Zuni Cafe

I’ve been wanting to visit the Zuni Cafe for years, ever since I first got my hands on Judy Rodgers’ cookbook of the same name. Her food is homey, yet elegant, and the book is a wonderful instruction manual for the slightly ambitious home cook. So imagine how pleased I was when, as we were driving through San Francisco, my brother-in-law mentioned that we would be driving right by Zuni. We decided to stop in, just on the off chance there might be a table, and there was!

Zuni Cafe

Our table was right by the wood fired oven with a view into the kitchen, something I rather enjoy. I loved the big stack of firewood, the odd shapes of the tables allowing them to squeeze into strange spaces dictated by the old building’s shape, and the cool artwork. The rooms were airy and the bar looked fabulous.

Zuni Cafe

I started with a Sazerac. Jon got an Aperol cocktail, but asked that it be made with gin instead of vodka. Both drinks were nicely mixed and unfussily presented.

Zuni Cafe

Shortly after we sat down, our server bustled up and demanded to know whether we wanted a pizza or not – quick, quick! Apparently they only do pizzas during the day, and they needed to do any final orders within the next ten minutes so they could clear out the wood-fired oven for dinner service. Not being stupid, we immediately ordered the rapini pizza. It was incredible.

Zuni Cafe

Once we had demolished the pizza (which didn’t take long at all), we moved on to entrees. Jon ordered the pork chop. You can’t really see the pork here, under its liberal coating of breadcrumb salad, grilled onions and asparagus, but take my word for it, it was a truly superb piece of meat. Salty, juicy and utterly succulent. According to Jon, it was the best pork chop he’s ever eaten in a restaurant.

Zuni Cafe

Paul and I ordered hamburgers. These were, like the pork, fantastically juicy and flavorful. The only complaint I had was the use of foccaccia for the bun. Tasty, but has a tendency to dissolve. I would have preferred a real hamburger bun. It was a minor quibble, though, because the burger was delicious, and I loved the house pickled cucumbers and onions.

Zuni Cafe

We split a single order of fries. It was easily enough for three people, maybe four. It came with regular ketchup (I was hoping for something a little more, I dunno, unusual) and, inexplicably, mustard. Mustard, really?

Zuni Cafe

While I sipped a glass of Poli muscat grappa and Jon some Cynar, Paul sprang for dessert: honey ice cream with little shards of sesame cookies on top. It was just as good as it looked, which was saying something.

Zuni Cafe

My only regret is that we didn’t try the roast chicken with bread salad, or have access to the full dinner menu (I asked for a copy to drool over, it looked wonderful), but I loved everything we tried. This really is a beautiful restaurant, one I hope to come back to someday.

Zuni Cafe


3 thoughts on “Zuni

  1. I’ve tried the recipe for their roast chicken and it is indeed delicious! That pizza does look quite special as does the pork chop!

  2. I’ve only been able to eat at Zuni Cafe twice: once for dinner and once for lunch. At lunch, I had the hamburger and the french fries (along with a Caesar salad). What I really noticed about Zuni was, despite the fact that much of their menu is Mediterranean, almost everything is comfort food. It doesn’t even matter that it’s not culturally comfort food for me, it still manages to be.

    In any case, I’m jealous of your ability to just be “passing by it.”

    1. Hi Matt! Interesting observation about their menu – it’s funny how comfort food can sometimes transcend cultural boundaries (and sometimes not so much). I like that the focus is on very accessible food, done with great technique and ingredients, rather than the all-too-common approach of trying to create dishes nobody has ever heard of. They want to feed you, not challenge you.

      I’ve only been in San Francisco a handful of times, and you know, it’s really hard to figure out where to eat! I was really excited that we just happened to be going by Zuni, it certainly wasn’t in our original plan.

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