Zuni Cafe – Mid Market, San Francisco

Zuni Cafe

1658 Market Street
zunicafe.com

Zuni Cafe is a historical landmark in the San Francisco dining scene. In a city that is flooded with new, trendy, ‘foodie’ dining spots, Zuni has been consistently pumping  out cult level classic dishes for nearly forty years.  After a lengthy period of time on our waiting list, we finally made it to this San Francisco staple.

A few things jump out about Zuni Cafe.  The massive windows mean the place is pleasantly bright while the sun shines. The white tablecloths and piano player provide an upscale feel in an environment that is not at all stuffy. It is always crowded, usually a good sign about a place being good.

The menu is simple, you are not overloaded with choices.  A few small plates, salads, pastas, and mains. And since it is practically a legal obligation to order the famous roasted chicken for two, the menu shrinks even further.

Zuni Caesar Salad

Zuni_01_Ceasar

Huge romaine leaves, copious shreds of cheese, and massive mouth filling croutons. The dressing is fishy, salty and flavorful without being overpowering.  A crisp, refreshing salad.

House Cured Anchovies

celery, Parmigiano-Reggiano, coquillo olives  

 

Zuni_02b_Anchovy

I am a huge anchovy fan and, while not bad and maybe a product of having to split it three ways, this dish didn’t live up to my expectations.  The anchovies were a little over marinated for me. The cheese and olives were nice.

Bellwater Farms Ricotta Gnocchi

spinach, lemon, poppy seeds

Zuni_03_Gnocchi

 

This was ridiculous.  The gnocchi were fluffy soft and the ricotta was a gooey ooze that made me weak in the knees.  Lucky I was seated. Sad I only got to eat four of them.

Shoestring Fries

Zuni_04_Fries

 

The fries are cut ultra thin which gives a great ratio of crispy outer layer to soft potato innards.  The ketchup is infused with a little something to add a kick. Prepare for greasy fingers, these little guys are tough to grip.

Fort Bragg Albacore

grilled with purslane, Black Lance tomatoes, roasted red onions, cucumber, aioli

Zuni_05_Albacore

The albacore was cooked to a lovely rare color and temperature. The veggies were fresh – a nice summery feeling accompanied this dish.

Brick Oven Roasted Chicken for Two

warm bread salad, scallions, garlic, mustard greens

Zuni_06a_Chicken

Zuni_06b_Chicken

The signature dish at Zuni Cafe, the roasted chicken for two needs an hour to prepare so order it first.  There are many articles written about this dish – the high standards for chicken quality, the technique – so I won’t rehash what others have already said better than I ever could.  The chicken is awesome.  The skin is crispy, the meat moist.  The bread salad is eye-rolling good. This is a staple, must order dish – but it is a lot of chicken so hopefully you will have more than two to share with.

Panna Cotta

blueberries, almonds

Zuni_07_PannaCotta

Sweet, creamy, gelatinous.  Even with a full stomach, dessert went down all too fast leaving me wanting more of this fantastic culinary creation.

Zuni Cafe – absolutely worth the wait and with a menu that is constantly changing based on seasonality and availability, absolutely worth a re-visit.

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