By Barbara King
You will be surprised by the upscale atmosphere, fresh delicacies and superb service at the new “fast casual” Three Z Azian Cuizine restaurant. Open since July in the space formerly occupied by Julian’s in Times Square Shopping Center on South Broadway, a full-scale renovation left behind not a trace of the former restaurant.
They’ve re-invented the space, taken down the walls and constructed a large airy eating area with bar-height tables and long comfortable benches. Asian-themed design by local artist Dace Lucia Kidd splashes the walls, carrying the colorful visions of cherry blossoms and bamboo throughout the restaurant. The casual elegance of the open space adds to the metropolitan feel.
The owners/management team of Brad and Vanessa Downey and general manager Andrew Griffith have been very strategic and thoughtful about the look of Three Z and also the experience. Relying on her background in community health science and nutrition, Vanessa’s vision was to bring diet-conscious customers a high-quality alternative to the much-frequented fast food chains. Health conscious, vegetarian, vegan, low carb or gluten-free diners can find something to please their palates on the menu.
You will not find your typical buffet steam tables anywhere in sight as Griffith explains, “all our ingredients are fresh, made from scratch and are not prepared until you order. Our shrimp is fresh from the Louisiana Gulf and the flank steak is choice angus beef. We go the extra mile in our preparation and presentation.”
Service is supreme at Three Z and you will be greeted at the door and given a detailed explanation of the walk-up counter service, menu and recommendations. Selections are extensive, with starters like chicken lettuce wraps, spring rolls and crab wonton. Follow it up with hot and sour soup, a traditional Thai coconut chicken soup or Banh mi, a spicy Vietnamese sandwich with your choice of tofu, chicken, beef, “Azian” BBQ pork or shrimp. Entrées are served on jasmine white rice, brown rice or Udon noodles, with a selection of sauces from classic spicy to yellow curry, made with fresh bok choy. To top it all off, you choose your protein, from chicken/tofu, beef or shrimp. Make it a family affair, because kids can feast on honey seared or sweet and sour chicken. Desserts are a mouth-watering choice of hand rolled cheesecake spring rolls or green tea ice cream with house-made whipped cream.
“The greatest bonus of our made-to-order entrées is that you can take a menu item, specify extra spicy or no water chestnuts or any other variation to make your meal absolutely the way you want it,” says Griffith.
Three Z boasts the first in Tyler beer garden license, which allows for both on and off premises consumption. You can pair your meal with a specialty Asian beer, Fuki plum wine or Bride of the Fox sake. Wine is available by the glass or bottle, with selections including La Terre House and Washington State Rieslings.
Longtime friends Sarah Cameron from Quitman, and Francis Spuriell from Nacogdoches, found Three Z via Yelp when looking for Thai food and were enjoying portions of spicy shrimp spring rolls, yellow curry with jasmine rice and a mixed green salad with avocados, wonton, herbs and sesame seeds. Spuriell, a self-professed foodie, pronounced the presentation and flavor fantastic and Cameron was impressed by the service. “I noticed that customers were greeted at the door and we were visited personally by one of the owners,” she commented. The friends shared the variety of dishes and commented that prices were very reasonable and the atmosphere low-key and casual.
“Our goal is to exceed people’s expectations in some regard,” explains Griffith, “whether that be in respect to our food, décor or hospitality. Three Z proudly promotes local businesses, with a large wall urging patrons to ‘Eat Local.’
Three Z also wants to dispel the negative perceptions of Asian food. Three weeks before opening, they invited friends and neighbors to try menu items and give their critiques. “We encourage feedback from our patrons, and that’s why you’ll notice a few blank spaces on our entry wall because we are changing and developing new items all the time.”
Kim Lemons and Paige Loftus from Tyler were enjoying a mother-daughter evening, commenting on the relaxed atmosphere and fresh choices. “It’s a great option to be able to eat freshly prepared healthy food,” said Loftus, “and not feel like everything was greasy or fried and high in calories.”
The restaurant also has catering available for larger groups either from the Asian options or specialty menus can be arranged. “We recently catered a dinner for 90 featuring baked salmon and rice pilaf,” Griffith said.
Looking ahead, Three Z has plans for curbside parking and pick-up as well as bubble teas and Thai coffees. “We want our guests to feel relaxed and welcomed, whether they run in for a 20 minute lunch or they sit and visit and relax for two hours,” says Griffith.
Three Z is open Monday through Friday 11am-9pm and Saturday from 11am-10pm and closed Sundays.
Three Z is located at 5201 South Broadway in the Times Square Shopping Center. They can be reached at (903)525-9389 and at www.aziancuisine.com. Check them out on Facebook at
“ThreeZAsian” for specials.