For any good Southerner, you mention sweet tea and fried chicken as part of a meal and we’re in. But what if you put the chicken in the sweet tea?
Sweet tea brines have become popular for making tasty chicken and the folks at Zazu Gastropub in Opelika have mastered it.
Fried extra crispy and served with homemade hot sauce and a cornbread wedge made crunchy on the griddle, this meal has earned a spot on the Alabama Tourism Department’s list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama.
It’s also the kind of quality food that has earned Zazu a loyal following, which has helped it through the COVID-19 shutdown and the slowdown in business.
Restaurants in Opelika closed their dining rooms and shifted to curbside-only service in the early days of the pandemic. Zazu shifted to carryout and family meal options – which it still offers – and then when allowed to reopen its dining room, it did so cautiously.
The soft opening with family and friends allowed Zazu to practice its new protocols, which include temperature checks, removing tables to allow for social distancing and other measures.
“That was incredibly beneficial to us,” said Gary Thorne, director of operations at Zazu.
Losing tables and, therefore, revenue is not easy on any restaurant.
“It is a business and you definitely want to make some money, but during these times you’ve got to do what’s right for your community,” Thorne said. “We’re going to make it through this.”