March 11, 2017

Roast Chicken? Il Pollaio Il Pollaio (and sometimes Zuni of course)

March 11, 2017

Roast Chicken? Il Pollaio Il Pollaio (and sometimes Zuni of course)

Roast chicken can swing from boring to otherworldly in a moment’s time. But when it’s done right, there’s nothing better than a bird that’s moist, juicy, and tender on the inside, and crisp, salty, and crackly on the outside. It’s a great indicator for the cooking chops of a kitchen, and the ones that do it right often pass the litmus test in other areas, too.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of dry roast chicken, but this list is stacked with the plumpest and juiciest in town. These versions span a variety of cuisines (Italian, Peruvian, Cuban, and more), all putting their own spin on the humble chicken, while fastidiously maintaining its juicy integrity. Some of the restaurants included are dedicated to the bird alone, while others serve it in a menu of other dishes. It’s easy to overlook the chicken in the latter case, but you’d be remiss to do so at these establishments.

For the city’s best roast chicken, look no further than these 12 places.

1 Bonita Taqueria y Rotisserie

Part taqueria and part rotisserie, Bonita has a Mexican bent on its Mary’s free range rotisserie chicken, which can be ordered at the counter as a half or whole chicken, or shredded into tacos, burritos, bowls, quesadillas, and more. You can eat it all there, but it’s more comfortable to take it home to Netflix (or order it online).


2 Delfina

Get an entire half a Mary’s organic chicken with king trumpet mushrooms, olive oil mashed potatoes, and jus at Delfina for $24. It’s easy to overlook this dish because of the more obvious choice — pasta, pasta, and more pasta — but it’s a sleeper hit, for sure.


3 El Pollo Supremo

Charboiled chicken is the name of the game at El Pollo Supremo, which is family-owned by a very enthusiastic crew for the past 22 years. An entire chicken is just $14.54, and there is a plethora of Cuban sides to round out the meal, like various rices, beans, salads, potatoes, and more.


4 Hillstone

Hillstone has fervent fans nationwide, and its San Francisco followers are no different. The entire menu is a solid order, including the free range rotisserie chicken, which comes roasted with crushed herbs and an apricot glaze, served alongside black beans & rice.


5 Il Pollaio

Get a half or whole roast chicken that’s very simply seasoned (salt, pepper, olive oil) and is served alongside lemons, plus the choice of French fries or salad. You can eat here, but it’s geared more toward takeout.


6 Limon Rotisserie

Peruvian-style chicken is the specialty of Limón Rotisserie, where its “pollo a la brasa” (grilled chicken) is slowly roasted rotisserie style and served with aji (garlic) sauce and two sides of your choice (options include yuca fries, rice and beans, salad, and more).


7 Marla Bakery

Like everything else at Marla Bakery, the roast chicken is prepared with a lot of care. It’s brined in whey and served alongside smashed smoked potatoes and roasted broccoli rabe. But the really exciting part is the fermented chili paste, of which you will probably want more.


8 Marlowe

Marlowe’s poulet vert is a fixture on the menu of American-French hits, though the accoutrements change with the seasons. Right now it’s being served with pancetta, brussels sprouts hash, sweet potato puree, and a mustard date jus, but not matter what comes along, the chicken is always moist and flavorful.


9 Perry’s

For a straightforward option, Perry’s has a simple half roast chicken served with fingerling potatoes and seasonal vegetables underneath in its jus. It’s moist, just salty enough, and very satisfying.


10 Souvla

Souvla’s whole roast chicken is available through Caviar with juicy potatoes, a side salad, and your choice of yogurt dipping sauce for $30. As for the chicken itself, it’s Souvla’s signature spit-roasted, feta-brined rotisserie chicken. If it’s just that chicken you want, you can pick one up at either location after 6 p.m. for $20.

11 Spinnerie

The chicken at Spinnerie — like many on this list — is Mary’s free range, and it’s spatchcocked and deboned, making it very easy to eat. Pick from a varied choice of sides, such as dripping fingerling potatoes, spit-fired Calabrese cauliflower, mac and cheese, and more to serve alongside, and have dinner for a group very quickly.


12 Waxman’s Restaurant

Chef Jonathan Waxman’s chicken is known countrywide, and it’s now available here in SF. His signature “JW Chicken” comes with salsa verde and mixed greens, and is cooked in a wood-fired oven for a nice char with a still very juicy interior.


13 Zuni Cafe

A roast chicken list without Zuni is no list at all. Because this is the roast chicken that started it all, and will forever be the city’s top chick. But there are rules associated with this chicken, and you should know them. First and foremost, the kitchen needs an hour to cook it, and second, you cannot order it in advance. It’s a pricey entry at $58 for a whole chicken with bread salad, but one that’s shareable and well worth it.