Zesty Olives Mediterranean Grill grand opened another Orange County location on Wednesday, March 30 at Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center in Irvine.

Fast-casual restaurant Zesty Olives Mediterranean Grill has a location in Lake Forest and is now open in Irvine. (Courtesy of Zesty Olives)

Fast-casual restaurant Zesty Olives Mediterranean Grill has a location in Lake Forest and is now open in Irvine. Seen here, Halloumi Fries. (Courtesy of Zesty Olives)

Fast-casual restaurant Zesty Olives Mediterranean Grill has a location in Lake Forest and is now open in Irvine. Seen here, Salmon Bowl. (Courtesy of Zesty Olives)



The fast-casual restaurant took over the 1,000-square foot space that used to house Urban Seoul and offers a menu of grilled proteins such as chicken, beef, lamb, salmon and falafel served in a wrap ($13.95) in a bowl ($17.95) or over pasta ($15.95). Sides include grilled veggies, herbed rice, salads and more.  There are vegetarian, vegan, keto, and gluten-free choices.

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Proteins have a char-grilled flavor. Dips ($9.95), like creamy tzatziki  or chunky hummus, are distinctive. Golden halloumi fries ($16.95) might remind you of fried mozzarella without the breading or french fries without all the salt — they’re addictive and they’re also available in a grilled version.

For dessert there’s Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts ($4.95), almond flour cookies ($6.95) and baklava ($6.95). The Irvine store will soon serve beer and wine like its sister restaurant in Lake Forest.

Operated by Mitrevi Restaurant Group, the brand hopes to expand nationally and open 50 restaurants in five years through franchising and company-owned restaurant development.

“It’s our bold vision to revive the restaurant industry and bring back the true meaning of a restaurant as a place for guests to be refreshed, restored and made whole again,” said CEO Borislav Mitrev. He’s a 20-year veteran of the hospitality industry who managed London’s Camden Street Food Market and founded Souvlaki & Burger Bar in Bulgaria.

His sister and business partner Dessi Sarabosing, CFO of Zesty Olives, has worked for restaurant chains such as Taco Bell, Yum! Brands, Chevys, El Torito, Acapulco and Pink Taco as corporate controller and CFO.

The two siblings are self-made entrepreneurs.

“We grew up in a very poor environment. Our dad was a miner in the coal mines of Bulgaria,” said Sarabosing. “We had no money. So we learned how to hustle and really worked hard from a very young age.”

She and her brother were separated for years because of visa issues; Mitrev was working in Europe, Sarabosing spent time in the U.S. earning an executive MBA from USC. They decided to go into business together once they were reunited.

Their aim is to serve fresh and healthful Mediterranean cuisine.

“We care for the customers. We feed them nutritious, craveable, healthy, clean food,” she said. “So, we have a lot of loyal people coming back.”

The restaurant has also recently partnered with the nonprofit OC Rescue Mission Shelter to help those in need transition back into the workforce.

“We bring food, we bring our friends who share powerful, inspirational stories. And then we train them in job skills like how to interview and how to dress,” said Sarabosing. For those who are interested in the hospitality business, it might lead to a position with Zesty Olives, she said.

The restaurant wants to make its mark in Irvine by serving healthful, delicious cuisine.

“It’s really fresh. We bring a lot of items that are new to the U.S. market, like halloumi fries,” Sarabosing said. “That’s keto and we have a lot of gluten-free and vegan food so whatever your dietary preferences, just come and give us a try.”

Find it: 2750 Alton Parkway, Unit 131, Irvine, 949-774-1518, zestyolives.com.

Open: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

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