Three amigos craving Baja-style fish tacos opened their first Zona Fresca (“fresh zone”) in Fort Lauderdale a decade ago. They followed it with one in Plantation and recently opened in Pompano Beach.
Tim Dobravolskis and Oscar de Armas were best friends growing up in Southern California, but they lost touch after high school. Tim is of Japanese and Lithuanian descent and is a chef and menu developer. Oscar, who is Cuban American, relocated to South Florida. They reconnected after running into each other at the Atlanta airport, and soon came up with the idea of opening a fast-casual Mexican eatery in South Florida.
Tim made the move, and Oscar’s friend Martin Diaz-Yabor, an architect, joined the team. Martin designs the restaurants, Tim is in charge of daily operations, and Oscar does the finance and marketing. Mexican chef Jorge Peralta heads the kitchen in the Plantation location.
Chiles, vegetables and meats are all roasted on a gas grill that takes the place of a traditional Mexican comal (wood-fired griddle), adding smokiness. Try the tangy tomatillo salsa flecked with blackened chiles on the fish taco made with beer battered strips of grouper with slaw and sour cream. The sabroso (“delicious”) taco has grilled chicken or beef folded up with pinto or black beans with guacamole and pico de gallo.
Any burrito can be had enchilada-style topped with ancho chile sauce and jack cheese. Quesadillas ooze melted Cheddar with a choice of fillings including Gulf shrimp. Pozole soup with chicken and hominy topped with avocado slices is good with the grilled nopales cactus salad and cilantro rice.
House-made flan is in the not-too-sweet zone.