As eclectic and diverse as Sayulita is, and as much as I love tacos, sometimes I find myself really craving flavors that are special and different from the ordinary or typical meals we find in town. Thus, when Zatar restaurant first opened in Sayulita in February of 2018, I was so excited to see a restaurant with a totally different flavor profile and concept than anything else that existed in town. Since then, Zatar has easily become my favorite restaurant in town, and one I enthusiastically recommend to all of my friends. There are so many menu items at Zatar that are my favorite that I actually joke with my friends about how I could pull off eating there every day. Not only is every dish deliciously cooked to perfection with locally sourced, fresh ingredients, but most of the menu items are made from scratch daily, directly in the restaurant. The food is simply a labor of love; this fact combined with the beautiful ambiance and decor of the restaurant makes you and your taste-buds feel as though you are transported to another part of the world when you dine at Zatar. For me, eating at Zatar feels like eating a meal prepared by a beloved family member. I talk with owner Kelly Majid about Zatar’s beginnings, what the menu is like, and how Zatar is unique from other restaurants in Sayulita.
Can you start by giving readers some background information about you and your husband (the owners of Zatar) and when you came to Sayulita?
We are Martín and Kelly Majid. Our restaurant, Zatar, was in Berkeley, California for 20 years until we lost our location to real estate development. In July of 2016 with a heavy heart, we closed our Berkeley restaurant, and in August of 2016 packed our catering van and drove to Sayulita. Our move to Sayulita was really written in our destiny. My family are long-time family friends of Rollie and Jeanne, who owned Rollie’s, a legendary Sayulita breakfast spot for many years. We first had come to visit Sayulita 16 years ago, and had breakfast at Rollies ourselves on what is now sure our front porch. We loved Sayulita then, but never made it back until the opportunity presented itself to buy Rollies and move our restaurant to Sayulita. Several serendipitous events influenced us to just go for it and make the move. It seemed a little crazy at the time to move our family and business to another country, but we have zero regrets. We are absolutely delighted to be part of this vibrant, creative, friendly community and so happy to now call Sayulita home.
When and why did you decide to open Zatar? What was the original inspiration and passion behind it?
As mentioned, we opened our original restaurant in Berkeley, CA back in 1996. After a year and a half of remodeling and paperwork, we re-opened in our new location in Sayulita in February of 2018. Fresh, local, high quality ingredients inspire us to create what we call “Eclectic Mediterranean Cuisine.” With family in Lebanon, Iraq, and Morocco, my husband, chef Martín, grew up eating this type of food and many of our recipes are quite authentic. We also, however, love the freedom to be innovative in the kitchen, so many of our dishes are original creations.
What does "Zatar" mean, and why did you use this as the restaurant’s name?
Zatar (or “za’atar”) is a traditional blend of toasted sesame seeds, dried sumac berries, and thyme. There are slightly different versions of it throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. We named our restaurant Zatar because to us it represents the simplicity of delicious food, and because frankly, we like to eat it! Although it is traditionally eaten for breakfast, a crusty fresh bread dipped in a pungent virgin olive oil with zatar, paired with a glass of fine red wine, was the perfect late night meal at the end of busy dinner shift in our earlier restaurant years.
Where do you source many of your unique ingredients?
We source most of our produce from organic local growers who you will find at Sayulita’s wonderful Mercado del Pueblo on Fridays. We make everything from scratch daily, so starting with the highest quality ingredients is key. We grow all our fresh herbs and some vegetables in Zatar’s own rooftop garden. Some of our more unique ingredients, like rose water, date syrup, grape leaves, sumac, and other classic Middle Eastern products can be difficult to find here, and come from Mexico City, Guadalajara, or California; they are typically imported from the Middle East.
Can you describe the menu concept, flavors, or some example dishes? Also, which dish is your favorite, and why?
Our menu features traditional dishes from mostly Morocco and the Middle East, as well as original dishes that are simply “Mediterranean-inspired”. We always start with sourcing the freshest, healthiest, most flavorful, and local ingredients possible. In addition to our regular menu, we always feature daily specials. For example, we usually feature a “Fish of the Day” such as “Grilled Sail Fish with Saffron-Sesame-Lemon Sauce”. We also do special salads and vegetarian sides based on what we are sourcing from the local organic farms, for example, our “Butter Lettuce Salad with Shaved Manchego Cheese, Toasted Almonds, and Zatar”. Our Grilled Leg of Lamb and Moroccan Vegetable Tagine are two of our most popular main dishes. Some popular appetizers include Borekas (filo pastry stuffed with leeks, greens, fresh herbs, and goat cheese), and Warm Lamb Dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with lamb, rice, pine nuts and herbs). As far as dessert, our Baklava with Pecans, Walnuts, and Orange Blossom Honey, and our Cardamom Ice Cream with Caramelized Walnuts and Medjool Dates are favorites.
All of those dishes sound so rich and special. I can attest to the popularity of the grilled leg of lamb and the tagine- I have had them many times and they are absolutely delicious! Some readers may think that these types of menu items would be difficult to enjoy for kids who may be picky eaters. Would you say the restaurant is kid/ and or family friendly?
Absolutely! Kids of all ages love our food; their favorites are usually the Chicken Kabab and Hummus. We happily modify the menu to accommodate smaller appetites or picky eaters. We also offer on-site child-care with advance reservation with “Sunnyside Babysitting” located above the restaurant for children ages two through nine.
Are there any special services you offer at Zatar (such as delivery, memberships, discounts, happy hour, etc.?)
Yes! We offer 20% off your take out order when you bring your own reusable containers. Additionally, we offer two for one cocktails and sangria during our Happy Hour from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. We also announce discounts and special events on our Facebook page and Instagram, so be sure to follow us if you want to stay in the loop.
What makes Zatar most unique and special for a place like Sayulita?
Zatar is unique to Sayulita because no one else in town prepares our type of cuisine. We are also a chef-owned and family-run business, and we put a lot of passion into what we do. Everything is prepared with love.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know about Zatar?
We were one of the first certified “green businesses” in Alameda County, California, and we bring our concern and care for our environment with us to Sayulita. All of our take-out containers for example are 100% compostable, we do not offer straws, we offer complimentary filtered water instead of selling plastic water bottles, and we strive to limit garbage and waste. We are excited to participate in the currently growing efforts to protect our environment in Sayulita and Mexico. For example, we have recently partnered with Sayulita’s amazing El Centro Creativo by sponsoring a recycling bin outside the restaurant.
To find out more about Zatar or to make reservations, please visit their Sayulita Life Web Page.
*Written by: Aanya Sheikh-Taheri