Zuni is f*cking legendary.
Three things make it so: the food, the room, and the vibe.
Let’s start with the eats. Most restaurants would be lucky to have one dish that they do so well, so consistently, that it becomes permanently associated with them. Zuni has, no kidding, three dishes of this class.
The first is a Caesar salad. For the most part, it tastes like every Caesar you’ve had. But the details are just right, every time. The lettuce is stacked up like a crunchy pyramid. The cheese is copious but not overwhelming. The dressing is just what you need.
The second is a fancy burger on focaccia. We tend to shy away from such things — what’s wrong with a normal bun? We are burger populists. But the upscale secret sauce (“aioli”) and pickles bring it all together. This is an OG high-end burger.
The third is the roast chicken. What more can we say? When the late Judy Rogers decided to throw whole chickens in a wood oven for an hour and douse bread with their drippings, she made her dent in the universe.
The room stands up to the food. This glass-encased triangle is one of the all-time great daytime places to eat. The natural light is nearly unmatched. And while it’s a “two-floor restaurant,” Zuni does a great job of also feeling airy and open. Random details like the giant pile of firewood (for chickens, no doubt) reinforce the homeyness.
Which brings us to the last, most important point about Zuni: the intangibles. This is the kind of restaurant that your mom still brags about taking you to over a decade ago. It’s the kind of place where you can kick back for hours on a sunny day and drink fizzy cocktails and eat oysters. It’s somehow both unpretentious and classy.
Sometimes you want to eat simple food at a restaurant you know you like. To quote the great philosopher Shawn Carter, “I don’t want much, f*ck, I drove every car. Some nice cooked food. Some nice clean drawers.” Zuni brings the love to the heart of the city.
A strong selection.
How do they get every romaine leaf exactly the same length?
The crust doesn’t puff up in that perfect Neapolitan way, but the toppings are tasty. Not a can’t miss.
We had an odd whole-wheat version with some acidic cauliflower-esque vegetable. The only down note we’ve had here in a while.
The aioli and pickles perform alchemy and are in perfect proportion to the grilled focaccia. This delicate balance is the only reason such an esoteric burger works.
If you go to Zuni (with someone) and don’t get this, you may lack a soul.