Part of the anti-racist work we must do in the Bay Area right now is to support our immigrant-owned restaurants that have made our region a world-class eating destination. This is work that tastes amazing.
Last month, SF New Deal, Chinatown Community Development Corporation, and the San Francisco Human Services Agency announced an incredible $3.4 million restart for the community food program Feed and Fuel, which serves seniors and families who are SRO residents in Chinatown through weekly vouchers that participants can use for meals at area restaurants. While this is a sorely needed financial boost for those restaurants — the aim is to bring $1.9 million their way — that assistance will run out quickly and they still need regular customers from across the city and beyond for long term survival.
Rose Pak Democratic Club volunteers put together a guide to Chinatown restaurants that are currently offering takeout and delivery. I grew up revering Chinese food in San Francisco and learned how to use chopsticks not long after picking up a pencil. However, the bulk of my eating experience over the years has been in the Avenues, so their effort has been a helpful resource during my past month of concentrated Chinatown eating in an effort to assemble some current recommendations for you. Since the number eight is associated with wealth, below you’ll find my top eight picks for getting food in Chinatown right now.
Their guide led me to Chong Qing Xiao Mian, and from there I saw that one specialty is the kind of hot dry noodle bowls that are sold on the street for breakfast in Wuhan. I kicked myself for not ordering more than one bowl of this restaurant’s especially fresh noodles with pickled mustard, skin-on peanuts, cilantro and a fragrant and awakening chili oil because it’s a real pick-me-up.
House of Nanking, which is back open for heated outdoor dining, takeout and delivery, brings a light and healthy touch to a lot of its dishes, but you can still get some naughty fried crunch in there as needed, like I did when I paired an order of giant vermicelli filled fried egg pillows with a main course of scallops poached in ginger and garlic served over a stir fry of pea tendrils, cabbage, and spinach. Chef-owner Peter Fang’s daughter Kathy Fang (who runs Fang Restaurant in SoMa) recently launched Fang Kitchen as an online site that ships her super addictive homemade sauces nationwide—you can also add them to your orders at House of Nanking.
I’m a fan of the Hong Kong style remixes of food at Washington Bakery & Restaurant, where my favorite current combo to order is an overflowing roti of roast duck with a side of skinny and soft French fries covered in large pieces of dried and salted egg yolk. (There’s an entire “salted egg series” of items on the sizable menu, if this is a topping that happens to occupy as much space in your brain as it does in mine.) You can also order fresh noodle soup kits and raw dumplings that are boiled in water or soup and ready in six minutes and taste much better than products that have been frozen.
Our centenarian Sam Wo Restaurant and its much-younger owner and chef David Ho are still trying to hang in there, but this is one of those San Francisco places we really don’t want to lose, so it’s a good time to swing by there and pick up an order—or get the new option of delivery if you can’t go in person. I like to order the same items I did when I could sit down inside the restaurant: BBQ pork noodle rolls served with the restaurant’s hot mustard (also sold by the jar), some fish or chicken jook, and a Chinese donut for dipping.
If you would like to not feel your face for a while, you’ll find plenty of numbing spice action at Z & Y Restaurant, and I would direct carnivores to the spicy beef jerky in particular as a sidekick to anything else you order. The small cubes of spicy beef jerky are also great to have on hand in your refrigerator as an omelette topper, dumpling filling, or cold snack for a few days.
House of Dim Sum opens at 7:30am for pickup and delivery, so you don’t have to wait until the weekend for dumplings, buns, and fresh rice noodle rolls—the latter is a particular specialty, and desserts like the peanut and sugar packed sweet rice ball are among the best in town.
One good place to get your fluffy BBQ pork buns is at Broadway Dim Sum Cafe, which also makes a particularly dashing house special noodle soup with pork, bok choy, peanuts, and green onion. A lot of dim sum orders here remain in the $3-5 range, and there are a large amount of rice plates under $8.
Looking ahead, Mister Jiu’s put regular takeout and delivery service on hold through the end of February, so you’ll want to check back in March for that to return along with outdoor dining, but the restaurant is offering an elegant end of Lunar New Year dinner package for two on Feb. 26-27. And on March 9, chef/namesake Brandon Jew will drop his book Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories From the Birthplace of Chinese American Food — pre-order a signed copy via Omnivore Books.
There’s a lot more to enjoy in Chinatown, and now’s a particularly significant time to positively support the neighborhood.