Zen can be found in an industrial park in Orange, steps from Route 280. Sound unlikely?
Enticed by an online offer, I tried Zen Bakeries at 50 South Center St. Unit 4 in Orange. The bakery offers Lebanese flatbread and pies, savory one-bite treats and full-meal pizzas. The storefront, which has a table and chairs out front, is bright and colorful. Pictures of food and lists of daily specials are on the walls and counter. Behind the register, the real action happens, as the owner crafts catering and commercial orders for grocery stores such as Corrado’s and Garden of Eden.
Most pizza and pitas on offer come in white or whole wheat flour options. I tried a Chicken Pita Pie on white, ($4) and both the Meat Pie ($4) and the Za’Tar Pie ($2.75) on whole wheat. (Za’Tar is a mixture of thyme, sesame seed and olive oil; like me, you may have sampled it at Eden Gourmet as a spice mixture.)
I can’t say enough about what I ate. The chicken had just a hint of fire and the meat was seasoned with a suggestion of mint that made me want more. As I ate at the table in front of the store, I watched a road crew open the street and pump water. A fire truck arrived, and I could hear the noon bells of Mount Carmel Church. Zen? Not outside, certainly, but it was a stunning day and the food was delicious. I ate and browsed next door, where reconditioned Vespas called my name. Nirvana seemed nearby.
I took more food (and no Vespas) to go. The zucchini triangles ($1.75) are a popular item. No wonder: a member of my household -- one who doesn’t like vegetables, mind you -- said it was the best thing she had ever eaten. I took her point, and then I took the rest of her triangle. I enjoyed the spinach triangles, as well, and the tiny meat squares ($1), but I would return for those zucchini triangles alone.
Zen Bakeries also has pressed sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs on offer, as well as egg-based breakfasty foods. Beverages include water, coffee, tea, and Lebanese juices. Dessert options include small and large sweet pita pies; the Nutella and banana pie is just as good as it sounds.
The foods I tried made a good lunch and a great dinner, with a big salad on the side. This is practical food to take somewhere, as well. Pita travels well, and there are meat and vegetarian options.
Zen is, indeed, in Essex County.
Directions to 50 South Center St. Unit 4, Orange NJ: From South Orange, follow Centre St. through the center of Orange and over Route 280. Almost immediately after crossing over the highway, and before the underpass, turn right into a small industrial park. (It is across from a fitness center.) Once you’re in the industrial park, bear right, then left (following the buildings) almost to the end. Zen Bakeries is on the left, and you’ll see a glass porch. Park on the street.
No credit cards.