Zorba’s Mediterranean Cuisine: Restaurant Schizophrenia

by | December 14, 2007 | 40 Comments

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Zorba's

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6014 N. May Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK 73112
405-947-7788
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Zorba’s has recently made a big splash on the Northwest side of town by opening a new, very large location on North May. I tried out this new location and discovered that their recent move has resulted in a severe case of schizophrenia. Zorba’s can’t decide if it wants to retain the small, fast food, rough-around-the-edges feel of its roots, or morph into a modern, full service restaurant. The problem is that this indecision results in a sub-par experience all around.

Zorba’s Mediterranean Cuisine in Oklahoma CityLet’s start our diagnosis with their new building. The exterior is much like a square, but with a few Greek adornments. It’s almost interesting, but when you take a closer look, it’s really just a big box. I don’t get it. It lacks commitment and direction. It can’t decide what it wants to be.

Then, there’s the interior. It’s sort of modern, with relaxed neutrals, polished floors, and recessed lighting. But then there are these old-looking murals on the walls, like what you would have seen at the old location. And it’s sort of half-finished. One side of the room is quite interesting with angles in the walls and fixtures to really break things up. Then you travel to the other end of the room where it’s just a box with chairs and tables.

I went at lunch, where Zorba’s still does limited service, taking your order at the counter and bringing the food to your table after you serve your own drinks. But there’s a host stand at the front and a large waiting area, so I asked them about it and they said at night they do full service. So, at lunch, you walk past the empty waiting room, the empty host stand and the empty bar and stand in line for the counters. I can imagine that it’s equally as awkward at night as the full-service elements are in use but there are a bunch of walk-up counters that are empty. This may not seem like a big deal, but I think it does make a difference to the experience. Is it fast food, or is it a sit-down dinner? It’s really tough to be both, and this schizophrenic struggle comes through in the facility, just as it shows up in the average quality of the food.

The food is just that — average. I really don’t understand what is special about it. The gyro meat was dry. The Greek salad was little more than some iceberg lettuce with some cheese and olives on top and in an italian-type dressing (why italian?). They have all the standard Mediterranean fare, but it all just seems to be “ok,” not great. I was dining with a group of friends who all had the same impression. It’s not that it’s bad. In fact, we all really wanted it to be better than it was, but when you get honest about it, there’s nothing that really grabs you.

On balance, I will say that we tried a hummus dip that was pretty good. It was probably the most intriguing item I experienced with a smooth, creamy texture and a nice, earthy flavor. Also, if you are looking for a salad, the Persian salad outperforms the Greek. It’s a non-lettuce salad with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and some other veggies — fresh and zippy and unique enough to hold my attention. Those were the bright spots of the food for me.

Couple the average food with the awkward atmosphere and you get this experience that really just leaves you confused. Especially confused because the place is so crowded at lunch. They obviously have a lot of fans, so hey, I can’t knock them for that. To each their own, but Zorba’s to me is just not worth the trip. There are several other Mediterranean places that offer a better experience and better food (see our recent review on Athens for one example).

Honestly, I really wish I had better things to say about Zorba’s, but I just don’t. Restaurant schizophrenia is a sad and devastating disease that leaves me a bit confused and wishing for a better experience.

Please leave your comments about Zorba’s below.

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This article was posted by Tim Wall on Friday, December 14th, 2007. It is filed under:

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  • CGHill says:
    December 14th, 2007 at 10:18 pm   

    Um, they moved, remember?

    Try 6014 North May. 4621 is about to mutate into something else.

  • Tim says:
    December 15th, 2007 at 9:23 am   

    Thanks, CGHill. Very sorry for the misprint. I have that all corrected now.

    And, by the way, I hope to have a picture up soon. There haven’t been very many good photo days this past week!

  • Dayna says:
    January 7th, 2008 at 5:16 pm   

    We tried this on Sunday 1-6-07. I must say, I won’t be going back. My food was lukewarm and the service was very slow. They seem to have a problem with how to seat people. Not very organized. I remember this being a much better place to eat before they moved.

