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Restaurant rolls out Braille menus

First Z’Tejas customers to order from the spiral-bound paper say it is easier to follow than other comparable menus.

October 10, 2007|By Michael Miller

COSTA MESA — Danny Stevens never forgot the moment a few months ago when he first considered making the Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill more accessible to the blind.

The executive chef of the South Coast Plaza eatery was in the kitchen when a server came back and explained to the managers that a blind couple had come in with a group of friends. Stevens overheard the exchange and decided to introduce himself to the couple, who were regulars at the restaurant. A moment later, they put an idea in his head.

“They said, ‘It would be nice if you had Braille menus, but we’ll still come in whether you have them or not,’” Stevens said. “That was the moment it clicked.”

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On Tuesday, Stevens’ dream became a reality, as Z’Tejas debuted a new line of menus for visually impaired customers. The menus, at a distance, look like large sheets of blank paper joined with a spiral binding, but they contain all the same words as the regular menus — and they got a thumbs-up from the volunteer staff of the Blind Children’s Learning Center in Santa Ana, which came in Tuesday morning to celebrate the launch of the new service.

The Learning Center staff visited Z’Tejas with young students to try out the menus and do a sensory exercise. Stevens, who has overseen the kitchen for six years, laid out small, brightly colored dishes of cheese, peppers, mango slices and more and invited the diners to learn their texture and smell. Afterward, the restaurant staff took orders from the menu.

Z’Tejas plans to offer the Braille menus at each of its 10 nationwide locations. The Costa Mesa restaurant, the only Z’Tejas in California, was the first to roll them out.

A number of the volunteers said the menus made ordering food much easier. Alex Fletcher, who lives in Orange, said she was accustomed to having her parents or friends read the items to her out loud.

“There’s not a lot of restaurants that have them,” she said. “I think there should be more restaurants that do.”

Zoila Silbas, a homemaker and Cal State Fullerton student who lives in Santa Ana, said the Z’Tejas menu was easier to follow than many.

“I’ve seen a lot of Braille menus that are all over the place,” she said. “This one is more straightforward.”

A moment later, she ran her fingers along the text and tried to decide what to order.

“Everything looks good, sounds good,” she said. Then, after a pause: “It feels good.”


MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

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