An exotic, tight-knit San Francisco neighborhood, Chinatown (and San Francisco in general) is an excellent destination for Chinese cuisine. From dim sum to noodles to the staggering variety of China's exceptional culinary and regional reach, San Francisco's Chinatown boasts both hidden gems known only to locals and popular, but still authentic, Chinese restaurants. For a long line and waiters who tell you what to order, the House of Nan King, on the edge of Chinatown and North Beach, is an excellent introduction to Chinatown cuisine.
Brandy Ho's Hunan Food
217 Columbus Ave., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.788.7527
Hunan. Brandy Ho’s is a real neighborhood Hunan place. This San Francisco restaurant’s Hunan cuisine is “country style,” crafted from the freshest available ingredients, MSG-free and simply prepared using minimal oil. Customers enjoy the rich and spicy flavors of dishes like smoked ham with bamboo shoots, calamari with black bean sauce, and chicken curry with garlic and hot sauce.
644 Broadway, San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.296.7733
Chinese, Dim Sum. Dim sum fanatics will think they’ve found heaven at Gold Mountain. This large San Francisco dim sum restaurant impresses with authenticity, satisfying customers with traditional, familiar dishes like shrimp dumplings, siu mai, spare ribs and fried taro dumplings, as well as classic dishes chicken feet and fried turnips for the more adventurous crowds. Northeastern Chinese dim sum breakfast and lunch is a plus here, as are the affordable prices.
House of Nanking
919 Kearny St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.421.1429
Chinese. Whether arriving early or late, everyone visiting House of Nanking will find themselves joining the crowd for a notoriously worthwhile wait on the sidewalk. This San Francisco Chinese restaurant takes a few creative liberties with the cuisine, preparing some dishes in an authentic way, but dressing up others with interesting (and very Americanized) accents. As this place is frequently packed, first-timers should remember to expect a loud and chaotic atmosphere, service that isn’t particularly friendly, and to be shoed the moment the last bite leaves the plate (lingering isn’t appreciated).
826 Washington St., San Francisco CA 94108; Tel. 415.398.8088
Chinese. A Hong Kong-style barbecue house, King Tin is located in the heart of Chinatown. The barbecued chicken and pork loin are among the menu’s highlights, as are the prawns in spicy salt. Those in search of a San Francisco vegetarian restaurant are sure to be pleased with the numerous meat-free offerings.
532 Grant Ave., San Francisco CA 94108; Tel. 415.397.0707
Vegetarian, Chinese. Lotus Garden is one hundred percent vegetarian, in the Buddhist tradition (read: excellent ersatz meats), and at least that delicious. The portions of deliciously flavorful meat-free fare at this San Francisco vegetarian restaurant are quite large, and the menu is equally impressive with a lengthy list of choices.
Lucky Creation Restaurant
854 Washington St., San Francisco CA 94108; Tel. 415.989.0818
Vegetarian, Chinese. The minds behind Lucky Creation Restaurant indeed are the fans of gluten, crafting delicious meat alternatives from the stuff at every possible angle. Dim sum is available, with notable dishes like the fat choi noodles with black mushrooms and bean curd rolls; spicy shrimp balls in hot sauce; and braised eggplant with carrots in clay pot.
Pearl City Seafood Restaurant
641 Jackson St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.398.8383
Chinese. Pearl City is particularly notable among the Chinatown restaurants for a variety of savory seafood selections woven into the dim sum-centric menu, with delicious options like prawns and scallops in garlic with sizzling platter and baked crab with spicy salt and pepper. Additionally, the good selection of dim sum boasts not-to-be-missed dumplings and rolls, as well as traditional favorites like chicken feet.
631 Kearny St., San Francisco CA 94108; Tel. 415.982.7877
Cantonese. R&G is a perennially popular Chinatown dining hotspot serving up traditional Cantonese cuisine. Peking duck, salt & pepper crab, geoduck sashimi and the R&G special beef are among the favorites, but also expect to find an array of creative dishes on the menu boasting centerpiece ingredients like shark’s fin, jellyfish and abalone. Those who are craving unique dishes but not into eating fish can even try the vegetarian abalone or the vegetarian goose.
Sam Woh Restaurant
813 Washington St., San Francisco CA 94108; Tel. 415.982.0596
Chinese. Everyone has to go to Sam Woh once in this life to share the San Francisco experience, to eat late or to save a bundle. This little place has been around for what feels like eons, doling out shockingly affordable dishes like dry lo mein, vermicelli noodle soup, savory chow fun, BBQ pork rolls and more.
Yuet Lee Seafood Restaurant
1300 Stockton St., San Francisco CA 94133; Tel. 415.982.6020
Seafood, Chinese. At Yuet Lee, the fish will probably still be breathing as it's carried to the pan. This is a top spot for late dining. Cheap prices bring delicious favorites like salt & pepper squid, clams with black bean sauce, and garlic crab to the table. Bring your own wine.