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A spread of dim sum served in bamboo steamers Bill Addison

Where to Eat Near San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Homey Japanese curry plates, Filipino meat skewers, and world-class dim sum can all be found minutes away from the airport

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During these pandemic times, air travel is a fraught endeavor, at best, and the fact that airport terminal restaurant kiosks are mostly all closed at the moment probably ranks pretty far down the list of most travelers’ concerns. Still, a traveler has got to eat. And one of San Francisco’s poorly kept secrets is that the area surrounding SFO — which is to say, the cities of Millbrae, Burlingame, Daly City, and South San Francisco — are a treasure trove of delicious, mostly inexpensive food, much of it highly convenient for a quick post-flight pit stop or to be stowed away in a travel bag for later, in-terminal enjoyment. (This is why burritos were invented, as far as we can tell.)

Even better, this particular area, just south of San Francisco proper, is home to some of the region’s most vibrant immigrant food hubs. If you want the best dim sum or the most down-home Filipino fare, this is where you go. Picking someone up from the airport just makes for a convenient excuse.

A number of Bay Area restaurants have resumed dine-in service both outdoors and, in some cases, indoors. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.


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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Tani's Kitchen

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32 Park Plaza Dr
Daly City, CA 94015
(650) 992-1701

This little family-run diner located in the Westlake strip mall has long been a home away from home for Japanese expats in the Daly City area. At Tani’s kitchen, home-style comfort food is the name of the game: curry plates topped with tonkatsu or a Japanese-style hamburger, assorted rice bowls, and thick-cut tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette) that regulars swear is the fluffiest and tastiest version around. It’s also a good spot to load up on solid, unfussy sushi and sashimi. During pre-pandemic times, Tani’s was the kind of place where customers would sit shoulder to shoulder at the perennially-packed counter. These days, the restaurant is still doing a brisk takeout business, so it’s best to call ahead with your order.

2. Fil-Am Cuisine

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66 School St
Daly City, CA 94014
(650) 992-6191
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Hit up this classic Filipino outpost to load up on the grilled meat skewers, all served up hot, juicy, and beautifully flame-kissed. The prices are low, and the portion sizes are not to be trifled with: A couple of pork or chicken skewers over pancit or white rice make for a serious meal. Bring cash, and come prepared to wait a while in the socially distanced line.

Pork skewers wrapped in foil from Fil-Am Cuisine Elaine Wu

3. Koi Palace

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365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
(650) 992-9000
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Koi Palace’s reputation — as, perhaps, the Bay Area’s most acclaimed Chinese restaurant — precedes it, as anyone who’s waited in line for two hours for Sunday morning dim sum can attest. Even a couple of decades in, the restaurant still sets the gold standard for all the classics — your har gow, rice rolls, and baked char siu bao — and the kitchen also slices up some of the finest crispy-skinned roast suckling pig in all the land, if you’re lucky enough to snag an order before they sell out. Koi Palace has been selling both fresh and frozen dim sum for takeout throughout the pandemic and recently reopened for limited-capacity indoor dining.

4. Little Lucca Sandwich Shop

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724 El Camino Real
South San Francisco, CA 94080
(650) 589-8916
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This tiny old-school sandwich shack in South San Francisco is known for serving some of the Bay Area’s biggest sandwiches — literal foot-long, big-as-your-forearm monsters that are about as generous and well built as a sandwich can be. A “Little Lucca Combo” on Dutch crunch, with extra garlic sauce, might be the Bay Area’s definitive take on a classic Italian combo, and plenty of regulars will make a special trip on Tuesdays and Fridays when the Fish Combo (featuring a cold seafood salad) is available.

