San Francisco’s deep Chinese immigrant history makes it a formidable contestant as one of the best places to get dimsum in the United States (maybe even the world after Hong Kong). As San Franciscans began moving out of the Chinatown area and into cities all over the Bay Area, the number of really great dimsum places grew exponentially.
I eat dimsum nearly every weekend, so I’d consider myself a bit of an expert. I also seek it out when traveling and have enjoyed experiences in Hong Kong, London, Paris, Beijing, Vancouver, Seattle to name a few. Whenever I go on a long trip there are two things I want when I get “home,” sushi and dimsum. There is something about those little baskets of deliciousness that makes me one happy woman!
I thought I’d share a few of the San Francisco Bay Area Dimsum standouts.
Yank Sing – Financial District
This is MY go-to place in the city. I eat here at least once a month, sometimes more. This is seated dining in the Financial District. Yank Sing is a bit on the expensive side, but the location, service, and quality of ingredients stack up to the price. They have a diverse menu and this is the best dimsum spot for vegetarians as they have a large variety of vegetable dumplings and side dishes to choose from. They are known for their BBQ pork buns (a Chris Cosentino favorite) and Shanghai dumplings, but my favorite item is the scallop dumplings and I can eat a couple of baskets all by myself!
101 Spear St (and a second location at 49 Stevenson St)
Good Mong Kok Bakery – Chinatown
You’ll find Good Mong Kok Bakery when you see the lines! Located in Chinatown, they serve all kinds of dimsum, and cheaply (super cheap!), but go for the buns (or bao). There is a language barrier here, so just point at you want and have your cash ready. I love the Choy Yok bao (veggie meat bun) with diced vegetable mixed with meat filling and the Gai bao (chicken bun) and of course the ever popular Char Siu bao (BBQ pork).
1039 Stockton St – between Jackson St & Washington St
You’s Dim Sum – Chinatown
Another Chinatown spot that is fast-paced and cash only. They have a good variety of dimsum, but are known for making pretty good shrimp dumpling (Har Gow). The place can be intimidating but for 3 pieces of dimsum for $1.50 it is worth the trauma if you don’t speak the language!
675 Broadway (at Stockton St)
The Richmond District is well-known for its dimsum in San Francisco although I rarely head there. It is pretty far from where I live and parking is horrendous so the only times I have been out there are when I am meeting others.
Shanghai Dumpling King – Richmond District
This is the one place in the Richmond I would go out of my way to visit. As the name suggests they are known for their Shanghai dumplings (although they serve other items as well). Known as “xiao long bao”, meaning soup dumpling, it is made with a circular base and pinched at the top prior to steaming. The restaurant is divey, not so clean and the service is on the rude side, but the dumplings…ah well, that makes it worth it….sometimes. When I don’t feel like dealing with it I go to Yank Sing which probably serves the second best!
3319 Balboa St (between 35th Ave & 34th Ave)
There are two other Richmond District spots that often get mentioned in magazines and newspapers, but I haven’t been to them for the earlier mentioned reasons, but I thought I’d list them here for your reference: Hong Kong Lounge (5322 Geary Blvd between 18th Ave & 17th Ave) and Ton Kiang (5821 Geary Blvd between 23rd Ave & 22nd Ave) [was here more than 10 years ago, so can’t attest to how it is doing now].
Hong Kong Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant – Sunnyvale
This crowded spot has interesting dimsum like Snowy Mountain Buns and one of my favorites chive dumplings. They do a great purple taro bao. These are hard to find, most places do a fried taro dumpling, so try out the bao if you go hear. Just go early!
1135 Lawrence Expressway
Champagne Restaurant – Millbrae
This place has a pretty unique menu with things I have not seen (or rarely seen) at other restaurants in the Bay Area like pumpkin seafood, deep fried pumpkin with salted yolk and roast goose. They also have all your regular dimsum items such as dumplings, but Champagne is THE place to try congee, they have 32 of them! I had the lobster and it was fantastic.
103 – 121 El Camino Real
Koi Palace – Daly City
Often argued as the best dimsum in the Bay Area, it certainly is huge. It is a large tea-house fashioned after those that can be found in Southern China and opens at 9, but you need to start lining up at 8:30 to get a spot. The waits are long! They have a lot of the standard dimsum offerings, but my favorite item there is unique to this spot, Dungeness crab congee. During crab season it is the thing to get. Just make sure you save room, the bowl can serve a family of four easily!
365 Gellert Blvd
Legendary Palace – Oakland
None of these places are known for their service (except Yank Sing) but they are pretty bad here, especially if you aren’t Chinese. I have eaten here with Chinese friends and alone, and there is a difference. But having said that, I just go to most dimsum places not expecting any service, I’ve eaten dimsum in Hong Kong and if you can survive that you can survive anything. You go for the food. Legendary Palace has pretty good dumplings and other dimsum specialties such as one of my favorites, pan-fried chives, and shrimp, but what most people rave about, and I agree, they have a great egg tart.
708 Franklin Street (at 7th Street)
Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant – Emeryville
This is where I mainly go to. Some months you can find me here every weekend! They have a great location on the Emeryville Marina that offers a great view of San Francisco. Best service (if you don’t count Yank Sing) of any other dimsum restaurant and the food is really great. My only complaint is that I wish that had more seafood dumplings besides dumplings. They have every combo of shrimp you can think of: shrimp and chive, shrimp and cilantro, etc. but I’d love a crab or scallop (which is my overall favorite dumpling). Barring that, the food is super fresh and fast. I think they have the best fried turnip cake and when I want to get fancy I have the claypot XO version.
3199 Powell Street
How about you? Do you have a San Francisco Bay Area Dimsum spot to add? How’s the dimsum in your town?
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