Walk This Way

Zunzi’s moves a stone’s throw south — and introduces Zunzibar

Photography by Brandon John Amato

The iconic South African- inspired eatery Zunzi’s has held a cozy corner spot at East York and Drayton streets since 2014. The location has served Zunzi’s well, and its bright, rainbow umbrellas have become a symbol of the company. But co-founder and CEO Chris Smith has long had his eye on potential new locales.

“It was always on my radar that we would potentially have to move locations, so we’ve been looking for a long time,” Smith says. As Zunzi’s became more popular, the need for a new location became increasingly necessary — more demand (and its accompanying traffic) was beginning to put a strain on the little brick building.

Fortunately, Green Fire Pizza moved out from Drayton Street building to Pooler, leaving what used to be an old Texaco gas station up for grabs. Smith says he’s always loved the building and the potential it
held for Zunzi’s. Plus, with so much space available, Smith could bring a long-held idea to fruition: Zunzibar, a collaboration between Smith and restaurateurs Trey Wilder and Rick Kunzi of Treylor Park and Hitch. Zunzi’s new location, 236 Drayton St., allows Zunzibar (a play on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar) to take up most of the indoor space, while the Zunzi’s side will mostly be an operating kitchen.

“[Zunzi’s and Zunzibar] are sharing a common area throughout the entire building,” Smith explains. “We expect Zunzi’s guests to spill over to the bar and for people at the bar to be able to order food at Zunzi’s.”

Zunzi’s menu of sandwiches and bowls (and all those sauces) have a proven track record, and its South African Tea is a fan favorite in and of itself. But what about other drinks — the stronger ones? According to Wilder, Zunzibar will offer daiquiris and beachy cocktails, perfectly at home among the driftwood decor and nautical artwork inside. Food will emphasize shareable, snackable items, including the signature South African peri-peri chicken wings.

Fisherman’s Deck sandwich

Zunzi’s move down the street happens amongst more exciting news for the business: franchises have officially launched in nine states throughout the Southeast. Such accomplishments spotlight Zunzi’s ability to make it through some of the darkest days the nation’s food and beverage industry has ever seen, something Smith attributes to remaining as team-focused as possible, down to involving Zunzi’s employees in decisions being made during the pandemic.

“Even if the guests are happy to come in, if our team isn’t comfortable, then we don’t have a business,” Smith says. “I’m not of the belief that it’s fair for me, who isn’t necessarily in the operation every single day, to make decisions that I don’t have to face the consequences of. It’s more important to put ideas out there and get the team’s input so we can make a final decision together.”

Zunzi’s and Zunzibar will continue this effort at the new location, Smith says, balancing guests’ and employees’ needs — but never compromising on bright, bold flavors.

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