  • Cindy Akers says:
    February 22nd, 2008 at 8:01 pm   

    I had Zorba’s for lunch today. I find their selections of food very good. My food was hot, I had no trouble seating myself. The time of day may be your problem. I don’t know about evening dining. I feel lunch dining is a 5.

  • Jim says:
    April 5th, 2008 at 9:31 pm   

    What was this jerk thinking? I have been to Zorba’s on numerous occasions, at the new location. My dining experience has always been fantastic, to say the least. The staff is friendly and professional. The food is served in an appropriate timeframe, hot and fresh. The fool is delicious. The price is right. I will definately be dining at Zorba’s on a regular basis. Plus, they have won the “People’s Choice” award for the past several years . . . voted the best in Greek dining.

  • Tim says:
    April 6th, 2008 at 9:00 pm   

    Hey Jim, this article is just my opinion and I know not everyone will agree. We love to hear contrasting opinions shared on this site so thank you for sharing yours and I hope you’ll continue to read along and add your two cents to other reviews as well.

  • Nadia says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 8:42 pm   

    After driving by Zorba’s on several occasions, I hesitated to dine there, even with numerous invitations from friends. Last weekend, my husband and I were invited to join another couple for dinner at Zorba’s. We ordered Lamb, combo shish-kabob, and the “weekend special” pillea. We were greeted and served by a friendly staff who made us feel welcome. The service was fantastic. The food was delicious, being served both fresh and hot. I encourage “Tim” to give Zorba’s another try. Having done so, he may “rethink” his opinion. I give Zorba’s “thumbs up” for a great dining experience.

  • Elizabeth says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 9:10 pm   

    A wonderful dining experience. Attentive staff. Great food. Great prices. I’ll definately go back.

  • Andrew says:
    April 9th, 2008 at 10:06 pm   

    I haven’t been to the new location, but I remember the Kabob’s being quite tasty at the old one. I remember it being slow, but the set up there was different than the new location from the sound of things. I’m not opposed to trying Zorbas again, but it will be hard for me to pass by Zam Zam next time I need a kabob. Best in town.

  • Rena says:
    April 24th, 2008 at 12:07 am   

    had dinner there a few weeks ago. Food was fine, but the building is so cavernous and noisy, I may not go back!

  • Sara says:
    April 29th, 2008 at 6:59 pm   

    While I haven’t been to the new location, I thoroughly enjoy Zorba’s. Every time I go I order a chelo kebab (kubideh is good) and drink some nice dough. I am half Persian and I have to say that the ultimate place for awesome Persian food has been Travel By Taste around NW 50th and Macarthur I think. They have the best chelo kebab! Almost as good as my dad’s homemade kebab! ;)

  • mike says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 9:10 am   

    I had zorba’s last night.awesome food,friendly staff,great bar.

  • Janet says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 9:40 am   

    A great dining experience. Friendly staff. Delicious food. The pomogranite margaritta was awesome. Will definately be going back.

  • Kristin says:
    July 1st, 2008 at 2:13 pm   

    I have eaten there at lunch and on the weekend. The portions are HUGE and tasty. I have had nothing but great food at Zorba’s. Try the spinach artichoke dip–It’s delicious!!

  • Marry Ann says:
    October 2nd, 2008 at 10:22 pm   

    Goooooooood! The food is really tasty and the service is great! I love that place! I will go back anytime. Thumb up, Zorba!

  • Deborah says:
    October 9th, 2008 at 2:10 pm   

    I have recently visited Zorbas for the first time i ordered the veg. sampler and chicken kabobs they were great i will return!!!!

  • tessa says:
    October 27th, 2008 at 3:27 pm   

    I loved it. I cannot remember the name for the appetizer we ordered but it was filled with spinach and feta cheese. I ordered the lamb and we had baklavah for dessert. I thought all of it tasted delicious. The service was especially helpful and patient with our questions and indecisiveness. When I first walked in I thought the painting on the walls was cheesy and, true, the building itself is pretty boring for its Greek touches.
    I’m definitely coming back though!

  • Nick says:
    December 5th, 2008 at 9:58 am   

    Mediteranian food is perhaps one of the most flavorable type of food for centuries. It has traveled beyond the borders of the Mediteranian sea. I have been to Mediteranian restaurants all over United States, I must tell you that Zorba’s in OKC stands alone because it connects to the heart of true mediteranian food. Everyone should try this great place. Food is beyond your expectation.

