No really, that’s what it’s called. Butter & Zeus. As abstract and meaningless as that name might be, there’s something deliciously alluring about it. It makes you perk your ears up and say, “Eh? Butter and what?” It’s the kind of thing that sticks in your head, and the sheer absurdity means you won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. Just my kind of subtle genius.
” The barbacoa has a respectable oomph to it without completely destroying your nasal cavity “
The story begins where it so often does, with my wife Shawn and I discussing meal plans. She had been forced at gunpoint to head into the office for a day of work on Black Friday. I stayed at home, puttering around the house and doing my best to make the place look as though I had cleaned it. “Where do you want to meet for lunch?” she asked me over the phone. “What’s around here that we haven’t been to before?”
I didn’t know. I replied with a combination mumble-shrug-hrrmph that was intended to convey, “I’m not sure, darling, let me look up some restaurants on Google.”
“Oh, here’s one” she said, beating me to the punch. “Your head’s going to explode. It’s a waffle sandw..” I hung up on her and sprinted to the car. Waffles THAT ARE ALSO SANDWICHES?? My brain spun with the idea of this new devilry. As I drove, my phone buzzed with a text message: “Thought so. It’s called Butter & Zeus, on Tasman.”
Before you ask, no, I didn’t read the text while I was driving. I’m stupid in other ways besides that.
As we walked up to the front of the restaurant, I was hit with major déjà vu. I’d been here before… and yet I hadn’t. Ah, now I remember. This used to be the location of Castle Greek Cafe, a place I’d been to a couple times and was never all that impressed with. The decor was different now, of course, with the most notable change being a huge, hand-written menu board just inside the door.
Just look at all of those beautiful, unhealthy choices. After eating here, I’d really have to think extra hard about getting on the exercise bike before not doing it. The aroma of toasting waffles played through the air, causing my salivary glands to do whatever they damn well pleased. It was actually difficult to focus on choosing something from the menu with this going on, but we managed it. We eventually decided to split some barbacoa pork fries and a cheeseburger waffle. We paid the very reasonable bill at the cash register, filled our soda cups, and took a seat.
Within just a few minutes, our pork fries arrived at the table. Jiminy Christmas, what a masterpiece. I don’t know who first came up with the idea of this sort of thing, but Butter & Zeus executed the concept flawlessly. The cola pulled pork (yes, cola) was absolutely to die for; nice lean strands of hand pulled pork were piled generously on top of impossibly fresh, golden fries. The barbacoa sauce coating the pork was quite spicy, but the cilantro lime dressing and sour cream helped to cut the burn a little bit. If you don’t like spicy stuff, stay as far away from this dish as you possibly can. If you’re in the mood to bring the heat, however, the barbacoa has a respectable oomph to it without completely destroying your nasal cavity.
The fries towards the bottom of the basket were pretty mushy, but the good news is that it’s because they were soaked with delicious saucy goodness. We just grabbed our plastic forks and soldiered on. Such is the way with dishes like these; if you don’t want your food to get soggy, eat faster. Just as we were savoring the last bits of our pork fries, the cheeseburger waffle arrived.
And there it was, a cheeseburger made with a waffle. It looked exactly as I had expected: An all-American lunch perched atop an all-American breakfast. At first, I was only intrigued by the novelty of it all. I almost didn’t care what it tasted like, but as I bit into my wafflewich (I’m totally trademarking that term), I was amazed at how well everything went together. Honestly, the patty and the cheese were nothing special – you could even call them average. Put them between a couple layers of hot, crispy waffle, however, and you’ve created magic. Contrary to what your brain might try to tell you, the waffle wasn’t sweet. Yes, maple syrup is an optional topping at Butter & Zeus, but the waffle itself is just another kind of bread. A very tasty, very wonderful kind of bread. The little pockets are masterful at holding all the toppings and condiments, while the waffle itself does a good job of keeping everything together without being too filling on its own. Quite simply, waffle sandwiches are brilliant.
As we finished up our lunch, I took note of what the other patrons around us were eating. One table in particular was covered with nothing but orders of classic (and first on the menu) chicken and waffles, and it all looked very good indeed. There is no question that I will be eating here again, and soon. As we stood up to leave, the cashier asked us how the food was and if we enjoyed our lunch. It was a genuine question, not just a passing “How was everything?” that usually means “I hate my job, so please get out.” I chatted with the cashier for a while, giving my feedback and promising to come back, and he was happy to hear it. The folks at Butter & Zeus seem truly interested in how they are doing, and the dedication shows in their food.
Shawn and I had a great experience here, enough to land this place on our short list of restaurants to come back to regularly. Although I wouldn’t call this a high-class, fancy, or even hugely remarkable eatery, I will certainly sing its praises for solid execution, good prices, and a great concept. I rate Butter & Zeus 3.5 out of 4 waffle wedges, which should be more than enough to ensure that it shows up on your lunch radar. If you’re tired of trying to uphold a higher sense of culinary sophistication and just want simple, good food, this is the place for you.
Butter & Zeus
2213 Tasman Drive
Santa Clara, CA 95054
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