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Seeking SF recommendations, esp for ethnic food

I'm going to have a lengthy stopover in San Francisco, so I'm looking for a recommendation for a good (casual-dress) restaurant.

I'm looking for something unusual, out of the ordinary--probably ethnic. For example, years ago, I had a great meal in a restaurant around SOMA that I *recall* as Laotian. So I'm looking for something similarly out-of-the-ordinary, the kind of food that's hard to find anywhere else.

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  1. I don't live in San Francisco but my son does...so my comment might not be welcome here but I visited him 2 months ago...one cuisine I wanted to try was Burmese...didn't get to it (drat! wanted to try that tea leaf salad!) but we had our sights set on Yamo in the Mission District (where there are many ethnic and less expensive restaurants)...here's a link for it...I found it when I was looking up "cheap eats in San Francisco" and this restaurant seemed to have some very good reviews:

    3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    14 Replies
    1. re: Val

      I can't tell where you're from but I definitely go for as much Burmese as possible when in the Bay Area, coming from Vancouver, where this cuisine is mighty scarce. Burmese Kitchen is my favourite so far, very good value and excellent salads. Also like Mandalay. Haven't made it to Yamo yet as it is so tiny, it has been hard to get into.

      Larkin Express Burmese Kitchen
      452 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

      Mandalay Restaurant
      4344 California St, San Francisco, CA 94118

      1. re: grayelf

        LOL...my son and I were also looking at Mandalay...we figured "we'll try Yamo...if they're slammed we'll go to Mandalay." NEXT VISIT we'll try the Burmese cuisine no 2 ways about it! A new cuisine we did get to try was Ethiopian, also fabulous!

        1. re: Val

          I would actually rank Yamo not only behind Mandalay, but also Burma Superstar (which I acatually happen to like and think is very good, just not amazing). That's not to say I also don't like Yamo, and i'ts definitely a better value than Burma Superstar. However, it's mostly Chinese-influenced Burmese food (and some straight-up Chinese food).

          Also note that Mandalay is now on OpenTable

          3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          Burma Superstar
          4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

          1. re: vulber

            So noted...thanks! Not sure when I'll go to SF again, hopefully early 2011, but Burmese is a must-try for me! Will consider all 3 of them!

            1. re: Val

              For what it's worth, I love Yamo. The cold chicken noodles and mango salad cravings always seem to strike after they've closed.

              3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        2. re: grayelf

          I also thought the food was the best at Larkin Express, though I haven't tried Little Yangon yet.

          I thought the quality was similar at the original Burma Superstar and Mandalay, so much so that it seemed odd that the former had a long line and the latter was, though only a couple of blocks away, half empty.

          Yamo I'd put a step down from those, though it's still good. Friendly and dirt-cheap.

          3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          Little Yangon
          6318 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

        3. re: Val

          Hey I thought your name looked familiar. Your comments are always welcome here as are those of adopted daughter grayelf.

          1. re: wolfe

            SWEET! (((((wolfe))))) Yes, you helped us find very excellent falafel! My son has been back to Sunrise Deli a few times since then, too! Hey, that place might be good for the OP Howard 2--not sure if he has good falafel where he's from!

            1. re: Val

              An old post suggests Howard is from Salt Lake City and a quick search seems to indicate that they have a good handle on falafel less so with Burmese.

              1. re: Val

                Warm and fuzzy!

                I'm totally nabbing that Sunrise rec too, Val (thanks for posting the link, wolfe, I missed it first time around). We have niente good falafel in Vancouver that I have found since my favourite little Greek place closed.

            2. re: Val

              I love Yamo. Just keep in mind it only has 9 seats. But you can take out.

              If you mean that you have a layover at the airport, you could go somewhere closer like Little Yangon on the SF/Daly City border. It's walking distance from Daly City BART. A pleasant restaurant with friendly, although part of me loves Yamo's dive-y ambiance.

              I wonder when we had a Laotian restaurant South of Market. There was a Burmese place on Stevenson for a summer.

              I will also second Poc Chuc for Yucatacan (really anywhere for Yucatecan). Closed Wednesdays and Sundays.

              Yemeni restaurant on the Nob Hill/Tenderloin border has been getting a lot of acclaim. Still on my list to try.

              3406 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              Poc Chuc
              2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

              Little Yangon
              6318 Mission St, Daly City, CA 94014

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Yes, it's called Yemeni's Restaurant.

            3. Agree with Burmese. Other good ethnic-ish foods found in San Francisco are Yucatan (Poc Chuc), Peruvian (Inka's), and Vietnamese (Bodego Bistro, or PPQ depending on what you are looking for). And of course there is always the infamous Mission Burrito.

              1. Out of the ordinary? Aziza has one Michelin star, serves Cal-Moroccan fusion and the prix fixe meal isn't that pricey ($50-ish p/person last I heard). Won't find it anywhere else.

                1. The other thing you might try while in SF are Chinese Soup Dumpling (xiao long bao aka XLBs). They're sorta like won ton but they have soup broth INSIDE the hot dumpling. The sensation, taste and broth are an unique experience.

                  They're fairly common now in the Bay Area but I'd guess not so much in Utah. There's many places, do a search for XLBs or check out Shanghai Dumpling King, Kingdom of Dumplings, Shanghai Dumplings Shop...to name a few.

                  Shanghai Dumpling King
                  3319 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                  Kingdom of Dumpling
                  1713 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA

                  Shanghai Dumpling
                  12172 Saratoga Sunnyvale Rd, Saratoga, CA 95070

                  1. Please realize you've formulated this question in a difficult fashion. We have no idea what you consider "hard to find".

                    For example, Bund Shanghai has many chinese dishes, but their Shanghai specialties are quite good. We don't consider XLB (xao long bao, soup dumplings) all that exotic, because they have 'em in new york and LA and vancouver. They're also quite good in Shanghai.

                    Upscale vietnamese at Slanted Door would be a common recommendation, but decent vietnamese is even easier to find --- there was a vietnamese place in Providence, RI in the 1980's that had better food than SD.

                    Slanted Door
                    Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

                    Bund Shanghai
                    640 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA

                    1. In addition to Mandalay on California, I'd recommend the following:

                      Saha on Sutter (inside Carlton Hotel). Great Middle Eastern fusion place. Get the duck if it has it. Eggplant dip is superb.

                      Bodega Bistro on Larkin. Northern Vietnamese resto. Try squab and papaya salad.

                      Anh Hong or Pagolac for Vietnamese 7 beef courses.

                      Bodega Bistro
                      607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                      655 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                      1. Lavash serves Persian food in a pleasant setting at 511 Irving St. It's very affordable too.