Photos by Chris Menges
Jerrod and Nikki Sessler of Burien open the first organic all you can eat salad bar, Zoopa!

SLIDESHOW: They wanted a healthful place to eat, so they bought the restaurant

Remember Zoopa in Southcenter? It is no longer just zoop and salad. Since January, the once-popular eatery has been transformed in what could be characterized as a full-service restaurant with a emphasis on fresh, organic foods.

The salad bar is still there, but it is all organic. The soup is there too, but it is all house-made. New offerings include fresh prepared pasta and stir fry, bakery items and a variety of meat and fish dishes.

Zoopa opened in Southcenter about thirty years ago and developed a strong following. Over time, it lost some of its luster and eventually closed. Regular customers Jerrod and Nikki Sessler of Burien made Zoopa part of a healthy diet in part to help Jerrod fight a cancer he contracted 15 years ago. Fresh food became the centerpiece of his life. The cancer is gone and Sessler points to a changed diet as a key aid in his recovery.

A few years ago, the Sesslers opened Home Task in Burien, a business aimed as helping householders with common chores around the house. One component is the business they call Freggies, which deliver fresh fruit and vegetables to local residents.

When they learned Zoopa was closing, they conferred with the former owner who had mentioned he could hang onto the lease for the space. That set in motion the Sessler's plan to become restaurant operators, but with a difference.

All -You -Can -Eat- Organic

The old menu was limited to a range of soups and salads. The new menu includes pastas, chicken, beef, pork and fish and a variety of baked goods. There are nearly a dozen dressings and more toppings for salads. Many items are vegetarian or vegan and gluten-free.

Now 80 percent into a renovation of the old restaurant ("it looked like a circus before we repainted the entire building," Sessler said) which includes a new soup station, new grill for chicken and steak and "Jake's Juice Bar" named for one of the Sessler kids.

Last Thursday, one middle-aged female patron from Ravensdale approached Jerrod and Nikki to thank them for re-opening Zoopa. "Life is worth living again," she told them.

The building is 8,000 square feet and can accommodate 260 diners. Jerrod said that while the store hours are 11 a.m to 9 p.m., they do allow people to come in early if they want to have a meeting with coffee and a continental breakfast for $3. And there is a "party table" that can hold 14 people.

The menu has changed "one hundred percent" Sessler said, with all the organic vegetables and fruits being supplied by Freggies out of their Burien warehouse.

The new menu can be characterized as "An organic buffet--five minutes away." Another change: you no longer have to pay by the pound. Lunch is $8.99 and dinner is $11.99. Kids (under 12) are discounted.

There are also stir-fry dishes that combine noodles and meat. They now offer pepperoni pizza and pesto flat bread among other baked items.

You can also get a variety of juices and other beverages as well as smoothies. Desserts include Apple Caramel Cobbler Cake, Double Chocolate Cake, Peanut Butter Cookies, and White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies. All are vegetarian or gluten-free.

To top it off, there is ice cream from Full-Tilt Ice Cream in White Center. This ice cream is made from non-dairy ingredients.

A complete list of menu offerings can be seen at http://www.eatzoopa.com/menu.html#details

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