San Francisco's Iconic Zuni Cafe
If one is going to throw around the word "iconic," let's make sure it's used appropriately. As with Zuni. The awkwardly shaped restaurant—it's in a narrow storefront with wider spaces on the mezzanine—was opened in 1979 by Billy West. West's best move was hiring chef Judy Rogers in 1987. She put in a brick oven—and thus the Zuni roast chicken was born. This dish, more than any other (except perhaps the Caesar salad), defines Zuni. The chicken is roasted in the brick oven and served over a bread salad: greens with chewy bread croutons. Simple, perfectly cooked, and seasonal. Rogers died in 2013, but the restaurant soldiers on without her. The menu changes with the season and with what the local farms are growing, and will doubtless explain the provenance of your meat. Rogers, along with her peer across the bay, Alice Waters, pioneered California cooking, and the cooks that have passed through here have gone on to define today's vibrant restaurant scene.
By Davina Baum, AFAR Contributor
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.