Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Zuni Cafe, Wearing Flowers in Her Hair

Thank you Judy Rodgers for giving us Zuni Cafe and so many wonderful simple dishes that we treasure.  We will miss you.

Judy Rodgers gave us community as much as she gave us good eats.  Whether it was a martini at the iconic, slightly curvy copper-topped bar (yes - a martini is a meal especially if the olives are fortified with blue cheese), the Zuni Burger, or the Roast Chicken for Two, Judy’s simple yet urbane dishes inspired people to come together.

Conversation at the bar at Zuni Cafe is inevitable.  With no bar stools or tables, it’s just you - standing at this lovely curvy bar, with friendly bartenders and others crowded together.  Conversations and connections simply blossom.

The Zuni burger has the same magic.  The Zuni burger is minimalist.  It’s modern.  It’s art.  It’s proportioned.  It’s edited.  It’s delicious.  And it is only served after 10 PM.

It’s a round juicy patty seasoned with salt, adorned with a rectangular wedge of cheese, topped with a dollop of aioli, and served on a square focaccia role seasoned with rosemary.  Since the burger is only served after 10 PM, the restaurant gets busy right before closing with groups of people looking for a lite bite after a night out.

I was often one of those people and the order would always be the same:  a Zuni burger, a glass of Zinfandel and an order of shoestring fries piled high.  Friends and I would end evenings out with burgers at Café Zuni and there was always such anticipation for their arrival.  That’s because there’s no exception to the 10 PM rule and we were starving.

The Roast Chicken for Two had a different type of magic.  For me, this was an intimate dish to be shared with a special person.  What could be more romantic than eating a succulent roast chicken for two with warm bread salad?  The dish takes at least an hour to prepare so there’s plenty of time to enjoy a bottle of wine over conversation and allow your appetite to awaken.  The magical thing about this dish is that it’s intimate and communal at the same time.  While the dish is usually only shared by two people, it seems like everyone in the restaurant has ordered the roast chicken and is waiting for it like you so it’s a communal experience at the same time.

For me, Zuni Cafe embodies the lyrics of Scott McKenzie’s song which said, ”If you’re going to San Francisco, wear some flowers in your hair...”.

Thank you Judy Rodgers.

Photo Credits:,


  1. That burger and chicken description made me hungry! So where is this cafe and did it close now .

  2. Zuni Cafe is still open on Market Street in San Francisco. The burger and chicken dish are extraordinary. Judy Rogers, while less known, has been as influential as Alice Waters in shaping our views about food as well as stimulating our appetites!


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