Rapid Restaurant Revew: Zuni Café

I must admit that Zuni Café is an old stand-by for me. It is my go-to restaurant for late-ish dining, for entertaining out-of-town guests, for enjoying a meal with hard-to-impress friends, and it seems, for constructing sentences with lots of hyphenated phrases.

I’m hardly breaking new ground by reviewing Zuni, but more and more, I’ve run into people who’ve lived in San Francisco for at least a couple of years and have never eaten there. My advice: invite some out-of-town guests to visit and take them to Zuni.

Zuni Café
1658 Market Street (btwn. Franklin and Gough)
415.552.2522

  • What kind of food is it? Fresh, sustainably grown / harvested ingredients prepared in French and Italian styles.
  • What can you get to drink? Full bar with some spins on classic cocktails (I like the balsamic bloody mary), a one-sheet wine list with a good breadth of choices, nice selection of non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Would you eat there again? I do. Probably too frequently.
  • Would you eat there once a week (or more)? Short answer: Absolutely. Longer answer: It’s a little pricey for weekly dining. That being said, you can spend under $30 by getting a burger and plate of shoestring fries. Unfortunately, they only serve the burger at lunch or after 10 p.m., but it’s completely worth altering your plans to eat at those times. The burger is wonderful.
  • Would you go out of your way to eat there? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.
  • Would you recommend the place to your friends? I have and will continue to do so.
  • Would you take your parents there? The in-laws, even. I’d suggest going after 10 p.m., perhaps after a night at the symphony. Order the caesar salad and some raw oysters to start and the roasted chicken (Sweet Jesus, the chicken!), a burger and fries for entrées. Depending on how much you like your in-laws, I’d also advise a bottle (or three) of wine.
  • Would you take a first date there? Absolutely. I’m not going to get along with any girl who doesn’t like the food here.
  • Would you take kids? I suppose. Point of fact: the children I’ve seen eating at Zuni are some of the most well-behaved I’ve ever seen. My deepest thanks to those parents.
  • Do they take reservations? Yes, and I would highly recommend making them. However, the limited bar seating is first-come, first-served and the full menu is available there.

What more can I say? I’ve never had a bad meal at Zuni. In fact, one night a couple of years ago, they made a truffle burger (hamburger patty studded with chunks of black truffle) that might have been one of my most transcendent burger experiences. I check the menu for that burger to this day.

Before you protest about a totally positive review, I must admit, the chicken was a touch dry the last time I had it, which merely brought it down to the level of a normal restaurant’s instead of head-and-shoulders better as is typical. But, for my money, Zuni is consistently one of the best eateries in The City and will continue to be one of my must-dine-if-you’re-in-San-Francisco restaurants.

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