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Patricia Chang

18 Splendid Chinese Restaurants in San Francisco

The best soup dumplings, Cantonese barbecue, and hand-pulled noodles across San Francisco

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The history of Chinese food in San Francisco goes back about as far as the history of Chinese food in the United States — back to the days of the gold rush, the intercontinental railroad, and, of course, the start of the country’s oldest (and still vibrant) Chinatown. These days, San Francisco is still home to the kind of robust dim sum scene that befits its Cantonese roots, but over the years the city has also seen a burgeoning of other regional Chinese cuisines, especially out west in the Richmond and Sunset neighborhoods.

Eat your way through the list for a taste of why San Francisco is still one of America’s preeminent Chinese food cities; if you’re looking for a more dim sum/dumpling-specific San Francisco map, head here.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Hakka Restaurant 客家山莊

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Often described as a kind of soulful cousin to Cantonese food, the cuisine of China’s migratory Hakka people abounds with pickled vegetables and slow-cooked meats. This homey Outer Richmond restaurant is a great place to get hooked on these rustic, comforting flavors. Must-order dishes include the salt-baked chicken, clams stir-fried with basil, and braised pork belly with preserved mustard greens.

Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant 老北京

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On cold nights prior to the pandemic, many of the regulars who’d crowd the small, scruffy dining room at Old Mandarin Islamic would order one of the spicy Beijing-style hot pots. In general, the restaurant, which specializes in Chinese Muslim cuisine, is a great place to feast on lamb — stir-fried with cumin, braised, or boiled in a claypot. Chili-heads will want to test their endurance against the side dish/condiment known as la si ni, or “spice you to death.”

Shanghai House Restaurant 家家福

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San Francisco is gifted with an abundance of solid Shanghainese restaurants, and Shanghai House is one of the most consistently enjoyable, known for its steamers of thin-skinned, appropriately broth-laden soup dumplings. It also serves a classic Shanghainese breakfast on weekends, including one of the city’s best renditions of salty soy milk, or xian dou jiang — perhaps the only version in the city that incorporates the pungent dried baby shrimp that Chinese and Taiwanese expats crave.

Terra Cotta Warrior 老家陕西

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Head to this Outer Sunset gem for Shaanxi cuisine, which many Americans became acquainted with thanks to Xian Famous Foods in New York. The menu’s highlights include lots of lamb dishes; stretchy, semi-translucent cold noodles (or mian pi); and the meat-stuffed sandwiches known as rou jia mo, or “Chinese burgers.”

Yuanbao Jiaozi 元寶餃子

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Yuanbao Jiaozi is all about the dumplings, freshly made by hand, boiled, and served straight-up or in soup. The wonderfully textured wrappers hold a variety of delicate fillings, like fish with green pepper or shrimp with zucchini. The restaurant is now offering bags of frozen dumplings as well.

House of Pancakes 餡餅之家

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This no-frills northern Chinese spot in Parkside specializes in flaky scallion- and sesame seed–flecked pancakes, often rolled with up with thinly sliced beef or scrambled eggs. It’s a carb-fest here: The dumplings and hand-pulled noodles are also pretty great.

Mamahuhu 馬馬虎虎

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Chef Brandon Jew’s most casual and accessible restaurant yet is this counter-service operation in the Inner Richmond that specializes in Chinese-American takeout classics: sweet-and-sour chicken, beef and broccoli, and egg rolls. Every dish is made with well-sourced ingredients, abundant vegetables, and precise Chinese technique — which means that chicken, for instance, isn’t cloyingly sweet and has a satisfying crunch.

Beijing Restaurant 北京小館

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How lucky San Francisco is to have a Beijing restaurant whose whole reason for being isn’t its Peking duck? Instead, regulars at this Excelsior mainstay mostly come for the kitchen’s northern Chinese dough-based dishes: chewy hand-made noodles; big, Beijing-style crepes and pancakes; and little stir-fried flour balls.

Dumpling Home

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Trendy Hayes Valley has not previously had a reputation for destination-worthy Chinese food, but this spot is worth a special visit for its freshly handmade, supremely soupy xiao long bao, and crispy-bottomed sheng jian bao. The xiao long bao, in particular, are available in six different versions, including one filled with numbingly spicy broth.

Hing Lung Company 興隆燒臘肉食公司

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This Cantonese barbecue shop’s crackly-skinned roast pig and succulent, honey-brushed char siu — served either on its own or as part of a rice plate — make for some of most luxurious bites in the city. For most of Hing Lung’s existence, delivery was never an option, but during the pandemic, co-owner Eric Cheung signed onto delivery apps under the moniker Go Duck Yourself, though of course customers can still walk up and order takeout.

China Live

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The casual first-floor market restaurant in George Chen’s massive, multi-venue complex is known for customer favorites like its crisp-bottomed sheng jian bao and its Peking duck sesame pockets.

