Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Nov 17, 2012 09:49 PM

Ming Kee (formerly Happy Bakery), Hong Kong Style B-B-Q in San Francisco

One of the most welcome bits of news I’ve read here was word that burned-down Happy Bakery on Ocean had been reborn as Ming Kee on Irving Street. Now that I’ve had the chance to stop by there twice, I thought I’d start a new thread that continues from here.

So far I’ve had the Cantonese roast duck, salt-blanched chicken feet, and gui fei gai and they’re the same and as good in the new venue. I’d made the error of trying to stop in after 8pm when the case was empty. No roast duck that I wanted but this made me buy the gui fei gai (empress chicken), the only thing left, and I’m glad I revisited it.

Here's the photo of the chicken feet, alongside a pile of denuded bones spit out Chinese grandpa style.
(Just to skeeve out Sara Deseran who recently ate chicken feet for the first time. )

Closing time is 9pm, and there were a few customers seated at tables. In this new incarnation, Ming Kee does offer a more extended menu. But the majority of business seems to be the line-up for meats to go. On my mid-afternoon, week day stop, the line spilled out the door onto the sidewalk.

This old post on Happy Bakery discusses what to order.

Various friends have asked whether the staff are as dour as before. So far, there may be a honeymoon effect in that while there are still scowls and few smiles, at least I’ve not heard any employees screaming at each other. Or maybe there’s a more solid door to the kitchen to muffle the sound.

TastingTable and SF Weekly have reported on the opening as well. Perhaps more non-Chinese clientele dropping in has toned down public display of staff feuds.

I’ll note that Anna Roth’s review steals Ruth Lafler’s description of the ginger-scallion condiment as Chinese chimichurri.

Ming Kee Inc.
Hong Kong Style B-B-Q
2191 Irving St (between 22 & 23 Ave.)
San Francisco, CA 94122
Open 7 days a week
9am to 9pm

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. This is the first posting I’ve seen on Chowhound regarding Happy Bakery and Deli post fire.

    Two weeks prior to the fire, I went up into S. F. and visited Happy Bakery and Deli on Ocean Avenue. The soy sauce chicken was as good as ever and the roast goose was pretty good (better than a previous try – juicy!). After the fire, there was a posting on Yelp which said that Happy Bakery and Deli was reopening at 2181 Irving.

    When I went to the spot, I recognized it as the old familiar corner where it used to be the New Hai Ky Restaurant, one of my old favorite places I used to go for roast duck. I saw no signs indicating that it 2181 Irving was now the new Happy Bakery and Deli. I got in line and geared my defenses against all the shoving and pushing by the little old ladies next to me – feels the good old days! I asked the person next to me if this was the new HB&D? He had no answer. I finally made my way up and recognized the bbq chopper as that same old dour guy at HB&D that used to chop up my order (never thought I would be glad to see him again!) – that was the only indication that Ming Kee might be connected to HB&D at all. I bought half a soy sauce chicken and a half Gwei Fei Gai. Then, I spied a small line for roast goose on the sign posted up the wall. I was happy I managed to get half a goose!

    What I bought looked good, but I was disappointed in that it was lacking in taste as before. It was O.K., but I did not think any of it would be considered as outstanding as at HB&D! I was not impressed with the Ming Kee Restaurant itself; there were only a few people eating in, a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle at the New Hai Ky. I will not consider returning to Ming Kee for a while!

    16 Replies
    1. re: CYL

      Happy Bakery's Chinese name was Ming Kee. There's another Happy Bakery a block away on Irving which I'm guessing is why they didn't go with that in the new location.

      1. re: drewskiSF

        Thanks again for the pointer. When I returned last week, I asked about the roast pork, as I'd never had it at the old place and was told it would be out of the oven in 10 minutes, so I stuck around. Only the belly portion is used here so it has a beautiful, uniformly puffed up and crackly skin. $7.25/lb

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Pork Belly for 7.25/lb..... that's quite a deal. Thanks for posting

          1. re: fourunder

            That's a bit on the high side for San Francisco, this place gets a premium.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Is this place superior to any place on Stockton (?)

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Who does the best Roast Suckling Pig? In NYC Chinatown....It runs $16-22 per pound when you can find it.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Best suckling pig will be from one of the higher end dim sum palaces. Koi Palace in Daly City is the most reliable for barbecue meats and has suckling pig in good supply.

