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Aug 12, 2008 02:19 PM

Breakfast in Chinatown

My Mom and I will be visiting San Francisco for a few days, and we will be staying at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero.

What are some good places in Chinatown for breakfast (not dim sum)? I'm looking for casual places that serve jook (rice porridge) or HK-style breakfast.

We will also visit the Ferry Buildling on Saturday morning for breakfast there.

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  1. For sure the only place I know of open for breakfast for Jook is King Tin. They sure a three item breakfast with a choice of four jook bowls with fried bread and rice noodle rolls. For about four buck or so, Translate in A or B breakfast. Sorry to say they are written on the white board in Chinese. But ask the wait staff.

    I have not been since the last they reopen but I sure they still have it since I was in the city a couple of week ago early and they were open at 8:30 AM

    The other like Hing Lung are opened a little later

    For more selection of noodles and HK-breakfast is D&A.

    But remember these two place caters to locals and if you can not speak Chinese it may be tougher. Service at both are sorely lacking.

    Good luck.

    New King Tin Restaurant
    826 Washington St, San Francisco, CA

    D & A Cafe - CLOSED, now Broadway Cafe
    670 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

    2 Replies
    1. re: yimster

      Yes, we do speak and read Chinese/Cantonese, so language would not be a problem.

      I don't think we'll be ready until 9am or so for breakfast, so if you (or others) have more suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

      1. re: y2000k

        Hing Lung on Broadway has great jook (many alternatives; I like the roast duck and the fish versions but there are others more exotic) and fresh-tasting, non-greasy fried bread, bright green vegetables, good roast duck, opens at 8. Decor is decidedly downscale, service a bit surly (but I think you'll fare better if fluent in Cantonese).

        Hing Lung Restaurant
        674 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

    2. For HK style cafe, the two better ones in rather run down hole in the wall settings in SF Chinatown are Washington Bakery and ABC, particularly for stuff like HK style milk tea, maybe ham and eggs with or without macaroni, HK style deep fried french toast etc.

      ABC Bakery Cafe
      650 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      Washington Bakery & Restaurant
      733 Washington St, San Francisco, CA

      4 Replies
      1. re: K K

        Does either of these offer noodles at breakfast? What style? Thanks.

        1. re: david kaplan

          Hong Kong-style soup noodles and chow mein, these are cha chaan teng type coffee shops. Note, I've not been to the Chinatown ABC.

        2. re: K K

          Those were the two that leapt to mind for me, too. New Jackson Cafe (next door to ABC) also does good HK-style breakfast sets and opens at 7:30.

          1. re: Xiao Yang


            New Jackson Cafe
            640 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA

        3. While my mom may like jook more, I love HK-style french toast and milk tea. Yum! And ham with macaroni in soup sounds great too.

          5 Replies
          1. re: y2000k

            I haven't been to Washington Bakery for breakfast yet, but their sister store in Millbrae, Broadway Bistro, offers both Canto and HK style western breakfast set menus that include both congee and soy sauce, sprouts, scallion fried noodles at the very least, in addition to ham/eggs, french toast, butter/peanut butter regular toast. Washington will probably have a bigger offering, and they do have a competent bakery in house (versus the lower quality broadway bistro). You may also want to try Washington's version of Pineapple bun in the morning (get it as a bor lor yao, where you need to ask them to heat the bun up, give you a slice of salted butter, stick that thing in, and enjoy the contrasting textures of sweet, savory, flakey, soft, and of course hot bun and cold butter). ABC should offer something similar, though I think they do a slightly better HK milk tea.

            But you mentioned you are going to the SF Ferry building on a Saturday. Do make sure you get a HK style milk tea from "Out The Door" inside the building. It is Vietnamese/Vietnamese fusion, and don't let that fool you. Their HK milk tea is only available as hot, but it will destroy any other version easily (even the best ones in Chinatown) or anywhere else in the Bay Area (and Southern California/SGV). It will take 5 to 8 minutes to brew but it is worth it. 7 tea leaf blend, insanely fragrant and smooth. Probably a lot closer to the birthplace of HK milk tea (Lan Fong Yuen in Central,Hong Kong who use a 6 leaf blend if I remember correctly, not that I've had the pleasure of trying it). Out The Door also has fried cruller and congee, interestingly (and some random dim sum items).

            1. re: K K

              Washington Bakery has a pan-fried chang fen dish that I like a lot. It's served in a little "boat" with a savory/sweet sauce on the side that's not too sweet (my usual problem with chang fen).

              It's probably worth noting that Out the Door's owner is ethnically Chinese.

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                Xiao Yang: I have a copy of the Washington Bakery menu and I can't figure out what dish you are referring to. Can you give the name in Chinese?

                1. re: lmarie

                  I don't know the Chinese name, and not really sure what it is on the English menu. Perusing the online menu jogged my memory and I'm pretty sure the sauce is their XO sauce. It might be the "Pan Fried Rice Noodle with XO Sauce;" the price looks about right. I just ask for the pan-fried chang fen (cheung fun) as instructed by a friend and make a gesture with my hands indicating a little rectanular boat shape and they know what I want. There's not much of a language problem with Washington's servers (compared to ABC's, for example).

              2. re: K K


                Out the Door
                1 Ferry Bldg Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111

            2. My wife and I visit SF about three times a year and never miss including a dim sum breakfast. Our favorite was Lichee Garden until they stopped serving dim sum, and we have tried Dol Ho and Y.Ben House recently. We want to expand our horizons with other kinds of Chinese breakfasts. Here are some questions for you posters resulting from our reading this topic and some research on our part.

              1. I have looked at for ABC Bakery, Washington Bakery, Hing Lung, and New King Tin. None of these have references to "jook", but I am guessing that the "porridge" and "congee" categories are in fact "jook" - correct? The menus are all in english.

