A few weeks ago I was driving around West Columbia, searching for a taqueria I heard was good, though even Google Maps had no record of its existence. Along the way, I came across a large Zesto’s restaurant, with a slammed parking lot and a line out the door. The Zesto logo and ice cream were instantly identifiable with the locations in Atlanta, and I assumed it was same chain. When I returned to work, I inquired with a coworker, who informed me that Zesto’s has the best fried chicken.
That piqued my interest because my only experience with Zesto’s in Atlanta involved hot wings and ice cream. I didn’t recall ever hearing about fried chicken (except chicken strips) at Zesto’s in Atlanta. Off to the internet for research!
Here’s everything I could come up with after twenty minutes of Googling/Wikipedia:
Inventor L.A.M. Phelan developed the Zest-O-Mat freezer, which resulted in the creation of the first Zesto frozen custard store in Indiana in 1949. Within two years, dozens of stores had opened around the country, including Atlanta, Columbia, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Kentucky. The franchise folded in the 50’s – one report I read said 1951, but I couldn’t confirm that and it doesn’t seem like enough time to have opened up so many stores. At that point all Zesto’s became independently owned and operated.
Thus, all Zesto’s are going to look very similar, and have some common decor and menu characteristics (particularly the chocolate dipped ice cream cone), yet many locations have chosen different directions, such as the aforementioned fried chicken in West Columbia. Here’s a cool web post with pictures of various Zesto’s all over the country.
How was the fried chicken at Zesto’s in Columbia? Surprisingly good. At this location, you enter in one side of the restaurant that functions as the walk-up order window, place your order, then actually exit the restaurant and walk to the back entrance where the deceivingly large dining area is located. The employees bring your order to you after a short wait.
I ordered the 4 piece dinner with fries, slaw, and a sweet tea. The chicken was right out of the oven hot, and extremely crispy and salty. The fried coating is very light, but deep fried to perfection, resulting in a crunchy, delicious union of fried skin and batter. Fries were decent, but surprisingly, the coleslaw was the best I’ve had in recent memory. It wasn’t the overly soggy and sweet version that is so often seen at meat and three’s, but large cuts of red and green cabbage with a bitter complexion complemented by just the right amount of creamy mayo. I will be returning.
What are the “can’t miss” items at Zesto’s in Atlanta? I recall the hot wings are very good, but have I been missing out on anything else?