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Zuni Cafe Serves Up Its Iconic Roast Chicken to Go

For maybe the first time in forty plus years, the legendary roast chicken and Caesar salad are available for takeout

Chickens in the oven at Zuni Cafe Zuni Cafe

Zuni Cafe, that iconic slice of Californian cuisine on Market Street, has stoked the wood-fire oven and reopened for takeout. The groundbreaking farm-to-table restaurant first opened in 1979, and was brought to fame by the late great Judy Rodgers, who established the restaurant’s deep relationships with local farms and a commitment to old world methods. In healthier times, the iconic roast chickens were made to order in the cavernous oven, taking a leisurely hour to plump and crisp, prompting regulars to put in orders the hot second they stepped through the door. But now, with the coronavirus crisis shutting down the warm dining room, how times have changed. For maybe the first time in the restaurant’s forty plus year history, Zuni is serving up its legendary roast chicken and Caesar salad for takeout.

“The primary reason why we felt comfortable and safe to reopen was the broad availability of COVID testing for all essential workers,” says chef Nate Norris, who explains that everyone on his team has been tested and will continue to get tested every two to three weeks. In the meantime, chicken fans have been clamoring. “We know there’s demand, and we want to provide our customers with comfort and joy,” the chef says. Unlike many restaurants, which have transitioned to takeout with modified menu items and even DIY dinner kits, Zuni went straight for their fan favorites — “we don’t mess with the classics.”

The takeout menu, for now, is just three dishes: the roast chicken, with that warm bread salad studded with currants, pine nuts, and greens, which serves two people ($45); the Caesar salad, argued by many to be the city’s best, lush with lemon and anchovies ($15); and, to celebrate the debut of strawberry season, a shortcake featuring berries from their longtime friends at Full Belly Farm ($10). To make sure those dishes transport well, the chicken and bread will be packed together, for anyone who wants to warm them in their home oven, and the greens and dressing come separately, to fold in fresh at the end. Keep an eye on Instagram, as staff may be offering some helpful tips soon.

Roast chicken fans can order online through Tock or call the restaurant directly at 415-552-2522. It’s all curbside pickup for now, and the team doesn’t have any immediate plans to expand to delivery, for all of the usual reasons. Zuni did sadly have to furlough or lay off 90 employees, but it is fortunate to have a secure spot in its building and hopes to weather the storm. Stay tuned for more roast chicken updates.

Zuni Café

1658 Market Street, , CA 94102 (415) 552-2522 Visit Website