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Nov 22, 2010 06:10 PM

Newbie to SF/Chinatown

Hi all,

I'm looking for everyone's opinions on the best spot(s) to eat in Chinatown. Dim sum, or perhaps some Mandarin or Cantonese cuisine? The only issue I have with dim sum is that some restaurants do not do many options without seafood (my travel mate does not eat shellfish--sucks for him!) so if there was one with lots of options that would be amazing!

Thanks and looking forward to your suggestions :)

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  1. Popular opinion on this board seems to be that the top Chinese is no longer in Chinatown but rather in outlying suburbs, if you are willing to travel a bit.

    Having said that, there are a few places that get recommended such as Great Eastern (they have cards with pictures on them for ordering) and my personal favourite from visiting, Dol Ho for dim sum. It's very small and old school, shellfish aplenty as I recall. Z&Y and R&G have some fans for dinner fare but you do need to be careful what you order -- maybe do a search on these names and see what you think.

    We have been to Jai Yun twice for lunch on visits and had really excellent meals, so that might be worth checking out. It is quite pricey for dinner I understand but the chef is great.

    Good luck and have fun.

    Dol Ho
    808 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

    5 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      Very interesting--I'll have to browse later entries on the boards regarding that. May I ask why the cusine migrated outskirts?

      1. re: Deidre7

        I'll leave the locals to answer that one definitively but we've certainly experienced the same thing here in Vancouver -- and I take it that the food follows the folks out to the burbs.

        1. re: Deidre7

          The short answer: new immigration patterns. For many years there was almost no immigration from the mainland, and very little from other places. Chinatown, which had always been a ghetto (in the traditional sense) became stagnant as the population aged; furthermore, there was no room in the old Chinatown for expansion. Then China opened up and a lot of people left Hong Kong in anticipation of the British handover to China; many of them moved to other Pacific Rim cities (including Vancouver). These new immigrants -- many of them wealthier and better educated than those who had come to the US before -- formed new communities in newer suburban areas, and the better, more highly trained chefs (and their backers) followed their clientele into those areas as well. Most of the restaurants in Chinatown are either "old school" or tourist traps, although there are a few exceptions.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Your statement is equally valid for many other core Chinatowns--Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver and Toronto, to name a few. S.F. Chinatown, and the other Chinatowns also have (1) the poorest immigrants and (2) the most tourists, neither of which is conducive to great Chinese cuisine. That's why it's so surprising to find a gem like Jai Yun in S.F. Chinatown. On the other hand, it also explains places like House of Nanking and Brandy Ho's, too.

            Jai Yun
            680 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

            House of Nanking
            919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1. re: Chandavkl

              Yes, for example, people say the Chinese food is great in "Vancouver" but they really mean the Vancouver metro area, as the great restaurants are in the suburbs (i.e., Richmond, BC). In New York, the great Chinese food is in the Outer Boroughs, and in LA, in the San Gabriel Valley. Despite the fact that all these cities have historic Chinatowns, you won't find great Chinese there.

      2. I definitely agree with the other posts. The best Chinese food (as a Chinese girl raised in SF and Bay Area) is not in Chinatown. Chinatown has a lot of inexpensive food but not much GREAT Chinese food. For dim sum, most locals go to the Richmond or Sunset districts (probably on Clement or Geary.) I'd gladly recommend some of those but you're looking for places to eat in Chinatown, so I'll hold off.
        There is some great food in Chinatown. Golden Gate Bakery is always a must stop. It may seem like a "touristy" thing BUT, as a local, I still say that their egg tarts (and other pastries like the "Mexico" buns) are the best. Don't let the lines scare you off! The secret is to not go during the day. I often go right after dinner and there is no line at all AND the pastries are hot and fresh out of the oven! They're more expensive than your average egg tart but still just a dollar something.
        Hing Lung on Broadway is a favorite restaurant of mine, if you don't mind a kind of hole in the wall place. They have lots of choices. On a cold night, their clay pot rice really hits the spot. At night, I don't remember the exact time, it's only $5 a pot!
        And while this is not Chinese food per se, it's a staple of Chinatown. Little Paris on Stockton. It's Vietnamese food. But nothing beats their banh mi. So good.

        Hing Lung Restaurant
        674 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

        Golden Gate Bakery
        1029 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

        1. If you're visiting and want to stay in the city, if not in Chinatown, Yank Sing in the financial district is a great choice for dim sum. It's more upscale and expensive than other places but the quality is worth it.


          Yank Sing
          49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

          1. I fear that San Francisco is not the place for a visitor to find the best that Chinese food has to offer. The best is outside of Chinatown and San Francisco for the most part. SF Chinatown offers to me a place to go for cheap food and remembering old times.

            But if you want to have dim sum then Cityview, Great Eastern and Louie's are decent and as Greyelf said Doi Ho is trip to the past hole in the wall.

            But you can follow other links on Chowhound for leads.

            I do not expect high food in SF Chinatown.

            Great Eastern Restaurant
            649 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1. I echo other posters that the best Chinese food in the city is not in Chinatown. I never thought about it, but Ruth's explanation makes sense. While a controversial choice, for dim sum, I always enjoy Ton Kiang in The Richmond, but I've not been in a couple of years and some seem to think it may have fallen a little.

              Ton Kiang
              5821 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121