5. The Night Market

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230 S Spruce Ave
South San Francisco, CA 94080
(650) 634-8388
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Recently reopened, mid-pandemic, after a two-year hiatus, the Night Market is probably the closest any Bay Area restaurant comes to re-creating the look and feel of the kind of night market you can find throughout Asia, with a particular nod to the foods and atmosphere of Hong Kong’s dai pai dong — even down to the folding tables and colorful plastic stools, currently set up in the parking lot for outdoor dining. Menu staples include Hainan chicken rice, Hong Kong-style cart noodles, and a Chiu-Chow style congee bar that lets customers choose from among more than a dozen different toppings.

The restaurant has set up tables for outdoor dining in its parking lot The Night Market [Official Photo]

6. Taqueria San Bruno

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1045 San Mateo Ave
San Bruno, CA 94066
(650) 873-1752

If the Mission-style super burrito is San Francisco’s most iconic original food creation, then Taqueria San Bruno is the closest, most convenient spot where you can snag a truly stellar, and truly gigantic, version on the way either to or from the airport — with planes literally taking off above your head. It bears repeating: These super burritos are comically over-sized and loaded with delicious meats (as are the breakfast burritos for that matter, if you’ve got an early flight). The well-charred carne asada is probably the people’s choice, but the taqueria is also known for serving some of the area’s better fish and shrimp tacos.

7. Millbrae Pancake House

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1301 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA 94030
(650) 589-2080
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Not all that much appears to have changed since this classic pancake house first opened its doors in 1959, and it remains a local favorite for a hearty, affordable American-style breakfast. The thin, crepe-like Swedish pancakes, served with lingonberry butter, are the specialty of the house. Conveniently, if you don’t want to commit to a whole stack, a couple of them come included on the side if you order one of the more ambitious breakfasts — steak and eggs, say, or a big three-egg omelette. The restaurant recently reopened its dining room for limited indoor service, but it’s also running a drive-thru takeout operation and has picnic tables set up on its expansive new outdoor patio.

8. New England Lobster Market & Eatery

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824 Cowan Rd
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 443-1559
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The only thing that’ll kill you is the parking situation, which is an exercise in extreme patience at just about any time of day. But once you make it to the front of the line (or, better yet, opt for online ordering), the virtues of this classic seafood market and restaurant are self-evident: maybe the Bay Area’s most convincing version of a Maine-style lobster roll, which purists can order plain, with just a tub of drawn butter on the side. There are also Dungeness crab sandwiches to be had, if you want to stick with a more local crustacean treat. In addition to curbside pickup, there’s also outdoor patio seating available.

9. In-N-Out Burger

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11 Rollins Rd
Millbrae, CA 94030
(800) 786-1000
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Yes, In-N-Out is really a SoCal thing. But it’s also the one fast food chain (and, perhaps, restaurant in general) that out-of-state visitors associate most closely with California, as a state. And the fact that the Millbrae location is so conveniently located, just a single exit up the freeway from SFO, is a big part of why a Double-Double Animal Style — with the fries well-done, please — is so many people’s first and last meal when visiting the Bay Area.

10. Wonderful

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270 Broadway
Millbrae, CA 94030
(650) 651-8888
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Probably the standard bearer for the Bay Area’s recent wave of Hunan restaurants, Wonderful is a good place for a visitor to get a glimpse of the strength of the local Chinese food scene’s regional diversity — and, specifically, for the Hunan region’s fiery, smoky, complex flavors. Showstoppers include hand-pulled noodles tossed in spicy, meaty “godfather” sauce; a thick, many-layered green onion pancake; and enough different preparations of Hunan’s famous smoked pork to merit its own dedicated section of the menu.

Iron pot with chicken gizzards Wonderful [Official Photo]

11. Royal Feast

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148 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA 94030
(650) 692-3388
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Zongyi Liu, the chef at this BART-adjacent Millbrae gem, is the rare master of three distinct Chinese cuisines, all of them well represented on the menu: tongue-numbingly spicy Sichuan fare, Beijing’s dough-based cuisine, and, rarest of all, tan jia cai — the cuisine that wealthy aristocratic Chinese families’s personal chefs cooked during the late-Qing dynasty: braised abalone, fish maws braised with crab meat, and many dishes served in sauces made from intensely flavorful, labor-intensive chicken broths. Prior to the pandemic, Royal Feast was a go-to spot for elaborate banquets, especially for diners whose chief concern was the quality and creativity of the food itself. For now, the restaurant open for takeout and delivery only.

