I dare anyone to cite a more delicious American dream saga than that of Zov Karamardian and family. What started with her three-table cafe in 1987 is today a hospitality juggernaut with outposts throughout Orange County. Her now-familiar name is synonymous with delectable. Yet her newest venture isn’t a Zov’s—it’s a Roxy’z.
The original Anaheim venue shuttered for months to resurface as a breezy watering hole inspired by Roxy, mother of Zov and reputed family renegade and hospitality dynamo.
One peek at the hip list of scratch cocktails says this is something different. The slate of local brews scribbled on the bar’s blackboard confirms these offerings are quite outside the Zov’s canon. Windows flood the island bar with sunlight, supplying a view of the patio and busy intersection just beyond. Multistory town- homes are sprouting like mushrooms after a rainstorm in this neighborhood, and the vibe is increasingly urban.
Large prints of historic Anaheim places and moments surround the interior. There’s even one of a smiling Roxy in 1958—it begs for explanatory details. Big windows open to fresh air and traffic noise, but here’s hoping for the day windows can close and not compete with the likable playlist.
A most excellent Paper Plane cocktail pairs well with eavesdropping on the post-work crowd dribbling in. My friend arrives, and we migrate to a banquette deep inside the no-frills dining space. Most signature dishes aren’t on this menu. Clearly, we are being nudged into new territory, with the owners trusting that diners will trust in Zov.
Crispy eggplant fries are hissing-hot spears with sesame-seed breading that outclasses any mainstream fried zucchini. Chipotle mayo flatters the crunchy dippers. Six baby back ribs with sweet-spicy red chile glaze easily release their sticky meat. Onion strings are a welcome ride-along, though hardly necessary to make this starter a winner. Petite tostadas recall zesty shrimp-avocado ceviche, fancified with pickled onion, napa cabbage, and chipo- tle spread.
All starters are ideal for sharing—most are large enough to make you forget there is no fabled Zov’s golden lentil soup to be had here. I’ve yet to visit and not order the Duroc pork belly over velvety hummus dotted with scarlet harissa. The meaty braised slabs are expertly rendered for utmost texture, and gutsy harissa is there for the taking or avoiding when scooping the hummus with triangles of pliant pita bread.
Salads are few but discerning. There’s a Caesar with house croutons and snippets of kale and proper Parmigiano-Reggiano. The tomato-cucumber salad is a perfect ratio of Persian cucumbers, tiny tomatoes, red onion, and mild feta slicked with minty lemon vinaigrette. Crunchy, warm ciabatta chunks anchor panzanella, a mix of lettuces, leafy basil leaves, smidgeons of soft feta, and heir- loom tomatoes all gilded with herby dressing. This is the one to upgrade with grilled salmon or a kebab.
Pizzas just might be the menu’s superpower. It’s a new category for this team, and clearly the challenge was tackled with gusto. There’s not a weak choice among the five variations built on a 14-inch, medium-weight crust with all the best attributes—crispy or chewy where it counts and flavor deep enough to enjoy on the unadorned bones. I couldn’t wait to attack leftovers of the spicy lamb sausage with caramelized onions. Meatza Pizza has a witty name, but it earns meat credit with pork belly, lamb sausage, pancetta, and pepperoni topping mozzarella and organic tomato sauce. Ditch tomatoes for a white pizza of wild mushrooms amid fontina, goat cheese, and fresh thyme.
A mean burger is a nonnegotiable for a place such as Roxy’z, especially given the rotating, well-chosen taps. The Roxy Burger delivers with its half pound of superb ground chuck, charbroiled and simply adorned with superior ched- dar on toasted brioche. Fried chicken tastes unusually clean and rich as the focus of a sandwich with delicate slaw. Sandwiches include tasty slender fries that somehow hold up once they cool down. A trio of popular Zov’s entrees hides in the favorites corner. This is where to satisfy that stubborn craving for ale-battered Icelandic cod and fries or the epic six-hour short rib and mushroom cream over tender pappardelle. It was all I could do to skip the platter of mixed charbroiled kebabs over always- impeccable, buttery jasmine rice.
Both shareable desserts are a far cry from Zov’s renowned pastries. Apple pizza is unremarkable. The showy choc- olate cake sundae-in-a-jar was a treacly letdown of inaccessible cake smothered in marshmallow fluff (the server kindly struck it from the bill).
Bucking the trend in new restau- rants, Roxy’z offers a worthy happy hour, weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. It’s slated to expand once baseball season begins. Also, look for beer flights starting soon.
Looking back over 35 years of growth and success, Zov and family have built a brand fueled by high standards and fear- less adaptation. Roxy’z takes us back to the future of Anaheim, with high spirits and compelling fare.
1801 E. Katella Ave.
5 BEST DISHES
- Panzanella Chile-glazed rib stack
- Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich
- Lamb sausage pizza
- The Roxy Burger
- Starters and salads, $8.95 to $12.95
- Pizzas and sandwiches, $13.95 to $17.95
- Entrees, $19.95 to $26.95
FYI Free ground-floor garage parking