  • James says:
    February 4th, 2009 at 3:10 pm   

    My family and I wanted to try some different resturants, so we thought we would give a few of you guys suggestions a try. First we tried Shish Kabab Resturant,and then we tried Zam Zam’s.
    Zam Zam’s was the most scarest place I have ever seen. Shish Kabab’s,well let just say that I did not know Mediteranian food included American Style Spaghetti, and the buffet did not even offer shish kababs. (HINTS THE NAME)
    When is comes to Mediteranian style of food, Oklahoma is a sad place to be.

  • Emily says:
    February 9th, 2009 at 1:47 pm   

    @James: Have you tried the Olive Branch Cafe in downtown OKC on the NW corner of Hudson and Sheridan? If not, you may want to give them a try and hopefully they can reaffirm your confidence in OKC being a good place for Mediterranean. The Olive Branch may sometimes have a bit of wait time once you order your food, but it is well worth it. My husband and I love Medterranean food and didn’t find Zam Zam to be scary, we thought it was a rather charming place that was very authentic. Hope this helps.

  • James says:
    February 12th, 2009 at 12:40 pm   

    *Emily* Thank you for your concern and suggestion, and if you have more please let me know.
    In the past few weeks my family and I have been trying to visit all of the Medterranean places from Swisses on 18th and May to Nous Nous on Memorial, and also we have been to a place on 50th and Macarther. Hopefully with in the next week or so we will have been to all and find a place that we like and I will let you know and also I will deff. try Olive Branch and let you know what we think. (Thank You)

  • Nadia says:
    February 18th, 2009 at 2:57 pm   

    James, when it comes to Med. food Oklahoma is moving up, you just have to find the right place.
    Emily is right when is comes to the Olive Branch, there Babaghnnouj is the best, you should deff. go and try it.Meanwhile, don’t pay attention to what Tim has said about Zorba’s, you should try it at least once.

  • Kat says:
    February 22nd, 2009 at 12:21 pm   

    Gyros meat without lamb? Are you kidding me? A non-starter…NOT authentic at ALL. Worst ever and am perplexed at the raving reviews. Mediterranean Cuisine? Nope, not even near its truest form. Plus, if you have a large party, food arrives in drips and drabs and there is NO way to be polite about waiting for everyone to get their food before digging in as yours will be ruined if you wait. Much better food found just about anywhere else…try The Mediterranean Grill. (Also, facility is just wrong and parking is a nightmare).

  • Kat says:
    February 22nd, 2009 at 12:24 pm   

    And one other thing…my kingdom for the return of the Magic Lamp…. :(

  • TR says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 1:08 am   

    Zorbas is terrible – absolutely terrible. Having lived in Greece and having enjoyed Greek food in several dozen greek communities around the world, perhaps my expectations were too high. Their version of a Greek salad – something very basic and almost universal – was pathetic! No olives. Six tiny dots of feta and BOTTLED ITALIAN DRESSING!!!! Zorbas is the Disney version of what someone hopes Oklahoman’s will think Greek food is. Bleeech!

  • TR says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 1:14 am   

    Yes Kat I am as perplexed as you are. Last month I met a friend at a new small unassuming Med restaurant next to Russell Stovers on May and it was out of this world fresh and tasty. Zorbas is to Greek food what Olive Garden is to Italian food. Perhaps its all in what you order. No second chance for me unless Nick wants to pay.

  • Emily says:
    July 14th, 2009 at 7:37 am   

    I agree with Tim (and TR, hahaha). Zorba’s is nothing special and the experience deteriorated significantly after the move. It wins People’s Choice/Best Of Gazette awards simply because it is the most well known Med restaurant. Locals will disagree, but that’s just because there’s no truly spectacular Med food around here to compare it to.

  • kathy says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 5:21 pm   

    I have been so quiet trying to notice who is writing what????? nadia why you are honest and say your brother works there????anyone has the right to say what they like?????get over it an be Honest Girl.