Duck stuffed with sticky rice and served with salt-and-pepper dip at Royal Feast Luke Tsai

12. Hong Kong Flower Lounge Restaurant 香滿樓

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51 E Millbrae Ave
Millbrae, CA 94030
(650) 692-6666
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For years the conventional wisdom among the Bay Area’s Chinese immigrant community has been that if you want the best, most elaborate dim sum, you need to head to the Peninsula — and, more often than not, to one of the big, high-end dim sum powerhouses in the city of Millbrae. For many Chinese families, weekend dim sum at Hong Kong Flower Lounge is a weekly tradition. It’s a reliable favorite for all the classics and, especially, for any dish that features their umami-packed house-made XO sauce, which you can buy by the bottle. It’s also a good spot to order live seafood. In addition to takeout, Hong Kong Flower Lounge also recently started seating diners on its outdoor patio, but be forewarned: The wait for a table is as long as it’s always been.

13. Curry Hyuga

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1204 Broadway
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 458-3082
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One of the only restaurants in the Bay Area to open literally right after the start of the region-wide shelter in place, Curry Hyuga hits the comfort food sweet spot with its tight menu of Japanese curry dishes: rice and curry topped with tonkatsu, a potato croquette, or a cheese-filled Japanese hamburger steak. All of the food has, of course, been optimized for to-go service for the entire history of the restaurant, and the kitchen has recently started branching out into other saucy, comfort dishes — hayashi omurice, for instance.

14. Mingalaba Restaurant

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1213 Burlingame Ave
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 343-3228
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For travelers visiting the Bay Area from parts of the U.S. that don’t have the region’s wealth of Burmese restaurants (i.e., most of the country), no trip is complete without enjoying at least one Burmese meal — and Mingalaba, in downtown Burlingame, is as good a spot as any for the uninitiated to get an introduction to the cuisine. The crunchy, colorful fermented tea leaf, cut with only a little bit of cabbage for a maximally pungent flavor explosion, is a must-order, as are the coconut curry-drenched house special noodles. The restaurant is now doing outdoor seating, but it’s been a takeout staple for locals throughout the pandemic.

1. Tani's Kitchen

32 Park Plaza Dr, Daly City, CA 94015

This little family-run diner located in the Westlake strip mall has long been a home away from home for Japanese expats in the Daly City area. At Tani’s kitchen, home-style comfort food is the name of the game: curry plates topped with tonkatsu or a Japanese-style hamburger, assorted rice bowls, and thick-cut tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette) that regulars swear is the fluffiest and tastiest version around. It’s also a good spot to load up on solid, unfussy sushi and sashimi. During pre-pandemic times, Tani’s was the kind of place where customers would sit shoulder to shoulder at the perennially-packed counter. These days, the restaurant is still doing a brisk takeout business, so it’s best to call ahead with your order.

32 Park Plaza Dr
Daly City, CA 94015

2. Fil-Am Cuisine

66 School St, Daly City, CA 94014
Pork skewers wrapped in foil from Fil-Am Cuisine Elaine Wu

Hit up this classic Filipino outpost to load up on the grilled meat skewers, all served up hot, juicy, and beautifully flame-kissed. The prices are low, and the portion sizes are not to be trifled with: A couple of pork or chicken skewers over pancit or white rice make for a serious meal. Bring cash, and come prepared to wait a while in the socially distanced line.

