Where to Eat in Chinatown
Chinatown is one of the most historic neighborhoods in San Francisco. It is the oldest Chinatown in North America and is the largest Chinese community outside of China. For these reasons and many more, visitors flock here in droves.
Even though the neighborhood is very accessible, it can be hard to figure out where and what to eat in Chinatown. While most of the menus have been translated, the names of the dishes (and the ingredients) may be unfamiliar. It's enticing but daunting at the same time.
In reality, the restaurants of Chinatown are extremely delicious, reasonably priced and offer a wide variety of regional Chinese cuisine. With our help, finding a delicious meal in Chinatown will be even easier the next time you visit.
Begoni Bistro (615 Jackson St.)
From the mind of longtime Chinatown chef Howard Wong comes Begoni Bistro, a restaurant that serves Chinese food with a French influence. Think upscale Chinese food that is perfect for a date.
Dishes to get: Peking Duck, Minced Imperial Squab, French Puff-Pastry Soup.
Cathay House (718 California St.)
Cathay House is a simple eatery offering a lengthy Chinese menu and big windows facing a prime people-watching street.
Dishes to get: Almond and Cashew Chicken, Orange Peel Beef.
China Live (644 Broadway)
It's a bar, a restaurant, a private dining experience, a customizable event space, and a signature shop all under one roof! It's China Live, where you're virtually guaranteed never to have the same thing twice!
Dishes to get: When dining in the ground floor Market Restaurant, we recommend the Dungeness crab spring handrolls, the crispy-skin roasted pork belly, and the kung pao firecracker chicken. If you visit their second floor bar, Cold Drinks, during the month of February, you can sample any one of their 12 Chinese New Year-themed cocktails!
Chong Qing Xiao Mian (915 Kearny St.)
If you have an itching for Sichuan-style noodles, this is your place. This noodle emporium was opened by former employees of Z & Y, another restaurant on this list. Here, you can expect different varieties of noodles dressed in sauces topped with meat.
Dishes to get: House Cold Noodles Spiced with Sichuan peppercorn and Hot Oil, Numbing Noodles with Beef Tendon and the Spicy Wontons with Tan Tan Noodles.
Far East Cafe (631 Grant St.)
Far East Cafe is centrally located, two blocks away from the gateway to Chinatown and directly across from Old St. Mary's Church. This classic, established in 1920, serves both Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine and specializes in fresh seafood. This restaurant is perfect for bigger groups.
Dishes to get: Live lobster and crab cooked in supreme broth, Honey Walnut Prawns.
Golden Gate Bakery (1029 Grant St.)
If you try to eat at Golden Gate Bakery, we say, "Good luck!" Golden Gate Bakery is notorious for being finicky about its hours. How finicky you ask? There's a website that monitors them. This spot is famous for their egg tarts. They are well worth it, so our advice is to walk by to double-check every time you venture into Chinatown.
Dishes to get: Egg Tarts.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (56 Ross Alley, between Jackson Street and Washington Street)
Did you know that fortune cookies were created here in San Francisco? Visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and see these famous treats being made from scratch. They even come in a variety of flavors!
Dishes to get: Fortune cookies.
Good Mong Bakery (1039 Stockton St.)
For those that want to eat and explore the neighborhood, check out Good Mong Bakery. You'll have to wait in line (a true sign of a delicious spot), but once you get to the counter, give them your dim-sum order and they'll put everything into a pink to-go box for you.
Dishes to get: Har Gow (shrimp dumplings) and the Char Sui Bao (steamed pork buns).
Great Eastern (649 Jackson St.)
The quintessential dim sum restaurant in Chinatown--(and one of two places President Obama has dined when he visited San Francisco),--Great Eastern boasts a menu of 83 items, which means they have everything you could possibly desire.
Dishes to get: Shanghai Dumplings, Har Gow, Mango Pudding.
Mister Jiu's (28 Waverly Pl.)
The baby on the list, Mister Jiu's is already a classic on the San Francisco culinary scene. Winner of a Michelin Star in its very first year of existence, this upscale restaurant is bridging the gap between fine dining and paying homage to the neighborhood it calls home. There are two dining options: the banquet-style Chinese tasting menu or the long bar where delicious cocktails are made.
Dishes to get: Everything.
R&G Lounge (631 Kearny St.)
R&G Lounge is another Chinatown stalwart that has been serving patrons, including Anthony Bourdain, for many years. Some say it is a testament to what Chinatown is all about. We'll let you decide that.
Dishes to get: Live Crab with Salt & Pepper, R&G Special Beef, Lychee Martini.
Sam Wo Restaurant (713 Clay St.)
A cult classic since 1906, Sam Wo's has been a San Francisco favorite because of their late hours, (serving until 4:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) and because of one surly employee, often called the world’s rudest, worst, most insulting waiter. After a three-year hiatus, Sam Wo's has opened back up at its new location, across from Portsmouth Square. San Francisco is just better when Sam Wo's is open.
Dishes to get: Jook (Chinese Porridge), BBQ Pork-Stuffed Rice Noodle.
Z & Y Restaurant (655 Jackson St.)
Be ready to wait at Z & Y, a Sichuan restaurant that is the favorite of San Francisco culinary luminary Cecilia Chang, food critic Michael Bauer, and President Barack Obama. Plain and simple: it's really, really delicious with the right amount of spice. The sight of full tables rendered speechless while enjoying their meals amps up the experience.
Dishes to get: Chilled Beef Tendon, Explosive Chili Pepper Chicken Wings, and a couple of Tsingtao.
We strongly recommend walking around the neighborhood and seeing which restaurant calls out to you. You won't be disappointed. And don't be afraid if you don't know what things are on the menu. Just ask. Bon appetit!