Eatside: Z'Tejas Gets Cornbread and Dumplings Right

The service and salad, however, leave a lot to be desired.

Bellevue Square's Z'Tejas has been around for a number of years, in five different states, and does a couple of things very well. As soon as you sit down and waters arrive, each table gets housemade cornbread in Barbie-sized iron skillets with honey butter. They're small enough that you can polish off the whole thing, but not large enough to ruin your appetite. There are nice bits of whole-kernel corn in the bread, and the density is just right. Z'Tejas also has great appetizers. The standouts are clear: cast-iron skillet dumplings ($10) and the grilled-shrimp and guacamole tostada bites ($10). Though it makes absolutely no sense to have Asian dumplings on a menu that is supposed to be Southwestern, these are a good version of a classic. The sauce is overly sweet, but the tostada bites are pure heaven, with the crescent-shaped shrimp grilled to a tender yet crunchy consistency. On the other hand, there are a few things that Z'Tejas doesn't do very well. Their service over the past year has really begun to weaken. First it was at the bar, with an unhelpful server who said they didn't serve nachos, which they do. He then proceeded to bring out dishes in the wrong order (don't you love it when you get your entrée and then your appetizers?), and didn't omit the chopped pumpkin seeds from a dish after being told there was an allergy. If he had come back to check in after that—maybe take another drink order or anything—perhaps his tip would have resembled something other than the tax. Another visit a few months later confirmed our skepticism, when a different server brought the entrées with our special instructions applied to the wrong dishes. One salad had the dressing mixed in but all the toppings on the side, while another had all the toppings (including the allergy-inducing ones) mixed in and the dressing on the side. Rather than just taking them away and redoing them—after all, they're only salads—he just apologized and asked if we needed anything else. And the salad dressing was too oily and there was way too much of it, which is why the "dressing on the side" request was made in the first place. A word to the tyke-averse: Z'Tejas is almost as much a jungle gym as Red Robin. Screaming kids are everywhere, and their parents (now permanently deaf?) seem to think the high-decibel screeching is just adorable. There's not enough stink-eye in the world to discourage that.

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