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Best bites: Zunzi's, Barnes
Zunzi's on York Street has a devoted clientele


Long before tourists were lining up to eat Paula Deen's chicken, locals were are already on queue for lunch at this little York Street take-out restaurant. Maybe it's the fresh ingredients, maybe its the quirkiness that fuels Zunzi's popularity. For me, it's the house made sausage, a tribute to the owners' South African roots. I had it again last week, not on a sandwich, but on what the menu calls "SLP "(Something Like Pizza). A handmade and nice flavored crust was topped with big pieces of this slightly spicy and very flavorful sausage -- I think I detected a hint of cloves! Diced tomato added color and fresh flavor, as did basil and just enough cheese to hold the whole thing together. It as perfect for one -- or share it with a a slad.

108 E. York St./ 443-9555

Romano's Macaroni Grill

Sometimes, the bites aren't that good. Such was the case at Macaroni Grill, where service was attentive, the line long and the food short on goodness. Our Caprese salad was swimming in a puddle of balsamic and oil -- when a drizzle would have been adequate. The tomatoes were flavorless and tough, the basil overgrown and woody. The redeeming feature were the nearly bite-sized pieces of Mozzarella -- which were fresh and tasty. My lasagna was a victim of being held too long: dry and lacking much character. When fresh, it might have been a contender, but this piece had kinda congealed into one mass, any gooey cheese and sauce had long since vanished. Better luck next time, eh?

7804 Abercorn St./692-1488


Barnes BBQ Express

Perennial local favorite Barnes' Restaurant has a winner in it little BBQ Express located in the heart of downtown.
Service is quick, pleasant and the place is hopping at lunch. I had a pulled pork sandwich and found the barbecue to be tender, moist and just smoky enough. I ate half the sandwich with no sauce and then added some of Barnes' tangy concoction -- which provided some kick without too much sweetness. A side of cole slaw as perfect for this hot day -- it was finely cut and still maintained crispness. I preferred to add a little black pepper but the slaw's underlaying creamy base is plenty flavorful. The eatery is the "Mini Me" of the big restaurant -- which means you can also get ribs, chicken and choose from a long list of side dishes.

109 Whitaker St./ 236-1557