Thursday, August 17, 2017

[EXCLUSIVE] Zunzi's and Their Famous Conquistador Sandwich Plan to Conquer Atlanta

Zunzi's, a quick serve restaurant specializing "South African inspired" fare, plans to open a location on Howell Mill Road by the end of the year.  The eatery, which has one location open in Savannah, will occupy an approximately 2,300 square foot space at 1971 Howell Mill Road, a couple of doors down from local watering hole Mr. C's.   Zunzi's, which plans to add patio seating, will open in place of what was most recently Salsa Havana, and before that, Mary Jordan Catering. 

Husband and wife founders Johnny and Gabriella DeBeer opened the first Zunzi's on East York Street in Savannah in 2005.  The restaurant grew to attract a cult-like following to its quaint 1,000 square foot space. 

"Zunzi’s is a mixture of international cuisine that comes from Johnny and Gabriella’s very different cultural backgrounds. A combination of Swiss, Italian, South African and Dutch, Zunzi’s brings together flavors that are unique and delicious as well as always being fresh."

The name itself is derived from the island of Zanzibar in East Africa. 

Chris Smith, along with business partners John Hooff Sr. and John Hooff Jr., purchased the concept from the DeBeers in late 2014.  

While the DeBeers did for a time operate a spinoff full-service restaurant called "Z2," it closed towards the end of 2015/start of 2016, and the couple is now retired, although they reportedly remain on-call as consultants for Zunzi's.

Smith, a former multi-unit Five Guys franchisee, and the Hooffs, current Five Guys franchisees, don't have immediate plans to franchise the Zunzi's concept, although that could change in the future.  The initial Atlanta location as well as what Smith tells me are plans for a second Atlanta location sometime next year, will be company owned restaurants. 

I have been to Savannah only once as an adult and did not make it to Zunzi's on that one short trip.  That said, I can't speak from personal experience but some notable personalities including Travel Channel host Adam Richman, seem to be fans of the concept.  Richman named Zunzis' "Conquistador" sandwich [baked chicken breast served with lettuce, tomato, and special AKA "Shit Yeah" sauce on french bread] best sandwich in the south and one of the top three sandwiches in America in 2012.

Earlier this month, internet media company BuzzFeed published a story - "34 Meals That Are Actually Worth Traveling The World For."  The list, subtitled, "the ultimate foodie bucket list,"  includes only seven domestic restaurants, Zunzi's being among them, and the only eatery in Georgia.  The restaurant's mention also includes a quote from a past diner saying "These sandwiches ruined all other food for me." Zunzi's was in good company, too, sharing the page with Nashville's Hattie B's, a popular hot chicken eatery and Katz's Deli, the famous Manhattan deli.  

Smith tells me that the "Shit Yeah" sauce is akin to their motto of "Shit Yeah," which in the restaurant is used in place of a simple "yes." Smith further explains, "We want our customers to have such a great experience that they leave saying....shit yeah!"

The Atlanta location is being designed by  Snellville-based design firm Tedrow Design Group.  Tedrow's prior restaurant design work includes Antico Pizza and Caffe Gio at Avalon in Alpharetta, Bezoria in midtown, MetroFresh in midtown, and Fresh to Order in Decatur.  

Zunzi's is not the only Savannah concept looking to open in the Atlanta market this year.  ToNeTo Atlanta was first to report last year that Daniel Reed's Public Kitchen & Bar is opening in Buckhead at Phipps Plaza.  The restaurant, part of Savannah's Daniel Reed Hospitality, plans to open late this fall in a portion of the former Twist space on the Peachtree Road side of Phipps Plaza.  River Street Sweets, another Savannah favorite, already operates a pair of Atlanta area locations at Phipps Plaza and Mall of Georgia in Buford. 

Have you ever been to Zunzi's?  What is your favorite sandwich place in metro Atlanta?  Where should Zunzi's open next?

Please share your thoughts below.  


Anonymous said...

Their motto is repulsive. I will never eat there no matter how good it might be.

Anonymous said...

$#!* No SMH

Anonymous said...

oh please. lighten up.

Anonymous said...

$HIT YEAH! Love Zunzi's! Awesome food and people. Congrats guys!

Anonymous said...

BEST NEWS EVER! Zunzi's is delicious. SH*t Yeah!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a cool place. Looking forward to trying it!

Eric Smith said...

Working on a temporary assignment currently in Savannah and can attest to Zunzi's who have catered several of our lunches. Deliver quality product and welcome them to Atlanta.

Anonymous said...

3:33 3:37 4:21 Same commenter. Yawn

Anonymous said...

LOL at the multiple anonymous positive reviews. Funny SH*T

Anonymous said...

This is amazing news! We mail order Zunzi's sauce from Savannah - it's that good!

Anonymous said...

SHIT YEAH! Super excited for this to open.

Anonymous said...

This is incredible news!!! I'm from Savannah and this is hands down the best sandwiche place I have ever been to as a foodie. I have also lived in Chicago, D.C., Nashville, north & south Florida, and Atlanta. I have tried hundreds of sandwiches over the years and the Godfather sandwich and Conquistador sandwich have the most flavor anywhere! They are big enough for 2 grown men to eat. Since my family and I moved to the ATL 6 six years ago, the two thing I miss most about Savannah are The King & I (Best Thai Restaurant!) and Zunzi's!