Basking in Zazie’s Yellow Light
The best place to soak up the sun in San Fran!
Zazie (941 Cole Street) has long been a cornerstone of San Francisco’s Cole Valley. This golden cafe is well-appreciated by locals and tourists alike: the restaurant is perennially brimming with satisfied customers, so waiting over an hour for a table is to be expected.
Zazie’s popularity is owed, in part, to their philosophy. Since they first opened in 1992, Zazie have set themselves apart from the crowd by means of their dedication to their employees. As they proudly state, Zazie now offers their staff the “most comprehensive benefit program of any non-union restaurant,” which includes “health & dental insurance, paid sick leave, paid vacation leave, paid family leave, and a 401(k) with employer match.” With benefits like that, Zazie’s food costs a little more — but these employees aren’t depending on tips to make a livable wage, which is amazing to see.
The care Zazie invests in their employees is reflected in their wonderful, attentive service. It also carries over to the quality of the meal. At Zazie, you can customize your meal a bit more than at other restaurants: instead of a set of three pieces of french toast or two scrambled eggs, you can order anywhere between one and three brunch items, to accommodate different appetites. I chose to get a singular pancake and one egg Benedict on a bed of mushrooms, because I wanted to maximize enjoyment.
The benny was cooked to perfection, with the yolk practically slipping out of its own accord. The side salad was salty and refreshing. The star of the meal, though, was the buttermilk pancake. Underneath a satisfyingly crisp exterior, the center was almost ungodly fluffy; flavor-wise, there was just a touch of sourness coming through from the buttermilk, which cut through the sweetness of the batter. I was close to ordering another single pancake because I loved it so much, but I managed to refrain.
I would definitely make a special trip back to Zazie, not just for the food, but for the environment and the ethics. On a bright day, the room of adequately-compensated workers and restaurant-goers alike is graced with a gorgeous yellow light that feels like it radiates straight from the South of France to the heart of SF. Zazie is pleasant, loud, and zany, just like a casual French restaurant should be. If you decide to visit, take care to arrive early to put your name down—you can explore Cole Valley while you wait to be let into this restaurant’s pool of golden light.