  • Rick says:
    July 24th, 2009 at 4:54 am   

    I think most should reconsider trying Zorba’s! It is very delicious, most of you are trying the “normal” med. food. Try something like their pizzas, there not what you expect on a pizza but it still amazing! Try something out of the ordinary! My fav. Is the lentil stu, moosaka, and the florintini pizza.

  • Kaylee says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 1:21 pm   

    I have been here 3 times and have to disagree with most and say that it is good! Well, mostly. The spanakopita is really yummy. Not hard to get right though! The first time I got the chicken shishkabob and it was pretty good. I mean, honestly it wasn’t very flavorful but pretty good, and my mom got the moosaka which was amazing!! Then I had chicken bandari (I think that’s how you say it) and it wasn’t good. The flavor was ok, but the chicken came on the bone and it was really pink in a lot of spots. I didn’t eat even half of it. The last time I have gone I had the gyro dinner. It wasn’t as good as the Med. Grill in South OKC, but it was still yummy. I really like their persian salad also. So fresh tasting! The gyro meat was a little greasy, but tasted good.

  • amanda says:
    August 7th, 2009 at 3:01 pm   

    Zorba’s was my favorite place to eat for about the past 13 years. Once they moved it was never the same. The seating is off ,very noisy,food was once cooked by family now by kids.I am very dissappointed wish they could go back to the good ol’ days.

  • amanda says:
    August 7th, 2009 at 3:05 pm   

    Medterranean food try travel by taste @ 50th and MacArthur. A place I hope to try soon is Kabob and Curry on n.portland. The best Mediterranean food I have to say comes from my kitchen.

  • Elegy says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 3:44 pm   

    I don’t go to Zorbas for the traditional Med. food or the decor. I get takeout and order the Western Gyro or the Ithaki Burger Wrap. Both are excellent, the Western Gyro grilled onions are amazing.

    Like I said, not comparing it to traditional spots, just commenting on a place for a good sandwich to go.

  • Amanda says:
    July 28th, 2010 at 8:23 am   

    Zorbas is the bomb!

  • Barry says:
    December 1st, 2010 at 10:24 am   

    I’ve had two bad experiences there and won’t return. Most notably, I was a bit miffed that this place is so stingy with pita bread. You get a big bowl of yogurt sauce with four potato-chip sized wedges. It is physically impossible to put that much yogurt sauce on those pitas. The same goes with the hummus dish and the gyros. The owners must be real cheapskates (“Only four wedges.” “But, sir, the customers are com…””FOUR WEDGES ONLY!”). Then, the three dishes we had were loaded with a superhuman amount of plain, white rice (even though we ordered fries on one of them). Nobody could eat as much white rice as we were given. The chicken on the kabos was dry. I’m not even Middle Eastern, but I could way outcook these guys.

  • Sharon says:
    March 10th, 2011 at 7:34 am   

    Went to Zorba’s last night with a group of 20 women for our Resuce Girls Night Out. Our watiress was great. Stayed on top of it all night long. The food was good and the portions were large. It was my first time and I will go back.

  • Amanda Greene says:
    March 23rd, 2012 at 8:28 am   

    Zorba’s should just be like those traveling taco stands except with gyros because the sandwiches are the only thing left in this restaurant that hasn’t completely crashed and burned since the move!!! If you want to eat on a dime, go to Zorba’s. But if you want good service and good food….buy a cookbook on the food they make and do it yourself! How do they get a readers’ choice award every year….oh yeah, they are practically the only Greek restaurant! I would rather eat at Shish Kabobs and that’s saying a lot! Dancers are good that’s it!

  • TODD BROCKLAM says:
    March 23rd, 2012 at 8:41 am   

    If you are in the mood for a pound of white rice, eggplant stew that clearly gets its eggplant from a CAN, and don’t like friendly staff….then go to Zorba’s! I went and thought I was getting PUNKED the whole time! No, it really is that bad!

  • Duncan says:
    September 19th, 2014 at 12:23 pm   

    Fabulous for a casual evening out, or even a bit dressy if you choose. My personal preferences are the spanakopita, incredible gyro meat, and, a must try, their house specialty tomato artichoke soup – I was a skeptic until the first taste! Zorba’s has won numerous awards in OKC for fine cuisine.

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