Brookfield Zoo offers more culinary choices

The zoo is a popular choice.

Both Lincoln Park and Brookfield are good choices. But ABC7's food reporter says Brookfield has upgraded its food options recently.

Brookfield Zoo is a sprawling space. And it takes the better part of a day to see it all. With all of that walking, it's good to know kids and adults can fill up without the guilt.

I'll admit I was skeptical at first. But after a visit to a couple of the dining destinations within the zoo, that skepticism turned into relief.

When you visit a zoo - or any mass-appeal, family-friendly attraction for that matter - you expect the food to be sub-standard. But at the Brookfield Zoo, a recent overhaul has added a few alternatives to the usual dogs, burgers and pizza.

"We've done a lot of fresh items, healthy items. Build your own burritos and tacos. Panninis. Fresh salads and sushis,"said Brian Krockey, Brookfield Zoo Food Service Director.

That build-your-own concept begins with lightly-griddled tortillas filled with a choice of steak, pork or chicken plus pico de gallo, cheese and other toppings. In the "Panninis and More" section, there are a couple of nicely toasted options, including a Cuban that's layered with ham, pickles, cheese and mustard. A healthier "Grab 'n Go" section offers organic turkey sandwiches on multi-grain bread and a decent selection of salads, including an Asian and a Cobb. Light snackers will love the parfait, layered with vanilla yogurt, granola and peaches.

"We try to offer greater alternatives for our guests that come here as opposed to the usual hot dogs and burgers," said Krockey.

Just a short walk toward the center of the zoo, the temporary Bison Grill is housed in a giant white tent, where the grills run pretty much non-stop. They've got thinly-pounded steak sandwiches with caramelized onions, but the rolls are too thick, overwhelming the beef. Skip them, and instead go for the juicy turkey burgers, served on soft buns.

Krockey says the menu is constantly evolving.

"People's tastes have changed greatly. Kids have changed greatly. Kids have much more complex tastes and they want healthier alternatives, fresher alternatives. Not so much packaged items. We try to offer that," said Krockey.

A recommendation: buy the all-inclusive pass at the front gate, which will prevent you from having to pay extra to see many of the exhibits inside.

The zoo is 100% trans fat-free. And the food court we visited - called La Gran Cocina - is located near the Living Coast Exhibit.

Brookfield Zoo
3300 Golf Rd., Brookfield

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