by Tiffany Maleshefski - 25 Reviews - 5 List
Sourced from an exclusive Central Valley purveyor, rubbed down with kosher salt 24 hours beforehand, and roasted to perfection, the exquisite whole chicken at Zuni Cafe is one of San Francisco's most famous dishes--and rightfully so. Still, Zuni isn't the only place to get a mind-blowing bird in this city. In fact, not only could the biddies on this list beat Zuni's in a blind taste test, but most can be had for less than half the price, and without making a reservation.
Updated: November 04, 2009
This deep Mission spot may be famous for its cebiche, but its tender, juicy polla a la brasa is actually their signature dish. Marinated with Peruvian flavors and rotisseried to moist perfection, Limon's whole chicken costs $17 and comes with two generous sides--more than enough for two people to share--in what must also be one of the best dinner deals in the city.
Because of its KFC-esque acronym, GFC is often mistaken for a fried chicken joint, but this Outer Mission chicken-house is actually Mediterranean. Its succulent, hand-picked hens are marinated in garlic and lemon overnight before being cooked slowly over an open flame or roasted to a perfect golden brown in a rotisserie. Even if it isn't quite as good as Zuni's, at $12 for an entire chicken, GFC probably has even KFC beat on price.
Tamales, enchiladas and burritos might dominate this New Mexican restaurant's menu, but do not miss out on the mouth-watering rotisserie Fulton Valley chickens that can be ordered with an herb citrus or green chile rub. You might start off using a fork, but soon you'll be using your hands to make sure no shred of Green Chile has gone undiscovered, and, at only $12.95 for the whole bird, you'll discover plenty of green left in your pockets.
North Beach might seem like the last place you'd go for supreme roasted chicken, but Il Pollaio could change your mind. It serves to-die-for rotisserie chicken that you can order to go or split with a pal on the spot, and it comes with either salad or a generous pile of fries for a measly $15. Go for the spatchcocked, which is chicken cut down the back, flattened and thrown on the grill--it comes out hot and juicy.
One bite of NOPA's rotisserie herbed half-chicken and you'll be wishing you had more. Fortunately, the restaurant will double the order (for $36), allowing you to share a whole chicken with your table (or just yourself). NOPA selects all of its purveyors, such as Sonoma County Poultry, very carefully, and that careful attention to detail comes through in the quality of the meat.