66 School St
Daly City, CA 94014

3. Koi Palace

365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

Koi Palace’s reputation — as, perhaps, the Bay Area’s most acclaimed Chinese restaurant — precedes it, as anyone who’s waited in line for two hours for Sunday morning dim sum can attest. Even a couple of decades in, the restaurant still sets the gold standard for all the classics — your har gow, rice rolls, and baked char siu bao — and the kitchen also slices up some of the finest crispy-skinned roast suckling pig in all the land, if you’re lucky enough to snag an order before they sell out. Koi Palace has been selling both fresh and frozen dim sum for takeout throughout the pandemic and recently reopened for limited-capacity indoor dining.

365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015

4. Little Lucca Sandwich Shop

724 El Camino Real, South San Francisco, CA 94080

This tiny old-school sandwich shack in South San Francisco is known for serving some of the Bay Area’s biggest sandwiches — literal foot-long, big-as-your-forearm monsters that are about as generous and well built as a sandwich can be. A “Little Lucca Combo” on Dutch crunch, with extra garlic sauce, might be the Bay Area’s definitive take on a classic Italian combo, and plenty of regulars will make a special trip on Tuesdays and Fridays when the Fish Combo (featuring a cold seafood salad) is available.

724 El Camino Real
South San Francisco, CA 94080

5. The Night Market

230 S Spruce Ave, South San Francisco, CA 94080
The restaurant has set up tables for outdoor dining in its parking lot The Night Market [Official Photo]

Recently reopened, mid-pandemic, after a two-year hiatus, the Night Market is probably the closest any Bay Area restaurant comes to re-creating the look and feel of the kind of night market you can find throughout Asia, with a particular nod to the foods and atmosphere of Hong Kong’s dai pai dong — even down to the folding tables and colorful plastic stools, currently set up in the parking lot for outdoor dining. Menu staples include Hainan chicken rice, Hong Kong-style cart noodles, and a Chiu-Chow style congee bar that lets customers choose from among more than a dozen different toppings.

230 S Spruce Ave
South San Francisco, CA 94080

6. Taqueria San Bruno

1045 San Mateo Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

If the Mission-style super burrito is San Francisco’s most iconic original food creation, then Taqueria San Bruno is the closest, most convenient spot where you can snag a truly stellar, and truly gigantic, version on the way either to or from the airport — with planes literally taking off above your head. It bears repeating: These super burritos are comically over-sized and loaded with delicious meats (as are the breakfast burritos for that matter, if you’ve got an early flight). The well-charred carne asada is probably the people’s choice, but the taqueria is also known for serving some of the area’s better fish and shrimp tacos.

1045 San Mateo Ave
San Bruno, CA 94066

7. Millbrae Pancake House

1301 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

Not all that much appears to have changed since this classic pancake house first opened its doors in 1959, and it remains a local favorite for a hearty, affordable American-style breakfast. The thin, crepe-like Swedish pancakes, served with lingonberry butter, are the specialty of the house. Conveniently, if you don’t want to commit to a whole stack, a couple of them come included on the side if you order one of the more ambitious breakfasts — steak and eggs, say, or a big three-egg omelette. The restaurant recently reopened its dining room for limited indoor service, but it’s also running a drive-thru takeout operation and has picnic tables set up on its expansive new outdoor patio.

1301 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA 94030

8. New England Lobster Market & Eatery

824 Cowan Rd, Burlingame, CA 94010

The only thing that’ll kill you is the parking situation, which is an exercise in extreme patience at just about any time of day. But once you make it to the front of the line (or, better yet, opt for online ordering), the virtues of this classic seafood market and restaurant are self-evident: maybe the Bay Area’s most convincing version of a Maine-style lobster roll, which purists can order plain, with just a tub of drawn butter on the side. There are also Dungeness crab sandwiches to be had, if you want to stick with a more local crustacean treat. In addition to curbside pickup, there’s also outdoor patio seating available.

824 Cowan Rd
Burlingame, CA 94010

9. In-N-Out Burger

11 Rollins Rd, Millbrae, CA 94030

Yes, In-N-Out is really a SoCal thing. But it’s also the one fast food chain (and, perhaps, restaurant in general) that out-of-state visitors associate most closely with California, as a state. And the fact that the Millbrae location is so conveniently located, just a single exit up the freeway from SFO, is a big part of why a Double-Double Animal Style — with the fries well-done, please — is so many people’s first and last meal when visiting the Bay Area.

