Zuni Chicken

No one loves chicken. You never hear someone say, “I’m a chicken person.” It’s always, “I’m not a chicken person.”

I’m not a chicken person. Jeff is definitely not a chicken person. He’s allergic to it. All poultry, in fact. It’s sometimes inconvenient (at large catered events) but sometimes great because chicken is totally out of the picture for us at home and at restaurants. I wouldn’t order chicken out because then how would I trade half of my plate for half of Jeff’s? I’m getting nervous just thinking about not trading.

Anyway, there is one chicken dish that, despite not being a chicken person, I had always wanted to try: The chicken for two at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.

Zuni chicken is legendary: voted the No. 1 thing to eat in San Francisco before you die, and such. It’s a whole chicken roasted in a brick oven, served in pieces with sturdy greens and a warm, vinegar-y bread salad flecked with currants and pine nuts.

In a word: Phenomenal.

In two: Again, please.

I know this because I had it recently — finally — when I happened to be in the city a day before Jeff. It was my chance. Four of us went to Zuni on a Tuesday (8:45 was the most reasonable reservation we could get), paired off and ordered it.

There is no shame in admitting that this is one of the better meals you’ve ever had. This chicken, with blistered skin and meat that falls off the bone, is for non-chicken people. Equally OMG-able is the bread salad, which is like warm panzanella with quadruple the fat snuck in there somewhere.

Inside the cozy, elegant Zuni, we sat right behind the giant brick oven, which can hold something like 19 chickens at a time…


We have a brick oven at home, and I’ve been tempted to recreate it. But I think I’d rather just go back. (Also, see Jeff’s chicken allergy.) A snippet of a G-chat with my friend Casey with whom I shared my chicken:

Casey: ugh, remember when you were here and it was so fun.

me: totally. i need to figure out a way to spend half of my time in san francisco

Casey: you really do.

me: and zuni chicken will be just this thing we do on tuesdays

Casey: it’s what will replace Thirsty Thursdays now that we are older and more mature

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