. 10! It has roasted turkey, Parmesan cheese, apples, cranberries, roasted almonds and a sweet heat mustard sauce. My side salad of choice is the baby kale. I always get a botanical tea as well, which I believe, they have 5 to choose from.
The décor at Zookz is also special. There is a small but lovely outdoor seating area. The front door is large glass, and just like the sandwiches; a bit different…it pivots rather then a traditional hinged door. There are expansive windows that are kept open to connect the inside with the patio, letting a scent of deliciousness waft out to passersby. Inside Zookz, the colors are bright, emitting an aura that has an “it” factor of something special.
One day, while eating alone at Zookz, I actually had the time to read one of those little brochures that are often on restaurant tables, advertising drink or daily specials. What I learned about these flavorful round sandwiches is how they came to be. Like any good restaurant, there is a good story.
Carol Meyer, owner of Zookz hails from Egypt, but grew up in Libya. Her grandmother Berdijoui was a veracious traveler who would often bring back gifts for Carol and the other grandkids. One year after coming home from a trip to London, she had a strange contraption in tow. After unveiling the device, the kids were not impressed and were quite let down. The disappointment didn’t last long though, as Berdijoui quickly got to work making the first “Zookz” sandwiches. As soon as the kids smelled the olive oil, cheeses and toasting bread in the air, their moods quickly changed. The fond memories that followed were Carol’s inspiration for opening the first Zookz restaurant in Phoenix.
While Carol was a kid at camp one year, she mentioned these sandwiches her grandmother would make to a friend who knew exactly what they were—she knew them as “Jaffles,” a term completely unfamiliar to me. No matter what you call these round sandwiches, the pocket of warm goodness is something you will come back for time and again.
With the overwhelming success of the Zookz location at Camelback and Central, Carol has recently opened a second location in downtown Phoenix. If you have ever been to Zookz, please share your experience below.
Zookz Contact Information:
- Uptown – Mon.-Fri. 7am to 4pm | Sat & Sun. 8am to 4pm
- Downtown – 7am to 4pm Mon. Fri. Closed on the weekends
Phone: 602-279-0906 (Uptown) – 480-219-9729 (Downtown)
Prices: $6.25 to $8.75 depending on sandwich