Another fine lunch at Zuni Café, San Francisco

by foodhoe on November 21, 2011

1658 Market Street (between Franklin & Gough) | 415.552.2522  | website

Years ago, I used to work within walking distance from this lovely restaurant where we would go to enjoy their fabulous burgers and fries for special occasion lunches.  We still go back once in a while for a treat, it’s an old reliable friend that I enjoy visiting. The café is located along a sketchy section of Market Street at an oddly sharp intersection that forms the triangular shape of the building.   We met Casey and Mank for an early lunch recently, showing up without reservations, but were able to get a table with just a short wait at the sleek and shiny copper topped bar.  The beverage of choice for Saturday lunch is definitely the spicy Bloody Mary ($12).

We were seated upstairs on the brightly lit mezzanine at a table that really could have fit twice as many people, which was unusual and made me feel like royalty because my handbag had its own chair.

It is also fun to look over the railing, from one corner of the loft you can peer over into the bustling, well ordered kitchen

For us, no visit to Zuni is complete without a tray of oysters…  they’re served with a classic mignonette made with red wine vinegar, shallots and cracked black pepper.  Always impeccably fresh and so good to devour along with the crusty sourdough bread slathered with butter.

They have one of the best raw bars around, a bit pricey, but the quality is completely worth it… it’s obvious with just a look.

Mr. K and I decided to order things that we haven’t had before, because we always get oysters, the caesar salad, roasted chicken or the burger.  So we shared a bowl of Creamy Potato and Sorrel Soup.  I have never had sorrel before and was surprised by the lemony flavor.  It was topped with fried capers and a good bit of ground black pepper, also very good to dunk the buttered bread into…

Frisée Salad with Treviso Chicory, Poached Egg and Rabbit ($15) was very satisfying, the slices of bunny were tender and  moist, although easily mistaken for chicken, we enjoyed the variety of textural contrast in this classic French bistro salad.

I have always wanted to order the Bowl of polenta ($6), topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano which it turns out, was a little too plain and simple on its own… it would be delicious with a savory topping.

This is the lovely Zuni Caesar ($10), coated with their signature dressing that dazzles your tastebuds with bright lemony flavors that are tempered with pungent garlic and anchovy.  The translucent parmesan shavings melt, soothing your tastebuds with a brilliant rich, salty glow.  The lettuce is remarkably tender and fresh and it always gets competitive over the crunchy croutons.

One order of the fries was enough for all four of us to share.  The best Shoestring potatoes ($6) in the world… well seasoned, airy, perfectly crisp and addictive as all get out.

Mank and Casey split the House-ground grass-fed beef hamburger on grilled rosemary focaccia with aïoli and Zuni pickles ($15).  It is magnificent in its juicy beefiness, the house made pickled zucchini strips are infused with the flavors of cinnamon and bay leaf and have such a brilliant hue, along with the pickled onions add an exciting piquancy to the plate.  

We shared the Full Belly Farm Quince Sorbet ($7.50) which came with two delicious buttery shortbread cookies. The texture of the sorbet was delightful, so creamy it seemed almost fluffy.  The flavor of quince was very subtle, we decided that if blindfolded, we would not be able correctly identify it.  It could be strawberry or raspberry or some other mixture of fruit. The cookies were the highlight.

Because the menu is driven by seasonal ingredients, there are always interesting things to try, but I will always go back for the classic burgers and fries, or their signature dish of roast chicken for two.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday  11:30 am to 11 pm

Friday and Saturday  11:30 am to midnight
Sunday  11:00 am to 11:00 pm  |  Closed Monday
ZUNI Café on Urbanspoon

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

grace November 25, 2011 at 3:50 am

i don’t believe i’ve ever had quince in anything, much less a sorbet. and i doubt a mountain of shoestring taters will ever fail to make my mouth water. 🙂


foodhoe November 29, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I apologize for whatever it is that broke the commenting here… Working on it!


Bonnibella February 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Finally coming here this week. Burger and chicken was on the list but now adding fries, polenta and the salad to the list per your recommendations.


Brenton Gieser February 22, 2012 at 10:57 am

Zuni is amazing…your photos make the amazingness 3d…crazy


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