The very first Chinese restaurants in the United States opened in San Francisco amidst the bustle of the Gold Rush. Ever since then, Chinese cuisine has continued to evolve along with the rest of the City, so expect some of the best Chinese food in San Francisco that you’ve ever had in your life.
Luckily for food lovers, some things haven’t changed. Many of the restaurateurs we are about to share with you still frequent the markets of Chinatown to stock up on the freshest seasonal produce, poultry, and fish that will inspire the day’s meals.
With so many choices, where should you start? If you ask any local for the best Chinese food in San Francisco, they will be hard-pressed to settle on just one favorite. To help get you started, here is a list of our favorite restaurants.
The Sam Wo Restaurant first opened in 1908, and is an SF Chinatown institution. The welcoming atmosphere and delicious food make the restaurant a favorite destination for locals and tourists. Patrons return year after year, some even after decades, to experience the BBQ pork rice noodle roll and duck dry noodles again.
Mister Jiu’s is the Michelin-starred restaurant of local chef Brandon Jew. The menu features seasonal Chinese-American cuisine, including Liberty Farm Peking Style Roast Duck and soft-shell crab with salted duck egg.
While you wait for your table, have a cocktail inspired by the Chinese lunar calendar upstairs at Moongate Lounge.
Palette Tea House
Enjoy authentic dim sum at the family-owned Palette Tea House, located in Ghirardelli Square’s upper plaza. Locals and visitors rave about their excellent food and stunning presentations.
This is the perfect lunch or early dinner stop while you’re exploring San Francisco. Palette Tea House has a dining room, enclosed patio, and options for take-away. You won’t want to miss their signature Dungeness crab or Wagyu steak entrees.
For upscale dim sum at a great price, try Yank Sing. Established in 1958 and still family-owned, Yank Sing has two locations, Spear Street and Stevenson Street.
The menu features over 100 rotating dim sum options, including many vegetarian and vegan choices, that are served via traditional pushcarts. The snow pea shoots dumpling and fluffy steamed pork bun are always winners.
No time to sit down? The spear Street location also offers takeout or delivery.
House of Nanking
At the House of Nanking, you’ll be greeted with the question, “Can we order for you?” Your answer should be a resounding, “Yes!”
The House of Nanking specializes in creating a meal, especially for you. They are a local favorite, and they make some of the very best Chinese food in San Francisco.
For over 30 years, this family-owned and operated restaurant has been delighting patrons with creative Chinese food inspired by seasonal and local ingredients. Their constantly updated menu means you’ll have a unique experience each time you return. Located in Chinatown, they offer indoor and outdoor seating, takeout, and delivery.
Dumpling Home has an extensive menu of noodles and expertly hand-wrapped dumplings. Local favorites include numb and spicy pork xiao long bao (XLB), crab and pork XLB, and dan dan noodles. They have both indoor and outdoor seating and take pickup orders.
If you’re looking for spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, then Harborview Restaurant and Bar is the place for you. Located at 4 Embarcadero Center, Harborview offers patio or indoor seating where you can enjoy a lychee martini and watch the boats on the Bay.
Choose from an extensive menu focused on fresh seafood and dim sum. Dinner options include black truffle Peking duck sliders and congee with Dungeness crab.
Hong Kong Lounge
Many say Hong Kong Lounge is one of the best dim sum restaurants in San Francisco, and we couldn’t agree more. Simply put, they have fabulous food at excellent prices.
Their dinner menu includes fresh oysters, live lobster, and geoduck. You can get dim sum every day, except Wednesday when they are closed. No reservations.
Empress by Boon
For an elegant dining experience, exquisite cocktails, and some of the best Chinese food in San Francisco, look no further than Empress by Boon. Opening in 2021, the sixth-floor restaurant in the famous Empress restaurant location is a recent addition to San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Michelin-starred chef Ho Chee Boon and his team of experts leave nothing to chance by thoughtfully curating every culinary detail on their seasonal prix fixe menu. Empress by Boon requests business casual dress and no shorts or t-shirts to maintain that refined atmosphere.
Eight Tables by George Chen
If you’re celebrating a truly special occasion, go to Eight Tables by George Chen. This restaurant, on the second floor of the China Live Restaurant and Marketplace, made Time magazine’s World’s Greatest Places list of 2018. Their tasting menu is omakase-style, and has included exotic items such as shrimp toast with sea urchin and Osetra caviar dumplings.
China Live Restaurant and Marketplace is the casual side of George and Cindy Chen’s Chinese food affair. The multi-story space takes its inspiration from Eataly, Mario Batali’s NYC Italian food emporium. Driven by their desire to educate guests on the rich history of Chinese food and culture, the proprietors have created an interactive dining experience showcasing fresh seasonal ingredients.
We hope this varied list of restaurants to find the best Chinese food in San Francisco inspires you! For a fun culinary tour of Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods, Be sure to check out the Ultimate San Francisco Food Tour.
Vesna Kraushaar is a science and food writer in the SF Bay Area with years of experience as a scientist in the local wine and dairy industries. Her Croatian and American heritage instilled a deep passion for sharing food traditions. When she isn’t writing, she’s researching recipes or at a local coffee house. Find her online here.