Speaking of lemon … the latest at Assembly Row in Somerville
A recent phenomenon in the Greater Boston area is the building of standalone mixed-use developments that are typically one part shopping center, one part office park, and one part residential space. These village-like complexes seem to be popping up out of nowhere all over the place, and unsurprisingly, many of the dining and drinking options within them are either national chains or massive locally owned behemoths that often have lines out the door.
Assembly Row in Somerville is a classic example of such a development, and while yes, it does have its share of chain restaurants and shops, it also has some local independent places that offer very good food. One of the more recent openings there is an eatery that people in Boston may be familiar with called Zo, which has a pair of quick-service/takeout Greek spots by Government Center and Faneuil Hall along with a food truck set up on the Greenway and in the Seaport District. Late last year, a more full-blown restaurant version of the place opened in one of the newer sections of Assembly Row, and if an initial look at this latest location of Zo is any indication, there could indeed be a new top-tier Greek restaurant in the region.
Zo resides in the massive Partners HealthCare building on the eastern edge of Assembly Row, a short walk from the heart of the development and a very short stroll from the Assembly T station. Several other businesses can be found in the ground floor of the structure—which is so big that it can be seen for miles—and considering it is basically a corporate office building, the restaurants, bars, and shops here have done a nice job of adding a bit of atmosphere to their spaces.
Zo is no exception, as it has an almost cozy feel inside while also having a vaguely industrial vibe thanks in part to exposed pipes and copper touches. A bar can be found to the right, with an open kitchen set up in the back, and the two partitioned areas include a full-service dining room on one side and a takeout/waiting area on the other, which all make this feel like more of a substantial place than the two Boston locations (especially the tiny shop at Center Plaza).
The Greek dining scene in the Boston area continues to be more focused on casual and inexpensive spots, unlike in New York where a lot of high-end Greek establishments can be found. Taking a cue from their other locations, the star of the show here is your classic cheap-eats item—pork and chicken gyros that are both made using house-made flatbreads that are browned just a bit and include diced tomatoes, onions, and a mild tzatziki sauce. Another simple but very impressive option that’s a good starter is the feta and olives plate, with the cheese having a bit of olive oil on it and the olives coming with wedges of lemon.
Speaking of lemon, Zo has an excellent version of avgolemono soup, with chicken and rice mixed in a smooth lemon-based broth, while lovers of Greek salads will find a solid version here complete with mixed greens, grape tomatoes, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, olives, and feta. You might not expect wings to be a can’t-miss item at a Greek restaurant, but the wings at Zo are tremendous, having a good amount of char from the grill and a tangy marinade that has herbs, spices, and olive oil. There isn’t a ton more on the menu here, but a few other options include rice bowls, veggie pitas, stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita, and pastitsio. The Somerville outpost of Zo also has a full bar, including Greek beers and wines along with cocktails. Prices are reasonable for the most part, with nearly all food items being under $10.
First impressions aren’t always accurate when it comes to restaurants (or nearly anything else, for that matter), but it seems that Assembly Row has a real winner here in Zo, which is running on all cylinders with high-quality food, low prices, a pleasant atmosphere, relatively easy parking, and a friendly and attentive staff. In a region full of excellent Greek dining spots, this one has the potential to be at or near the top of the heap if it isn’t there already.
ZO GREEK. 355 REVOLUTION DRIVE, SOMERVILLE (ASSEMBLY ROW). ZOBOSTON.COM
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.