Café Zitouna

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

One of my biggest challenges living in one of America’s most expensive cities has been to discover tasty, affordable eateries. As much as I enjoy dining out, there is no doubt that even those earning six-figures and above still enjoy a bargain. And my criteria for a bargain is the discovery of the $10 lunch; a lunch so ample as to provide left-overs for dinner or one so substantial as to make a later meal irrelevant. Café Zitouna is such a place for me. Located on the corner of Sutter and Polk, This is a little corner place with table seats for about 20 and counter seats for another six or eight. And on a Wednesday afternoon for lunch, it was packed with people waiting to get in — for very good reason.

My companion and I started with Breek (Tunisian crepe), listed as “Tissue-thin malsouka filled with potatoes, parsley, onions, egg, tuna and capers, fried in vegetable oil. Served with lemon.” For $3.95, it was a fabulous starter and I thought it a bit charming that the waiter looked at me with concern, indicating that the egg inside was raw and that I might not eat it. No problem, I assured him. Perfectly golden and plump, the malsouka is house-made and perfectly thin.

I instructed the chef to bring me whatever he thought I should eat and I was served the Vegetable Couscous, enough for two of us to share a separate platter of couscous is topped with a few roasted peppers with a side bowl of earthy, chunky vegetables in a seasoned broth. My companion ordered the Chakchouka Bil Merguez, sautéed fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, onions in olive oil with house-made merguez, eggs, and Tunisian sausages. For $7.95, this dish was a winner as I got a few bites from that dish and am looking forward to returning for a platter of it for my own. I saw a neighboring table get the $9.95 B’stilla which — while thick — looked a bit small (about 6″ round) for the price. But considering how great the rest of the food was tasting, I’m sure I will plunk down a sawbuck at some point in the future.

Dining alone, I will be sticking to the under $10 dishes or ordering a couple of appetizer or salad dishes (most priced in the $4.95 range), but we went a little above my ascribed budget with the inclusion of the Moroccan mint tea — a single 20oz at $1.95 and the large pot that we shared for $4.50.  The menu also includes a handful of Shawarma, Kebab, and Merguez sandwiches in the $6.50 range, to which one can add fries for $1.95.

We brought desserts homes; a moist pistachio-topped spice cake that had been soaked with orange blossom water and a second dessert, ladyfingers also soaked with orange blossom water, topped with a rich custard and ground pistachios. The bottom line is that Café Zitouna is all about taste and authenticity. The flavors are rich and aromatic, well-integrated, and enticing. The menu is extensive enough that I can easily see myself returning on a weekly basis to eat through the menu, always knowing I’ll be taking home left-overs. And I am quite happy knowing that when I get a tagine craving, I don’t have to do all the work myself for a solo diner.

Cafe Zitouna on Urbanspoon

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply