I’m really bummed. I hate when food lets me down. Let me just say upfront that I don’t like to complain at restaurants. Behind closed doors, within the relative safety of my various web sites, sure. Face-to-face? Not so much. Yes, I’m a wimp. Yes, I should stand up for my food rights, but I just don’t like to be “that sort” of customer. What can I say? I want everyone to like me.

However. This new place called Zero opened up near my work on the corner of Montgomery and Pacific and a bunch of us were excited to try it out. It was close, the menu looked tasty, and it might be a delicious excuse to get out of the office.

On my first trip, I sampled a simple salad with pear, blue cheese, and candied cashews. The menu said that the greens were dressed with an apple-pear vinaigrette, and although the greens glistened, I can’t say that I tasted any vinaigrette. But I was okay with that, because the salad was quite good, if a bit on the small side for $7.75. Plus, I’m a sucker for salads with blue cheese, fruits, and nuts. Kim ordered the breast-wing portion of a roasted lemon-dijon chicken that came with a side of potato salad. That? Was delicious. The potato salad was more of the light vinegar persuasion than of the gloppy mayonnaise mixture. So, even though we stood and waited for our to go orders for well over fifteen minutes, I was definitely going back for both my salad and Kim’s chicken.

A few days later, I went back and had the chicken and potato salad. The service was still fairly slow but the chicken and potato salad hit the spot so completely that I started to crave it. I even decided to overlook the fact that they had forgotten to put my Diet Coke in the bag and I had to go back and ask for it.

On my next visit, I waited over thirty minutes for my order. Ridiculous. The place wasn’t even busy but I was. If I had thirty minutes to spare, I wouldn’t be ordering take out. After one of the counterpeople asked to be reminded what I was waiting for and then checked in back, I got my lunch and left, eager to satisfy my craving. I wasn’t even able to do that. When I sat down to eat in front of my computer (See? Busy.), I discovered that while the chicken was still tasty, the potato salad had gone the way of the Hellmann’s. It was swimming in the stuff and the potatoes sat in my stomach like a lead bullet for the rest of the day.

Other reports about Zero started to come in around my office. In addition to the horrific service, two different co-workers ordered their $5.75 soup only to discover that the cup was barely filled halfway and the soup wasn’t even that good in the first place! Forget it. I was just going to have to take my chicken cravings elsewhere. Like to Blue Jay Café for Jay’s spicy fried chicken with a side of macaroni and cheese, homemade biscuits, and fresh cornbread. Oooh, now there’s a good idea for dinner tonight. Plus the chef is as hot as his food.

Go to:

Blue Jay Café
919 Divisadero Street at McAllister

Don’t go to:

Corner of Montgomery and Pacific

Less Than Zero 31 March,2005Stephanie Lucianovic

  • Anonymous

    Oh, SNAP! I’ve never read a more vivid review of a place that I now know I don’t need to waste my money at. Thanks so much.

  • Anonymous

    The name speaks for itself!

  • Nonogirl

    in the spirit of complaining, i actually had a HORRIBLE brunch at blue jay cafe. it was an egg florentine type meal with poached egg and salmon over english muffin. but the english muffin was cold and soggy with the sauce, creating a horrible mushy goo of starch. i made the suggestion that they toast the muffin first, next time. they responded by clearing my plate and erasing it from my bill.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, Blue Jay Cafe was great for a few months, at the time of Patty Unterman’s review, but fell off a cliff. The food has been uniformly terrible throughout 2005. The buzz has gone and the patrons are now older folks who can’t tell the difference. Even the cooking of the signature dishes is no longer the same. Time to move on.


Stephanie Lucianovic

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED’s Emmy-award winning show “Check, Please! Bay Area.”

Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called “hilarious” and “the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn’t think he or she wants to read a popular science book.”

Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade.

Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport

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