Z’s Meze Market
by Angie Ripple
I have always enjoyed dining in an establishment where the owner is hands-on, whether it’s greeting guests, or making food, or bussing tables. I’ve seen local owners do it all, and I love being a witness to their passion and drive. Zeynep Martello is one of these local hands-on restaurant owners; she calls her passion project Z’s Meze Market (102 S 19th Ave, Bozeman). Meze “meh’-zeh” means small flavorful dishes; Z’s serves small dishes of many Mediterranean delights including dolma, bulgar pilaf, falafel, hummus and baklava.
Although you can’t yet dine-in at Z’s during the current pandemic, you can still enjoy delicious authentic Turkish/Mediterranean food for take-out or delivery. Zeynep took some time recently to talk about her restaurant and how she, her family, and staff are adapting and pivoting to stay busy.
Angie Ripple: How has your restaurant pivoted during the Covid-19 crisis?
Zeynep Martello: We aren’t letting anyone in the restaurant right now; we’re using the patio and doing takeout orders. We changed our hours. We are open 11 am - 3 pm instead of 11 am - 6:30 pm because we literally have only three employees now. My husband, daughter and I work Monday - Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday, the two girls who have been working for me for years, they take over and work. We do stay open until 6:30 pm on Friday’s for $5 Gyros.
Inside we’ve been working on making our kitchen bigger because we are also a manufacturer. It is making more sense to manufacture food now more than the restaurant because we don’t have to deal with as many customers and we provide the stores with more products. We basically shrunk the dining room and cut it in half. On one side, we made a bigger kitchen and prep area and on the other, we separated the tables. We are still doing a few different things like painting. We are using the opportunity as much as possible.
With the shorter hours, I have had more time for relaxing and for myself; usually I am so busy all the time with work, so it’s been nice. And I think it’s been bringing our family closer because we are all working together, and even though my daughter was not in school, I have been teaching her a work ethic by helping us.
Our meal kit deliveries have been nice, people were really, really nice and they ordered a lot of kits. My husband Mark and I were delivering them, which has slowed down now that we are doing takeout, but I just really enjoyed delivering food to people because they couldn’t come to me. We also offered First Responder Kits, so people would buy a kit for their family, and then a kit for First Responders; that worked out well, as people ordered they told their friends and more people ordered.
I still had my hummus business as a backup, and without it I don’t think we would have made it. I still, the whole time, went to work and produced hummus and delivered it to the distributor.
AR: How was Z’s Meze Market conceptualized?
ZM: How the restaurant started is it started with hummus, then Farmers’ Markets, and then the restaurant. I think it was after Mark and I’s second trip to Turkey for a visit, we were always at Farmers’ Markets carrying coolers around, we bought a hot dog cart from Frank’s Catering for like $900, and we put a Gyro cone vertical broiler on it and started selling gyros after we’d gone to Turkey and I was inspired by all of the Turkish food. We were still working out of coolers and trailers, and we needed more space and a kitchen, so we started looking downtown and it was way too expensive, so this location on 19th was the place. I could feel it so I just went with it. We opened the restaurant near the end of 2011.
AR: What makes Z’s Meze Market unique in the Bozeman food scene?
ZM: I think it’s that we make a lot of things literally from scratch. Like we don’t just take something out of a freezer and cook it and serve it, we make our sauces from scratch, we make our yogurt from scratch, we make our Falafels handmade. We make small batches of stuff and run through it and make another batch; it’s just fresh and handmade. We kind of have an advantage because we’re serving something different than burgers and stuff like that.
AR: What do you want people to experience when they walk through your doors?
ZM: That they feel welcome and that we’re like a small family; a lot of regulars come. Just the fact that when they eat, they know that it was good and they were satisfied and they didn’t pay a ton of money. I don’t want anyone to leave unhappy.
AR: What item do your regulars keep coming back for?
ZM: Gyros, hummus, grape leaves, falafels. Falafels and gyros are starting to be on the same level. I can’t keep up with the falafels. And $5 Friday is what they really love.
AR: What do you enjoy most about being part of the Bozeman community?
ZM: The fact that people really appreciate local and small businesses, and they really want to support small businesses, and they show up and are very supportive.
AR: Do you have anything upcoming that you want readers to know about?
ZM: I will be debating about reopening the dining room, and I have been thinking about manufacturing more falafels and distributing them to the stores in the frozen section. I am just looking forward to opening the doors so people can come eat! It doesn’t feel like me to say, “Here’s your food, go now.” It just doesn’t feel good to do that, so I am looking forward to being fully reopened. I keep Google updated with any changes to our hours and check our Facebook page for updates.
There really is something to be said for a restaurant owner who will take your order, prepare your food, and bring it to the table. Z is that passionate owner ready to serve you. Whether you’ve yet to experience a delicious meal at Z’s, or it’s been a while, give them a taste sometime soon!