      2. re: CYL

        The post I linked to at the top of my original post had the news and some reports for the new Ming Kee, buried in a long, more general discussion. So I'm glad that I started a new thread that caught your eye finally. I intentionally have not ordered the soy sauce chicken yet, figuring that the master sauce must have been a victim of the fire and will need to cook a few thousand more birds before it becomes mature enough. I was happiest with the gui fei gai, or perhaps I was influenced and overly happy just to have anything that I could buy. The salt poached chicken feet are definitely the same, and my mother recently asked me to go back and get more. Parenthetically, I'll note that Anna Roth's review in SF Weekly said the chicken feet were too salty . . . a comment that is on the order of saying Doritos or country hams are too salty.

        When New Hai Ky sold out, this location was home to Toon Kee for a few years, another Teochew Chinese-Vietnamese place with a similar menu to NHK, a few more elaborate dishes, and a barbecue stand in front. It had a bit more varied menu but I never did find my go-to dish there. If you're missing New Hai Ky, Lam Hoa Thuan down the street is owned by the same people.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thank you for the info. When NHK moved a couple of blocks up the avenues, I did buy roast duck at the new place (LHT) a couple of times. I also was aware TK had a menu similar to NHK but did not try it (much more elaborate than the new Ming Kee of today). I was neither impressed or attracted by either Lam Hoa Thuan or Toon Kee for some reasons - perhaps it was a subconscious feung shui sort of phenomena????

          1. re: CYL

            While Lam Hoa Thuan is started after NHK, there was a period of time that both were open at the same time before NHK closed. Then I found LHT the better restaurant, felt like all the love was going to the new spot. Sure, feng shui can come into play, but how would you explain that you're not enamored with the current occupant, Ming Kee? :-)

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              My big disappointment was that my soy sauce chicken favorite did not seem to come up to that at the Happy Bakery and Deli at the old Ocean Avenue location. Don't know when I'll be up to the city to try again. Waiting to see other Chowhounder postings and comments.

              1. re: CYL

                Did you get the regular soy sauce chicken or the soy sauce wong mo gai? Ming Kee sells both.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  As the dour chopper always ask me, I got the "po doung"/ regular chicken. I have tried the "wong mo gai" /free range chicken before and did not seem to like it as much.

                  1. re: CYL

                    To me, the flavor permeates the regular chicken more, so I can understand why you prefer it. The wong mo gai chicken has better texture and tastier flesh, but underneath the soy sauce seasoning, perhaps not worth the additional mark-up.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I could not have stated it better! Am totally in synch with your observations.

      3. Picked up a roasted duck and soy sauce chicken after reading this thread. Probably the best soy sauce chicken I have ever had. The duck wast bad either. Split it in half and put it under the broiler for a few minutes really crisped-up the skin.

        Thank you for the rec!

        1. Quite a scene on the sidewalk at Ming Kee's customers and passersby read the notice that it's closing on Irving after today. Cell phones whipped out to alert their friends, grandmas calling the family to find out what extras to bring home for the weekend's feasting, customers bemoaning with like-minded strangers that they'll have to follow the owners back to Ocean Ave despite the inconvenience.

          Masterful Stir Fries at Ming Kee – Hurry, Closing April 15 (San Francisco)

          Chowdown Report: Ming Kee in San Francisco

          1. The Irving Ming Kee has been replaced by another place that's doing Chinese B-B-Q. Anyone tried it or know its name?

            2 Replies
            1. re: hyperbowler

              Guangdong BBQ Tea House is supposedly staffed by a roastie chef from R & G and a stir fry chef from mayflower/millbrae (thanks Ken!)

              eats: "rock cod flllets with cream corn"
              -disappointed swai fish used, not rock rod

              won ton soup
              -shrimp crunchy but not flavorful

              house soup

              roasties are the go to items here. not much of a meat eater these days. large menu here.

              1. re: shanghaikid

                The vast majority of Cantonese restaurants selling rock rod fillets are not going to use rock cod in the dishes. There was this news report in Hong Kong investigating the actual "rock cod" used in so many lunch specials; it turned out to be sole (probably frozen).