With the summer travel season having just begun, I figured I should do a limited series combining a few things I love to do: travel, eat Asian food, and help people by giving suggestions. Hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll have guides to places including Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Vancouver, and Washington D.C. but I figure I would start with my current adopted hometown of sorts first – San Francisco (and the East Bay cities of Oakland and Berkeley).
Like most conventional travel guides, I’ll group things geographically by neighborhoods of sorts. Unlike them, however, it would be built exclusively on tourist sites and the like because, well, my blog is about Asian food I like and not Asian food I find reasonably edible within walking distance of X. Therefore, as you can see on this guide, there will be less emphasis on the twisty turns of Lombard Street or more on the delicious dumplings of the Richmond. Of course, I’ll still reference some landmarks in the guide but it’ll be more in context of the proximity to food. So without further ado (and the map)…
(or what to eat after riding the cable car)
Among the top tourist attractions in the city by the bay are the cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf. While most locals turn up their noses at the thought of being caught at either, I can see why a tourist would want to experience them, if only once. The bad news is there aren’t any good Asian bites to eat at Fisherman’s Wharf (you should be getting some clam chowder or cioppino anyway), but the good news is there’s another tourist loving area close by that has an abundance: Chinatown.
Chinatown, of course, can be confusing so here are my recommendations:
- Golden Gate Bakery (assuming they are open) for arguably the most delicious egg custard tarts in the Bay Area
- Golden Gate Fortune Cookie if you want to see how fortune cookies are made AND get some free samples
- Lai Hong Lounge for good dim sum in a neighborhood filled with mediocre dim sum
- China Live for yuppie, pricey, but also tasty, Chinese food
- Mister Jiu’s for pricier Chinese food, but worthy of its one Michelin star
But maybe you’re resting your feet by the Ferry Building and don’t want to take the hike up to Chinatown? No fear, the Slanted Door has some great, if fancy, Vietnamese for you.
Or maybe your hotel is by Union Square and you just want some food after a little r&r at the hotel or retail therapy. Well, you can definitely dip your chopsticks into some hot pot at Little Sheep; get some Michelin Star, reasonably priced Thai at Kin Khao; or get some grade A boba at Boba Guys.
SoMa & South Beach
(or what to eat after SFMOMA)
Maybe you are here for a tech conference like Dreamforce or had a visit to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art and need some delicious Asian food to fill your stomach. No fear, as you are in luck! Here are a few of my recommendations in the neighborhood:
- Yank Sing for some spendy, but pretty good, dim sum still delivered on carts
- Tin for no fuss, but good, Vietnamese food.
- Sorabal (Korean) and Inay Filipino Kitchen (Filipino) for spot on scrumptiousness in a mall-like food court
Little Saigon & the Tenderloin
(or what to eat for Pride or pre-theatre)
Are you in town for San Francisco Pride or Folsom Street Festival? (If you are, a very warm welcome to you!) Or maybe you’re a local just looking for a little grub before seeing a show at Bill Graham or watch a musical at the Orpheum? Well you are in luck because you are very close to some of San Francisco’s best Vietnamese and Thai food. Here are my selections for this much underappreciated part of San Francisco:
- Turtle Tower for absolutely delicious northern style Vietnamese food (get the pho and the bun thang)
- Them Ky for great Vietnamese Chinese food, especially noodle soups like the wonton noodle soup
- Rose Kitchen, a new restaurant that does solid Vietnamese style Chinese food like the salt and pepper pork chops
- Sai Jai Thai for a hole-ish in the wall Thai restaurant with all around great food
Perhaps you’re at a theatre closer to Union Square like the Curran and the American Consevatory Theatre. Well, you’re not far from a number of delicious places in the so-called “Tendernob” area:
- 707 Sutter for some great, non-barbecue, Korean food
- Kim Thanh for Vietnamese Chinese seafood dishes like salt and pepper shrimp, crab, and even geoduck
- Joy’s Place for a lovely, cozy Korean owned coffee shop
Castro & the Mission
(or what to eat after an afternoon in Dolores)
Among the taquerias that (weirdly) sell burritos and yuppie brunch places, one wouldn’t think there’s too much Asian food to eat if you’re doing a mural walk or grabbing a bite after a lovely afternoon at Dolores Park, but have no fear as you can munch at these fine establishments:
- Namu Gaji – Right next to Dolores Park is this Korean fusion place that has a pretty delicious stone pot and gamja fries
- Ushio Ramen for a solid bowl of ramen, especially the black garlic ramen
- Yamo for homestyle Burmese food cooked in a tiny kitchen that served Burmese food before it was hip (I recommend the chicken coconut curry noodle soup)
- Burma Love for more modern/current Burmese food with nicer settings (recommend the tea leaf and rainbow salads)
In the Castro there are less options, but still a few after an afternoon exploring the neighborhood or watching a movie at the Castro Theatre:
- Mama Jis – a few blocks from the main strip in the Castro is a nice, easily accessible place to get dim sum in the day and Sichuan food at night
- Me & Tasty – The dinner menu at this place provides solid takes on Thai food
- Qualitea – Newly opened, delicious place for boba or for some fruit spritzers & slushies
(or where to eat for the best dim sum)
Further afield on the west side of town is where you can find the best Chinese in town. And while the Richmond is a little bit aways from the core tourist areas, there’s enough to also do here like looking at art at the Legion of Honor or soaking in the view of the Pacific at Lands End. Just before to eat at one of these places before or after your adventures:
- Dragon Beaux – for the best dim sum in SF (and arguably still in the US). Must gets include the set of 5 soup dumpling and the rose rice noodles roll. Come for hot pot at dinner as well.
- Hong Kong Lounge II – the second best dim sum in town also has very solidly executed classic Cantonese dishes for dinner
- Boiling Hot Pot – for those cold, foggy nights in San Francisco, Boiling Hot Pot’s hot pot will make you filled and warm
(or where to eat with all the Chinese folk)
There are even fewer tourist areas by the Sunset, but a hop, skip, and a jump from most of Golden Gate Park are the Chinese dominated strips of inner and outer Sunsets on Irving Street. So if you’re hangry for a bite after a day at the deYoung or Academy of Sciences, I recommend:
- Lime Tree – for one of the few Malaysian/Indonesian places left in the city or East Bay
- Kogi Gogi – for delicious Korean BBQ that’s about as good as you can get in the city
- San Tung – for Chinese food that is geared a little more toward American tastes, but still amazing for their dry fried chicken wings
- IPOT – for soothing, all you can eat hot pot during a cold summer or winter night in the city.
And further south on Taraval where both Dumpling Kitchen and Kingdom of Dumpling are known for their solid renditions of soup dumplings.
There you have it: Sinoinsocal’s guide to San Francisco. Any tips, suggestions, or feedback can be posted in the comments and hope folks will like these places as much as I do.