Today I had a sick day. Awful upper resp nonsense. Sat in bed and tried to work all day. Watched a few crappy movies. When a friend called me at the end of the day to see if I wanted dinner, one place came to both of our minds - Universal Cafe.
I've said it before and have given them props in multiple posts, but UC is one of the best restaurants in San Francisco, and is completely under-appreciated. It troubles me how often you'll find the place half-empty and the lack of adulation they get in food circles. To me, the consistent quality of food put out of their kitchen rivals the best in the Bay. I could easily mention Universal in the same breath as Nopa, Delfina, Pizzaiolo, Flour + Water, Beretta and the like. In some ways, many of the things they do at Universal, they do best.
Take chicken for example. Hoffman Farms has become the standard for a quality bird, but Leslie Carr Avalos has figured out a way to bring every bit of flavor from it, in multiple preparations. She's no one-trick-pony! Under a brick, marinated with yogurt or with a truffle bread salad - she makes the best fowl in the city! And I typically don't like chicken.
Her pasta dishes are heavier than F + W or Quince, but they are incredible well balanced and satisfying. Soups - check. Salads - check. Fish - oh yeah. Braised meats, like shorts ribs, pork belly, lamb - check, check, check. The flatbreads are better than most of the pizza in town. Not to mention the mainstay Hanger Steak. I can sincerely say that I've never had a dish that I didn't find exceptional at UC. That's just crazy.
Of course we're all familiar with their brunch. I can't imagine a better combination of sunshine, outdoor dining, quality food and atmosphere, except perhaps Foreign Cinema. House-made granola, soft scambled eggs with seasonal this and thats. You get the picture. Bring on the Bellinis and Mimosas and slap me a side of artisan bacon or a sweet bread.
So, as I just finished off my salad of little gems and radishes after my mini rigatoni with veal meatballs, I am compelled to do whatever I can to share the wealth. Get in on the secret. Universal Cafe. Y'all here me?