11 Rollins Rd
Millbrae, CA 94030

10. Wonderful

270 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030
Iron pot with chicken gizzards Wonderful [Official Photo]

Probably the standard bearer for the Bay Area’s recent wave of Hunan restaurants, Wonderful is a good place for a visitor to get a glimpse of the strength of the local Chinese food scene’s regional diversity — and, specifically, for the Hunan region’s fiery, smoky, complex flavors. Showstoppers include hand-pulled noodles tossed in spicy, meaty “godfather” sauce; a thick, many-layered green onion pancake; and enough different preparations of Hunan’s famous smoked pork to merit its own dedicated section of the menu.

270 Broadway
Millbrae, CA 94030

11. Royal Feast

148 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030
Duck stuffed with sticky rice and served with salt-and-pepper dip at Royal Feast Luke Tsai

Zongyi Liu, the chef at this BART-adjacent Millbrae gem, is the rare master of three distinct Chinese cuisines, all of them well represented on the menu: tongue-numbingly spicy Sichuan fare, Beijing’s dough-based cuisine, and, rarest of all, tan jia cai — the cuisine that wealthy aristocratic Chinese families’s personal chefs cooked during the late-Qing dynasty: braised abalone, fish maws braised with crab meat, and many dishes served in sauces made from intensely flavorful, labor-intensive chicken broths. Prior to the pandemic, Royal Feast was a go-to spot for elaborate banquets, especially for diners whose chief concern was the quality and creativity of the food itself. For now, the restaurant open for takeout and delivery only.

148 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA 94030

12. Hong Kong Flower Lounge Restaurant 香滿樓

51 E Millbrae Ave, Millbrae, CA 94030

For years the conventional wisdom among the Bay Area’s Chinese immigrant community has been that if you want the best, most elaborate dim sum, you need to head to the Peninsula — and, more often than not, to one of the big, high-end dim sum powerhouses in the city of Millbrae. For many Chinese families, weekend dim sum at Hong Kong Flower Lounge is a weekly tradition. It’s a reliable favorite for all the classics and, especially, for any dish that features their umami-packed house-made XO sauce, which you can buy by the bottle. It’s also a good spot to order live seafood. In addition to takeout, Hong Kong Flower Lounge also recently started seating diners on its outdoor patio, but be forewarned: The wait for a table is as long as it’s always been.

51 E Millbrae Ave
Millbrae, CA 94030

13. Curry Hyuga

1204 Broadway, Burlingame, CA 94010

One of the only restaurants in the Bay Area to open literally right after the start of the region-wide shelter in place, Curry Hyuga hits the comfort food sweet spot with its tight menu of Japanese curry dishes: rice and curry topped with tonkatsu, a potato croquette, or a cheese-filled Japanese hamburger steak. All of the food has, of course, been optimized for to-go service for the entire history of the restaurant, and the kitchen has recently started branching out into other saucy, comfort dishes — hayashi omurice, for instance.

1204 Broadway
Burlingame, CA 94010

14. Mingalaba Restaurant

1213 Burlingame Ave, Burlingame, CA 94010

For travelers visiting the Bay Area from parts of the U.S. that don’t have the region’s wealth of Burmese restaurants (i.e., most of the country), no trip is complete without enjoying at least one Burmese meal — and Mingalaba, in downtown Burlingame, is as good a spot as any for the uninitiated to get an introduction to the cuisine. The crunchy, colorful fermented tea leaf, cut with only a little bit of cabbage for a maximally pungent flavor explosion, is a must-order, as are the coconut curry-drenched house special noodles. The restaurant is now doing outdoor seating, but it’s been a takeout staple for locals throughout the pandemic.

1213 Burlingame Ave
Burlingame, CA 94010

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