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Mar 5, 2008 04:55 AM

Zuni Cafe, still great (SF)

This is not news for many people here, but anyway ... I went to Zuni last night with visiting friends. It had been over 10 years since I'd been there. I consider it a quintessential SF restaurant and always one of my favorites. Everyone goes there, meaning all ages and types and types of dress. Every staff person from the valet parking attendant on through the evening was friendly, gracious, professional, no flaws all evening. The food is daily menu only, Chez Panisse-type fresh, and a small well-selected wine list. And a great bar that's usually much more active since this was 8:30 on a Tuesday night. For the three of us, there were two drinks and six glasses of wine, a Ceasar salad, six app prawns (which were too small for my East Coast friends :-) and two entrees. The Ceasar salad was a fine classic Ceasar, maybe too mild in flavor for some who are used to more intense dressing. My Blue Nose bass was a simple but creative dish perfectly prepared. I didn't try the other food (pork chop in the photo). $210 including tax and tip. After 28 years they are still on top of their game.

Zuni Cafe
1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

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  1. Thanks for the update. I often forget to report about restaurants like this that have been around long-time and are consistant. It is always nice to have a fresh report. Great photos of the restaurant.

    Zuni Cafe
    1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

    1. Thanks for the report. The photos reminded me of the wonderful evening we had last December with great food and wonderful service. While I love to cook with the Zuni cookbook, it's not the same as hanging out in that wonderful restaurant.

      1. Thanks for the report and very nice photos. What camera did you use?

        1 Reply
        1. When I took some guests from out of town here, I found the experience lackluster compared to so many other great restaurants in SF (in the same price range). The food's good, but the service was pretty horrible. I had made reservations but was made to wait 45 minutes after our reservation time. The server had neither suggestions for pairing wine to our meals, nor recommendations for dishes. As a former waiter in a four star restaurant, I was appalled. The dishes we ordered didn't exceed expectations, like the roasted chicken. It was loud and our guests ended up back to back with an adjacent tables' guests. How uncomfortable! Lame.

          5 Replies
          1. re: cycle10

            >the service was pretty horrible<

            It's puzzling to me that their service could be so different at different times. Last night was as good an example of service, from all staff members, as I've ever experienced anywhere.

            1. re: Mick Ruthven

              My wife and I around a dozen years ago had a typically delightful dinner there with another couple. Afterwards, they did nothing but complain about the service. We found it pretty mind-boggling.

            2. re: cycle10

              I have no idea what to make of posts with very little detail of any kind and which are the first post on the site by an individual. We've found the service at Zuni to be good. One thing we've definitely found is that the servers we've had have been happy to talk about many of the dishes on the menu, make recommendations and tell us enthusiastically, when asked, about their favorite dishes.

              1. re: ccbweb

                I don't visit these or any boards frequently. I've had years of experience at upscale restaurants as a waiter and continue my appreciation for fine dining on the consumer side. I've had the opportunity to work with notable chefs and other talented individuals in the food industry. I rarely feel the need to comment about a place unless the establishment surprises me either positively or negatively. Zuni unfortunately was a negative experience in terms of service and their food was not notable. Details of the night can be found in the 45 min wait past the reservations time and in the roasted chicken dish and the waiter's inability to recommend neither wine nor food.

              2. re: cycle10

                I eat at Zuni about once a month for dinner and occasionally for lunch and have never had anything but crisp, professional service there. Some servers have been more forthcoming than others, depending on the prompt, but all are enthusiastic about the food and happy to give details, and, importantly, when I can't decide between two options, can explain the differences between my two options in a way that doesn't denigrate either dish, but instead helps me narrow down my preferences to choose the best dish for me. As to your comments about noise and close tables, well, you are in a city with limited space, in an older building that has high ceilings, so of course it will be loud and have tables close together. I would expect that for a restaurant of this type, in this city at this price point.

              3. I think it's laughable that Zuni didn't get a star from the Michelin reviewers.