The rest of the menu offers everything from fried scallion bread and butter garlic noodles to Dongbei-style long potstickers. While you’re there, might as well stock up on the housemade condiments.  

Mister Jiu's

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Chef Brandon Jew’s ambitious Chinese-American restaurant in the heart of Chinatown continues to shine, retaining its status as the only Michelin-starred Chinatown restaurant in 2021. Though Jew has gone on to introduce a number of new projects, from spinoffs to cookbooks, Mister Jiu’s is the original favorite for a roast duck platter with peanut butter hoisin, sea urchin cheong fun, and squid ink wontons.

Empress by Boon

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If you’re in the mood for a high-end option, the opulent Empress by Boon is more than willing to oblige. It’s the first solo project for chef Ho Chee Boon and bills itself as modern Cantonese food located at the historic Empress of China banquet hall in Chinatown. It is a special occasion spot, to be sure, with a changing prix fixe menu — and yes, a dress code — but it is an unmatched pairing between upscale Cantonese, views of the city, and an impressive dining room to boot.

Strawberry egg tart at Empress by Boon Patricia Chang

Bund Shanghai Restaurant 上海飯店

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Everyone orders the xiao long bao, as you do in a Shanghainese restaurant, and few diners will feel sorry about devouring a steamer’s worth of Bund Shanghai’s very respectable version. The tender lion’s head meatball is another favorite here, as is the jiggly red-braised Dongpo pork belly (available in a small, one-person portion).

Sam Wo Restaurant 三和粥粉麺

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The iconic, century-old restaurant — the self-proclaimed “oldest restaurant in Chinatown” — is still open and serving bowls of fish jook, tomato beef chow mein, barbecue pork noodle rolls, and raw fish salad with preserved vegetables to its loyal customers.

R&G Lounge 嶺南小館

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Perhaps best known for its salt-and-pepper Dungeness crab, an aggressively seasoned, deep-fried version of the local delicacy, this bustling, three-story restaurant serves plenty of other great Cantonese fare.

Crab at R & G Lounge R & G Lounge

Hon's Wun-Tun House

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This decades-old legacy business serves the same style of wonton noodles you’ll find at the bustling little shops located on countless Hong Kong street corners, and at a similarly affordable price point. Toppings run the gamut from stewed beef brisket and tendon to fish balls and pig’s feet. You can get other Hong Kong specialties like curry fish balls, and the housemade chile oil is a must.

Harborview Restaurant & Bar 凱悅匯

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Run by members of the R&G Lounge crew, Harborview is more than just a swanky banquet space with nice views of the water. It’s also serving some of the tastiest dim sum in the city, turning out consistently solid versions of all the standards, from har gow to siu mai to baked barbecue pork buns. The restaurant has an extensive takeout menu that includes dim sum, family-style entrees and prix-fixe meals, and even a whole or half roasted suckling pig.

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Hakka Restaurant 客家山莊

Often described as a kind of soulful cousin to Cantonese food, the cuisine of China’s migratory Hakka people abounds with pickled vegetables and slow-cooked meats. This homey Outer Richmond restaurant is a great place to get hooked on these rustic, comforting flavors. Must-order dishes include the salt-baked chicken, clams stir-fried with basil, and braised pork belly with preserved mustard greens.

Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant 老北京

On cold nights prior to the pandemic, many of the regulars who’d crowd the small, scruffy dining room at Old Mandarin Islamic would order one of the spicy Beijing-style hot pots. In general, the restaurant, which specializes in Chinese Muslim cuisine, is a great place to feast on lamb — stir-fried with cumin, braised, or boiled in a claypot. Chili-heads will want to test their endurance against the side dish/condiment known as la si ni, or “spice you to death.”

Shanghai House Restaurant 家家福

San Francisco is gifted with an abundance of solid Shanghainese restaurants, and Shanghai House is one of the most consistently enjoyable, known for its steamers of thin-skinned, appropriately broth-laden soup dumplings. It also serves a classic Shanghainese breakfast on weekends, including one of the city’s best renditions of salty soy milk, or xian dou jiang — perhaps the only version in the city that incorporates the pungent dried baby shrimp that Chinese and Taiwanese expats crave.

Terra Cotta Warrior 老家陕西

Head to this Outer Sunset gem for Shaanxi cuisine, which many Americans became acquainted with thanks to Xian Famous Foods in New York. The menu’s highlights include lots of lamb dishes; stretchy, semi-translucent cold noodles (or mian pi); and the meat-stuffed sandwiches known as rou jia mo, or “Chinese burgers.”

Yuanbao Jiaozi 元寶餃子

Yuanbao Jiaozi is all about the dumplings, freshly made by hand, boiled, and served straight-up or in soup. The wonderfully textured wrappers hold a variety of delicate fillings, like fish with green pepper or shrimp with zucchini. The restaurant is now offering bags of frozen dumplings as well.

