Zona Fresca in Pompano Beach Sticks to the Formula

When sitting down with a grilled veggie burrito earlier this week at the third and newest Zona Fresca restaurant (located in Pompano Beach), I was reminded of New Times' writer Stefan Kamph's recent declaration that burritos are "not for women." While the burrito in front of me wasn't an exact approximation of a "swaddled newborn," it was indeed close enough to being "head-sized" that I had to throw in the napkin about halfway through. The burrito wins this time, but I demand a rematch.

Gigantic portions are a hallmark of a Zona Fresca meal, as seems to be the case with most fast-casual Cali-Mex restaurants. With nothing topping $10 on the menu -- which includes burritos, tacos, salads, and other specialties, like taquitos -- it's hard to argue the value of the meal. The Zona Fresca formula has drawn a steady following in Fort Lauderdale and Plantation, and time will tell if the new location in north Broward attracts the same level of fan loyalty.

I visited toward the end of a weekday lunch hour, and several employees were outside wrapping Mexican beer banners around awnings and columns, preparing for a Cinco de Mayo celebration on Saturday. The restaurant -- which has been open for several months -- will offer beer specials for the holiday.
The cavernous L-shaped dining room has dozens of seats available in booths, plus high- and low-top tables.

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The space is clean as can be, but it's also relatively awkward. Diners order at the counter and mill -- or sit -- around until a number is called. Not a big deal, but if you set up camp on the left side of the restaurant, around the corner from the counter, it'd be next to impossible to hear when your number is called. Meanwhile, signs hanging from the ceiling offering directions (bano, bebidas, etc.) were perhaps not as visible as hoped. A fresh salsa bar to the right of the order counter was twice mistaken for a drink station (which is around the corner with the additional seating) while I ate my lunch. 

Navigational issues aside, the newest Zona Fresca is a convenient and cost-effective lunch option. My order was up in less than three minutes and, as stated, was enough for two meals. With call-ahead ordering and takeout available, it's a solid choice for the non-deep-fried fast-food lunch crowd.

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