              2. I see nothing on these menus that look like fried bread or HK style french toast that you mention in your replies. Am I missing something? Is there a Chinese term/name that I can use to get this?

              3. I see "milk tea", "pearl milk tea", "milk tea HK style" listed. Are there differences here? We used to order "gok po" tea with our dim sum, and want to branch out here, too.

              4. Here are links to the menus I mentioned. Are these worth taking with me to these establishments? How do they look to you?:

              ABC Bakery -


              Washington Bakery -


              Hing Lung -


              New King Tin -


              5. Xiao Yang mentions an online menu for Washington Bakery. Can someone provide a link for this, or is it a MenuPages menu being referenced?

              6. We are adventurous with respect to: setting/atmosphere even with our Cantonese deficiency(dim sum carts make this problem easier) - foods(we got interesting staff responses when we jumped at the fung jow plates at Lichee Garden) - trying new things. So, would Washington Bakery (as Xiao Yang suggests) be a good place to start our new Chinese breakfast experience? We like places that are open early - 7:30-8:00 - which most of the places mention in the topic do.

              Thanks for any help. I just wish my language failing was not a problem.

              8 Replies
              1. re: JimboG


                I am the OP, and my trip to San Francisco is later this week, so I don't have first hand experience yet. But to answer a few of your questions:

                1. Porridge = congee = jook

                2. Both menus for ABC and Washington Bakery have "french toast" on it. When there's French toast listed on the menu for a HK-style eatery, I assume they offer HK-style French Toast.

                3. "Pearl" milk tea = tapioca (boba) milk tea. HK style Milk Tea is a special brew and has a distinctive flavor. It's got something to do with the tea leaf mixture and the way it's brewed.

                1. re: JimboG

                  !. You are right, congee/porridge=jook (Mandarin "zhou")

                  2. The "fried bread" is "you tiao" in Chinese. It's "Chinese fried bread" on the Washington Bakery and Hing Lung menus, "Chinese Salted Donut" at ABC, and "Deep Frying Bread" at King Tin.

                  3. I assume milk tea" and "milk tea HK style" are the same thing. "Pearl milk tea" probably has tapioca pearls in it, and may be a cold drink.

                  4. The menupages menus will have been copied directly from the English menus available at the respective restaurants, so they may be useful to study in advance, but there's no need to bring them.

                  5. Yes, I was referring to the on-line menupages menu for Washington Bakery. Menupages menus don't have Chinese on them, so sometimes it's hard to figure out what a dish is.

                  I don't think the language barrier will be too great. I'm not familiar with King Tin staff since they reopened, but of the others you'll probably have the most problem with ABC. Even there you'll find a floor manager or cashier whose English is sufficient

                  1. re: JimboG

                    Wow!!! Two great replies within 30 minutes.

                    We can't wait to get there and try some things during our next visit..

                    Thank you very much!

                    1. re: JimboG

                      The HK-style french toast is not the same as the fried dough (or you tiao) that Xiao Yang described.

                      HK-style french toast is really french toast. Thick slices of white bread dipped in egg batter then deep fried. Sometimes they spread peanut butter between the bread slices and fried them together. It is served with slabs of butter and syrup.

                      The chinese fried dough is just fried dough - usually long and narrow. It is eaten with congee/porridge.

                      Regular milk tea could be something like lipton tea bag with milk; ie English breakfast tea. HK-style milk tea, as I said, is a special brew and has a distinctive flavor. Anything with "pearl" is tapioca.

                      1. re: y2000k

                        Yes, you are right about the HK milk tea -- there is a high-end version thyat supposedly uses seven different tea leaves or something like that. IMHO, tea with milk in it is undrinkable no matter how precious the tea leaves are.

                        You might also get something worse than a Lipton Tea bag with milk. You might get something made from 3-in-1 packet (Lipton or Owl Brand): pre-measured instant tea, sugar, and powdered creamer. That's also a Hong Kong "style."

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          Yes I mentioned Out The Door and Slanted Door serve a version that uses a 7 leaf blend, arguably the only place in the SF Bay Area that does that, which likely mimics the birthplace of HK milk tea, versus the lower end and very likely fewer leaf blend/mix used by the common HK cafes in SF Chinatown (although they share similar brewing techniques).

                          HK milk tea is not just about using different tea leaves, but the whole process of brewing and execution. Watch this Cantonese clip on how 2nd gen owner of Lan Fong Yuen brews a cup for the local TV show host


                          I've noted that Washington Bakery does have their own cheesecloth like strainer and they do cross pour the tea from vats as part of the brewing process.

                          Out the Door on the other hand does NOT do this process, rather the tea is brewed in a teapot, but somehow the end effect is just as, if not more spectacular.

                      2. re: JimboG

                        Jimbo - I'm back from my trip and just want to tell you briefly our experience. We ate breakfast twice in Chinatown - once at Washington Bakery and once at ABC Bakery.

                        Both offers breakfast set - a choice of entree (either congee or noodles in soup) plus a side dish (chinese fried bread, or rice noodel roll), plus tea or coffee. The prices are around $4.50.

                        Washington Bakery's breakfast menu is in both Chinese & English, ABC has Chinese only. We prefer Washington Bakery because the decor is nicer (brighter, more cheery) and the service is better. At ABC, we had to wave down a waitress multiple times just to get our orders taken.

                        I don't know if any of the waitstaff is fluent in English, as all the clientele at both places were Chinese. But I assume that at least for Washington Bakery, you can always point on the menu; whereas it's a bit difficult for ABC with a Chinese-only menu. Hope this helps.

                        1. re: y2000k

                          Im my experience, too, the servers at Washington Bakery have more English fluency than at ABC, which tends to hire FOB's.