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SLO vegan restaurant Ziggy's expands to upcoming Paso Robles location

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Ziggy is a nickname for Zigmund, meaning "victorious protector." And this local restaurant is passionate about its associated role—promoting a healthy and more Earth-conscious lifestyle.

"I think people are starting to understand that plant-based diets are more sustainable not only for you but for the planet as well," said Alex Gonzalez, manager of the vegan eatery.

Launched in San Luis Obispo in February 2020—just as COVID-19 was about to shut down nonessential businesses—Ziggy's takeout approach seemed fortuitous. Business has grown dramatically, to the point where co-owners Matt Martinez and Brian Englund are set to open a second location in October.

TASTY TAKEOUT Ziggy's dishes up 100 percent plant-based menu items. Unique sauces jazz up the avocado egg rolls and cauliflower bites, while burgers, such as the Phoenix, boast more savory toppings than bun. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • TASTY TAKEOUT Ziggy's dishes up 100 percent plant-based menu items. Unique sauces jazz up the avocado egg rolls and cauliflower bites, while burgers, such as the Phoenix, boast more savory toppings than bun.

"Paso Robles is now on the horizon for us, and we couldn't be more grateful," said Martinez, who grew up on the Central Coast and attended Morro Bay High School with best friend Englund, who also owns local restaurants Kuma and Sylvester's Burgers.

Opening a second location "is legitimately only possible because of the outpouring of support we've gotten from the SLO community," Martinez said. "I can confidently say that our Ziggy's regulars are by far the best people I've ever experienced while working in restaurants. It makes it really fun to come to work."

Martinez said he is particularly humbled by the support of Cal Poly students, with campus being just a half mile walk from the restaurant.

But Ziggy's doesn't just have the support of SLO County residents.

"People ask us all the time, 'When are you going to open in Santa Maria or Lompoc?'" Gonzalez said. "We even have people drive from Bakersfield and Fresno just to have lunch. It's incredible."

BETTING ON BREAKFAST In August, Ziggy's launched new menu items, including a breakfast burrito with egg and sausage veggie substitutes, hash browns, and a side of house-made salsa. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • BETTING ON BREAKFAST In August, Ziggy's launched new menu items, including a breakfast burrito with egg and sausage veggie substitutes, hash browns, and a side of house-made salsa.

However, Gonzalez admits that not all Ziggy's customers are ordering their vegan food out of mindfulness of their diet and the planet.

"Maybe 10 percent of people who eat here are actually vegan or vegetarian," he estimated. For the majority, "it's just about good food."

Ziggy's suppliers are smitten as well.

"I love their food, especially the avocado rolls and cauliflower bites. I often pick up snacks when I do deliveries," said frozen-dessert supplier Uli Billington. "I heard their shakes are the bomb," she jokingly added—her vegan, nondairy product, Scoop the Magic, happens to be the primary ingredient for Ziggy's shakes.

Martinez's association with Billington evolved after he sampled her wares at the Morro Bay farmers' market.

WITH A CHOCOLATE SHAKE Ziggy's fried avocado wedge and cauliflower tacos feature handmade corn tortillas, kale slaw, and the chef's special sauce. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • WITH A CHOCOLATE SHAKE Ziggy's fried avocado wedge and cauliflower tacos feature handmade corn tortillas, kale slaw, and the chef's special sauce.

"I was so excited for the opportunity to work with [Ziggy's], because they are obviously the hot vegan restaurant in SLO," Billington said. "I created three flavors for them, as I didn't have a classic vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry yet."

Ziggy's kitchen and ingredients—and the treatment of customers, staff, and suppliers—are a source of great pride for Martinez.

"We keep our kitchen 100 percent vegan, to ensure that there is never even the slightest risk of cross contamination with nonvegan ingredients," he said. "We carefully screen all the ingredients of any new product. Many hours have been spent by our team conducting Google searches and cross-referencing ingredients since food labeling can often be tricky or even misleading.

"We've done the work so you don't have to."

An equally important goal of the eatery is to create food that is "fun, exciting, and delicious," Martinez said. "We are at an intersection in time when many people are wanting to try out a plant-based diet, but the convenient and tasty options just aren't prevalent. We really aim to make our food friendly for the non-vegans out there.

"One of the most fun and rewarding experiences that we have at Ziggy's is when non-vegans ask us, 'Are you sure there's no meat in this?' People love to bring their meat-loving friends to Ziggy's so they can help break the stereotype that all vegan food is just vegetables and salad."

Beyond the food, Ziggy's is also highly focused on the treatment of others, especially its employees.

Gonzalez worked at Novo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo for five years in various positions before joining Ziggy's in April 2020.

"I only work for places where I feel appreciated and valued, which is why I worked at Novo for so long," he said. "Robin and Shanny [Covey] are incredible owners. They take care of their employees. That's where Matt comes from. It doesn't matter what we go through as a whole, because we're going to be taken care of.

"His mindset is, 'I want to work for you guys, so what can I do to make things easier for you?' He cares about every single one of us, and that's hard to find."

It also fosters a snowball effect, where employees, in turn, enjoy taking care of their customers.

Gonzalez said clients are particularly fond of the Phoenix burger with a Ziggy patty; veggie tacos with fried avocado or cauliflower; the "KCB" (Korean cauliflower bites) with gochujang sauce; and "dirty" fries, topped with American cheese, sautéed onions, and Ziggy sauce.

The Ziggy patty—made from scratch daily—combines pinto and black beans, bell peppers, carrots, corn, and seasonings. The Phoenix version smothers the patty with charred jalapeños, guacamole, pepperjack cheese, shredded lettuce, and chipotle aioli.

Gonzalez says where Ziggy's really differentiates itself from competitors is with its house-made sauces. "Sauces will make or break a meal," he said. Δ

PHOTO COURTESY OF ZIGGY'S
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ziggy's

Dreamin' of vegan

Ziggy's isn't the only plant-based restaurant around. Check out other vegan options in SLO County:

Bliss Cafe 778 Higuera St., suite D, SLO, blisscafeslo.com

The Neighborhood 973 Foothill Blvd., No. 107, SLO; 811 13th St., Paso Robles, neighborhoodacai.com

New Earth Superfoods 191 S. Oak Park Blvd., No 5, Grover Beach, newearthsuperfoods.com

Plant Ivy Food Truck plantivy.net

Shine Café 415 Morro Bay Blvd., Morro Bay, sunshinehealthfoods-shinecafe.com

The Vreamery 1815 Spring St, Paso Robles, thevreamery.com

Y' Not Organic 897 N. Oak Park Blvd., Pismo Beach, ynotorganics.com ∆

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte is not vegan but is already a Ziggy's zealot. Reach her at cwhyte@newtimesslo.com.

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