Greensboro’s little slice of paradise
By: Jennifer Zeleski
Maybe a trip to Hawaii is currently out of reach for you… and your budget. In that case, we’re both in the same boat. But if you’re craving the laid-back summer days and some authentic island food, you’re in luck. ZC Hawaiian BBQ, located at 2224 Golden Gate Dr. in Greensboro, will have you kicking up your feet and buttoning up your favorite tropical shirt in no time. Just do us all a favor and leave the coconut bra at home this time.
When I first heard about ZC Hawaiian BBQ, my boyfriend Peyton, listed off everything that was piled high on his plate, with scoops of rice, spiced meat and macaroni salad. Nathan, his fellow food-loving friend whom he frequented the restaurant with, kept it as his own “remote destination” if you will, and I would always follow up by asking Peyton when it was our turn to give it a try. With the July weather and a subtle desire to get lost on an island, it took little convincing that it was time for us to experience it together, island picnic food and all.
So we strapped on our seat belts rather than loaded up our luggage and went on our way to what I hoped would be a hidden paradise. Welcomed by a wall covered in faded and well-loved Hawaiian shirts, and another that featured a hula skirt and a Hawaiian license plate, I knew we were in just the right place.
The menu has a variety of options that will cater to any traveler’s palate, offering entrees such as beef curry or garlic mahi-mahi, shrimp tempura and even poke, one of the newest raw-fish food trends. The lunch platters are available all day, and are self-proclaimed the “best plate lunches.” Ranging from just over $6 to no more than $10, I had to agree with them once I saw the portions of food being served up behind the counter.
Keeping with the tropical theme, I decided on the Hawaiian pineapple chicken in the regular size, which came with two scoops of white rice and a small side of macaroni salad. Peyton went for his normal go-to, the Atkin’s BBQ plate which included barbecue chicken, a barbecue short rib, barbecue beef, two fried eggs, two scoops of rice and another small side of macaroni salad. All of that for $8.99 and he was a happy camper. Without Peyton’s knowledge, I placed an order for the malasada, which I researched before visiting. Described as a fried doughnut-style dessert, it can be cream-filled or not, and typically comes covered in cinnamon and sugar. What more could someone want when they don’t have access to fresh pineapple right off the plant and a freshly cracked coconut? Nothing, and hopefully this would make up for it.
It wasn’t a long wait for our three heavy Styrofoam containers to make their appearance (sorry world, we promise we’re trying to save the environment too!), and we made sure to get a few options on dipping sauces, just in case we needed them. Sriracha, soy sauce, teriyaki and duck sauce were a few of our choices.
Before even opening the containers, we knew we wouldn’t be leaving close to hungry. They were heavy and smelled delicious, just like when you get your Chinese food bag to take home, and you can hardly wait to crack open the boxes and dig into your fried rice and fortune cookies. I was the first to unveil the pineapple chicken, which was fried and came covered in a sweet sauce, mixed in with chunks of pineapple and perfectly placed next to the two heavy portions of rice. The chicken itself was quite the amount, and despite my obsession with white rice, I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it all. Peyton was next to reveal his plate, and my mouth quite literally dropped at the amount. The spare rib was placed on top, with the other meat piled underneath, and rather than two more heaping portions of white rice, the entire bottom of the container was filled. We knew we would eat until our bathing suits would need to be stuffed into the backs of our dresser drawers.
The pineapple chicken was crispy despite the sauce, and I loved the crunch about as much as I loved the sweetness. It wasn’t cloying like many other Asian-inspired dishes seem to be, and the crunch gave it a texture that made me remember why I have spent a majority of my life craving crispy chicken nuggets. As for the rice, it wasn’t the best I have had, but it was necessary to cut the sweet and savory flavors of the chicken. The pineapple wasn’t freshly-cut, most likely canned, but it was still delicious in the sauce, and if you’re a fan of warm or grilled pineapple, it would be a great choice. I imagine the lemon chicken is made very similarly, but I would be interested in trying the spicy or garlic chicken the next time I stop by.
Peyton’s barbecue chicken was a harsh contrast, with a blackened exterior and a smokey flavor that I loved, and paired well with some of the spicy or sweet sauces in case you aren’t into a more simple, grilled flavor. Comparing the grilled chicken to the fried chicken made me realize that the breading on the pineapple chicken was floury and a bit dry in some bites. It wasn’t off-putting, but I highly preferred the grilled chicken instead. Paired with the macaroni salad, which wasn’t part of the dish I really needed, it was exactly what you would expect to find at a Hawaiian picnic. The macaroni salad had somewhat of an overwhelming onion flavor and mixed with the creaminess, it was a bit much for me, but nevertheless, it could be a macaroni salad lovers dream.
As for the barbecue spare rib and barbecue beef, Peyton enjoys them both equally. He admits that he’s not sure how to correctly eat the spare rib, but he appreciates its flavor and somewhat chewy texture. The beef has the sweet teriyaki flavor, but one that doesn’t have to be smothered in sauce. It just has a sweet enough spice to be delectable. Both fried eggs had crisp edges but the deep yellow, runny yolks, and if you’re into fried eggs, they’re definitely worth a try paired with the white rice.
It’s safe to say that you could feast with a combo platter and still be too full to finish it. Add an extra scoop of white rice for $0.89 and you could have yourself lunch for the next day. We were too full to even consider dessert.
The malasada was packed into our final container, kept warm by the lid, and instantly made my mouth water. All round pillows of freshly-fried dough, each one, 10 in total, was covered entirely by cinnamon and sugar. They were soft, warm and came with a small cup of white glaze for dipping. Within the first bite, I was convinced that the malasada was one of the best things I have ever tasted. It’s the type of dessert you would expect to be served in heaven. The white glaze made the indulgence even sweeter. These were only fried, not filled, and I believe are better than the best doughnuts you may have ever had. We each ate until we could hardly repeat the word “cinnamon,” and vowed to wrap ourselves in beach towels rather than regret eating more than two each.
Lesson learned: Don’t skip dessert, even if you’re headed for a vacation.
I was thoroughly impressed by the length of the menu, and how much more I would be able to try when I return. There are a variety of more traditional dishes such as musubi, a block of rice with your choice of meat, wrapped in dried seaweed, according to the menu, and saimin, which is very similar to Asian-style ramen with fresh noodles and a specific type of broth. We agreed that those were meals meant for colder days, and our choices fit the picnic ideal we were looking for. There was also an extensive catering menu that could be great for your business’ next event, and a variety of options labeled as “healthier” which included brown rice and most likely less (if any sauce).
So if you’re looking for your next getaway, rather than closing your eyes by the pool and raiding your fridge, take a trip to ZC Hawaiian BBQ and enjoy your own little retreat, without breaking the bank.
Jenn Zeleski is a student contributor to YES! Weekly. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications at High Point University.