- Balasamic Bloody Mary
- House-Ground Grass-Fed Hamburger
- Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad
Date First Visited: September 13, 2012
Price: $11.50 for the Balasamic Bloody Mary; $15.00 for the House-Ground Grass-Fed Hamburger; and $48.00 for the Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad
Note: The Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad is #2 on the 7×7 The Big Eat 2012 List and #28 on the 7×7 The Big Eat 2013 List.
Named after the Zuni tribe, Billy West and chef Judy Rodgers (formerly of Chez Panisse) established Zuni Cafe on Market Street in San Francisco. After over 30 years in the restaurant business, this place attracts a wide range of diners from politicians to artists and tourists. The interior decor harbors a unique rustic atmosphere with brick walls, white linen draped tables, and an open kitchen. Zuni Cafe is well-known for its simply prepared Mediterranean cooking. Some even say that they serve the best burger. Several of Zuni’s signature dishes remain on the menu consistently, but others, such as the fresh oysters, change daily.
The restaurant is located on a sharp corner of Market, so the building is pie-shaped. Visiting Zuni Cafe for lunch allowed the wonderful natural lighting from their floor-to-ceiling windows to fully illuminate our meal, and as a photographer, I took full advantage of this perfect situation. We made reservations ahead of time with the mindset of just enjoying their famous wood-fire roasted chicken, but surprisingly, the atmosphere was just as appealing.
Beautiful floral displays decorate the brick wall interiors of Zuni Cafe and comfortably welcome the patrons as they enjoy their meal. The service is wonderful – the hostess pulled out the table as we settled in our seats. The menu is printed on thick brown paper, which complements the rustic feel of the restaurant.
Complementary bread was served with butter. As both Jason and I were famished, we ordered a glass of Balsamic Blood Mary and their famous hamburger while we waited an hour for the roasted chicken to be prepared. After taking a sip of the Bloody Mary, I could taste the onions and spices lingering around my palate. I typically do not drink, so Jason finished the rest.
The house-ground grass-fed hamburger came out sliced in half for me and Jason to share. The meat was cooked to near perfection – no excess oil, no dripping juices. It was clean, easy to eat, and delicious. Chef Judy Rodgers buys chunks of chuck that she salts the night before. The salt seasons the meat so that there is just enough juice accompanied with every bite. The thick grilled patty is served with a square of grilled rosemary-scented focaccia slathered with aioli and paired with house-made pickles and onion strips.
With the open kitchen situated right in front of our table, we observed how the chef prepared and sliced our chicken. By this time, after being teased with half of a delicious burger, we couldn’t wait for the chicken to come out. Apparently the smell of the wood-oven roasted chicken permeates to every seat in the house.
Both Jason and I could smell the chicken before it even arrived at our table. The roasted chicken was bathed in greens and a bread salad which soaked up all the flavorful chicken juices. Each bite of the chicken was divinely tender and seasoned thoroughly. The roasted skin was slightly crispy and full of warm flavorful goodness. The bread salad was average for me, but it might be because I’m not a big fan of mushy bread and anything with a stuffing texture. Although the chicken is meant for two, it was definitely more than enough for the both of us. I was comfortably full by my third piece, and we packed the last pieces of chicken for a late-night snack.
Zuni Cafe opens for both lunch and dinner, but I would recommend coming for lunch to take advantage of their wondering natural lighting. The atmosphere itself brings together the entire meal and experience that you wouldn’t want to miss out.
1) Request a seat by the window and people-watch.
2) The hamburger is a must-try.
3) The Roasted Chicken is enough to serve 3 people.
4) The Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad is #2 on the 7×7 The Big Eat 2012 List and #28 on the 7×7 The Big Eat 2013 List.
Yelp Review: http://www.yelp.com/biz/zuni-cafe-san-francisco
4 out of 5 stars. 1,600+ reviews.
1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102 (map)
Tel: (415) 566-6143
Tue-Thu 11:30 am – 11 pm
Fri-Sat 11:30 am – 12 am
Sun 11 am – 11 pm