Zuni Cafe & The Battle for Best Roasted Chicken and Bread Pudding in San Francisco

Zuni Cafe in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley is rumored to be home of the best roasted chicken in San Francisco — high praise indeed given the city’s love of all things chicken. I will say, this is the best roasted chicken I have ever had.

Zuni's roast chicken

Zuni's roast chicken

You have to be willing to wait (an hour to be precise), but it is well worth it. While it is advertised as roasted chicken for two, I would say it more realistically serves three very hungry people. Each person at our table was able to have one or two sizable pieces and we had leftovers. The chicken was surprisingly moist, with some of the crispiest, most flavorful skin I have tasted. It was clear that they used salt to draw out the moisture in the skin, and you did not have too many different flavors competing or overpowering the chicken itself, which was refreshing. It was topped with a bread salad with currents, a perfect accompaniment.

While waiting for this incredible chicken, we ordered the crostini and albacore tuna. The crostini were small pieces of baguette toasted to perfection with burrata cheese and a kalamata olive tapenade on top, with arugula on the side. I loved the combination of the salty tapenade and the sweet burrata (for those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s a super creamy type of mozzarella).

Albacore tuna with beets

Albacore tuna with beets

Then came the fish, succulent and moist, seared to medium rare with an aioli and beets. As a garlic and lemon advocate, I would have added more of each to the aioli, but the fish was perfection.

Despite the exceptional roasted chicken, the best part of the meal was the dessert. Shay, my fiance, and I are bread pudding lovers. It is always our final course of choice. The contenders thus far for the best bread pudding are: District Wine bar (the favorite until Zuni), Chocolate Bread Pudding at Chaya Brasserie, and the Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding at Luna Park in the mission.

Zuni’s bread pudding was the best I have ever had. It had the perfect texture: moist, but you could still make out the bread, with a tart berry sauce on top. Often, bread puddings are too creamy, resembling creme anglaise more than bread while others are over-baked, losing too much of their moisture. This bread pudding hit the perfect balance, right in the middle.  Seriously folks, you have to try this dessert. I would have taken a picture, but I was too excited to eat it.

Let this review begin a challenge. In my experience, Zuni Cafe is home to the best roasted chicken AND bread pudding in San Francisco.  However, there are still many restaurants left to explore, so I open this challenge up to everyone. Please send any contestants our way who you think can compete with the exceptional dining experience that is Zuni Cafe, I very much look forward to trying any roasted chicken and bread puddings you think compare. Regardless of the eventual winner, Zuni is a restaurant well worth a visit.

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