The popular Cantonese midday custom of going out for dim sum—small dishes, both savory and sweet, hot and cold—can be explored on nearly every block in San Francisco’s Chinatown. In big restaurants, servers push dish-laden carts around the dining room, and diners select what they want. Smaller places dispense with the carts in favor of more easily managed trays. You won’t always know what you’re choosing, so embrace the mystery.
New Asia (772 Pacific Ave. 415/391–6666 www.sfnewasia.com) is perfect for dim sum newbies—English is spoken here, and the sprawling room means you won’t stick out like a sore thumb. For the best selection, try for a table near the kitchen; by the time the carts make their way upstairs, they’re picked over.
For more adventurous spirits, Dol Ho (808 Pacific Ave. 415/392–2828) is a hole-in-the-wall serving up good dim sum at great prices. Neighborhood regulars fill the small space, snapping up the best items from the single cart. There’s not much English spoken here, but the authenticity and low tab make any sign-language efforts pay off.
When you walk downstairs into Hang Ah (1 Pagoda Pl., at Stockton St. 415/982–5686), you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a long-hidden gem, where you can fill up on conventional dim sum for a song. If you’re in a rush, stop at friendly You’s (675 Broadway 415/788–7028), a busy takeout spot famous for its barbecued pork buns.
Many locals like Great Eastern (649 Jackson St. 415/986–2500, see full review) because they can check off what they want on dim sum menus instead of waiting for a cart. Others, especially Financial District workers on weekdays and families on weekends, migrate to City View Restaurant (622 Commercial St. 415/398–2838) for its relatively quiet dining room, ample choices, and atmospheric location on one of the neighborhood’s quaint cobblestone blocks.
Photo Credit: Brett Shoaf