House of Pancakes 餡餅之家

This no-frills northern Chinese spot in Parkside specializes in flaky scallion- and sesame seed–flecked pancakes, often rolled with up with thinly sliced beef or scrambled eggs. It’s a carb-fest here: The dumplings and hand-pulled noodles are also pretty great.

Mamahuhu 馬馬虎虎

Chef Brandon Jew’s most casual and accessible restaurant yet is this counter-service operation in the Inner Richmond that specializes in Chinese-American takeout classics: sweet-and-sour chicken, beef and broccoli, and egg rolls. Every dish is made with well-sourced ingredients, abundant vegetables, and precise Chinese technique — which means that chicken, for instance, isn’t cloyingly sweet and has a satisfying crunch.

Beijing Restaurant 北京小館

How lucky San Francisco is to have a Beijing restaurant whose whole reason for being isn’t its Peking duck? Instead, regulars at this Excelsior mainstay mostly come for the kitchen’s northern Chinese dough-based dishes: chewy hand-made noodles; big, Beijing-style crepes and pancakes; and little stir-fried flour balls.

Dumpling Home

Trendy Hayes Valley has not previously had a reputation for destination-worthy Chinese food, but this spot is worth a special visit for its freshly handmade, supremely soupy xiao long bao, and crispy-bottomed sheng jian bao. The xiao long bao, in particular, are available in six different versions, including one filled with numbingly spicy broth.

Hing Lung Company 興隆燒臘肉食公司

This Cantonese barbecue shop’s crackly-skinned roast pig and succulent, honey-brushed char siu — served either on its own or as part of a rice plate — make for some of most luxurious bites in the city. For most of Hing Lung’s existence, delivery was never an option, but during the pandemic, co-owner Eric Cheung signed onto delivery apps under the moniker Go Duck Yourself, though of course customers can still walk up and order takeout.

China Live

The casual first-floor market restaurant in George Chen’s massive, multi-venue complex is known for customer favorites like its crisp-bottomed sheng jian bao and its Peking duck sesame pockets.

The rest of the menu offers everything from fried scallion bread and butter garlic noodles to Dongbei-style long potstickers. While you’re there, might as well stock up on the housemade condiments.  

Mister Jiu's

Chef Brandon Jew’s ambitious Chinese-American restaurant in the heart of Chinatown continues to shine, retaining its status as the only Michelin-starred Chinatown restaurant in 2021. Though Jew has gone on to introduce a number of new projects, from spinoffs to cookbooks, Mister Jiu’s is the original favorite for a roast duck platter with peanut butter hoisin, sea urchin cheong fun, and squid ink wontons.

Empress by Boon

Strawberry egg tart at Empress by Boon Patricia Chang

If you’re in the mood for a high-end option, the opulent Empress by Boon is more than willing to oblige. It’s the first solo project for chef Ho Chee Boon and bills itself as modern Cantonese food located at the historic Empress of China banquet hall in Chinatown. It is a special occasion spot, to be sure, with a changing prix fixe menu — and yes, a dress code — but it is an unmatched pairing between upscale Cantonese, views of the city, and an impressive dining room to boot.

Strawberry egg tart at Empress by Boon Patricia Chang

Bund Shanghai Restaurant 上海飯店

Everyone orders the xiao long bao, as you do in a Shanghainese restaurant, and few diners will feel sorry about devouring a steamer’s worth of Bund Shanghai’s very respectable version. The tender lion’s head meatball is another favorite here, as is the jiggly red-braised Dongpo pork belly (available in a small, one-person portion).

Sam Wo Restaurant 三和粥粉麺

The iconic, century-old restaurant — the self-proclaimed “oldest restaurant in Chinatown” — is still open and serving bowls of fish jook, tomato beef chow mein, barbecue pork noodle rolls, and raw fish salad with preserved vegetables to its loyal customers.

Related Maps

R&G Lounge 嶺南小館

Crab at R & G Lounge R & G Lounge

Perhaps best known for its salt-and-pepper Dungeness crab, an aggressively seasoned, deep-fried version of the local delicacy, this bustling, three-story restaurant serves plenty of other great Cantonese fare.

Crab at R & G Lounge R & G Lounge

Hon's Wun-Tun House

This decades-old legacy business serves the same style of wonton noodles you’ll find at the bustling little shops located on countless Hong Kong street corners, and at a similarly affordable price point. Toppings run the gamut from stewed beef brisket and tendon to fish balls and pig’s feet. You can get other Hong Kong specialties like curry fish balls, and the housemade chile oil is a must.

Harborview Restaurant & Bar 凱悅匯

Run by members of the R&G Lounge crew, Harborview is more than just a swanky banquet space with nice views of the water. It’s also serving some of the tastiest dim sum in the city, turning out consistently solid versions of all the standards, from har gow to siu mai to baked barbecue pork buns. The restaurant has an extensive takeout menu that includes dim sum, family-style entrees and prix-fixe meals, and even a whole or half roasted suckling pig.

Related Maps