San Francisco is known for outstanding dim sum, but don't forget our many stellar destinations for specific Chinese regional cuisine. Diners can enjoy Shaanxi noodles in the Outer Sunset and fiery Sichuan cooking in Chinatown, or try out more contemporary twists like Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami and Dutch crunch BBQ pork buns at Mister Jiu's. Add these dozen SF Chinese restaurants to your must-eat list — and save room for a custard tart dessert at Golden Gate Bakery (not listed below).
Sichuan "working hands" dumplings; photo courtesy of China Live/Facebook
China Live Market Restaurant
Chinatown’s modern marketplace and expansive ground-floor restaurant offering a wide variety of Chinese fare, casual snacks and inventive drinks.
Must-order: Dongbei vegetarian long potstickers; Sichuan “working hands” dumplings; Peking duck with sesame pockets; the house version of a mai tai
Insider tip: If you’re a tea lover or simply interested in learning about obscure varieties of tea leaves, the restaurant and its adjacent Oolong Cafe are must-visits for all things tea related.
644 Broadway; 415-788-8188
Bustling dim sum classic duo, offering superb dumplings and over 60 other tempting choices served from carts and an à la carte menu.
Must-order: Shanghai pork dumplings; shrimp har gau; BBQ pork bun; sesame balls
Insider tip: Pace yourself. Every cart is tempting (and they come at a fast and furious pace), but you don't want a table full of dim sum platters getting cold. Ask for the carts to come back when necessary.
Z & Y Restaurant
Basic Chinatown quarters for dining on Sichuan and Northern Chinese dishes packed with plenty of spice.
Must-order: Sichuan-style chicken; house special fish in spicy sauce; stir-fried crab; dan dan noodles
Insider tip: Waits can be long at prime meal times even though plenty of reservations are available in advance online and by phone. Plan accordingly so you're not that party of four stuck waiting outside.
655 Jackson St.; 415-981-8988
High-end Chinese multicourse menus with a California accent from celebrated chef Brandon Jew in a restored historic Chinatown space with high style.
Must-order: Dutch crunch BBQ pork buns; pork potstickers stained purple by purple cabbage; roast quail; any dessert
Insider tip: For a more informal, impromptu night without the need for reservations, drop in for a seat at the front bar. You can order from an à la carte menu (which has most of the standout dishes), and you'll have a front-row seat for bartenders mixing up optimistically named drinks like the Tranquility (scotch, melon, five spice tea, lemon).
28 Waverly Pl.; 415-857-9688
Hong Kong Lounge II
A marquee Inner Richmond dim sum destination also serving traditional Chinese small plates, entrees and noodle dishes in the evening.
Must-order: Coffee pork ribs; pork and shrimp sui mai; fish and chives noodle roll; baked pork buns
Insider tip: Many of the daytime dim sum specialties are available at dinner, listed as “Asian tapas.”
3300 Geary Blvd.; 415-668-8802
Photo by Allie Foraker
An upscale Chinese destination on China Live's second floor for elaborate tasting menus and clever cocktails in a space evoking a wealthy merchant's Shanghai or Hong Kong apartment in the 1950s.
Must-order: A 10-course, $225 tasting menu with $125 optional wine pairings or $300 chef’s table experience in the kitchen with optional $200 beverage pairings
Insider tip: Don’t miss the cocktails by one of the city’s leading bartenders, Anthony Keels (previously at Saison).
8 Kenneth Rexroth Pl.; 415-788-8788
R & G Lounge
Celebrated Chinatown bi-level spot for Cantonese grub, served in a basic downstairs space and a more formal upstairs dining room.
Must-order: Live battered crab with salt and pepper; R&G special beef; drunken squab
Insider tip: Having a party at your apartment? Most of the menu is available via delivery and travels well.
631 Kearny St.; 415-982-7877
Photo by Tamara Palmer
Terra Cotta Warrior
A Chinese restaurant serving not commonly seen menu items from the Shaanxi region in a modest but contemporary Outer Sunset space.
Must-order: Cumin lamb burger; Shaanxi mian-pi black sesame oil noodles; pita bread soaked in lamb soup
Insider tip: Make sure to order some cold small plates (generally vegetables or seafood) to add variety to all the lamb and noodle dishes.
2555 Judah St.; 415-681-3288
Everyday dim sum and spicy Sichuan fare with a few twists are served in a simple, cheery Castro neighborhood setting.
Must-order: Shanghai dumplings; shrimp sausage and egg rice dumplings wrapped in lotus leaf; BBQ pork rice roll
Insider tip: The restaurant quietly offers one of SF's leading Belgian beer collections on draft and in bottles.
4416 18th St.; 415-626-4416
Trendy SoMa spot from the celebrated Fang family offering modern twists on Chinese staples in an upscale, Asian-influenced setting.
Must-order: Peking duck buns; xiao long bao; homemade wonton soup; Nanking sesame chicken
Insider tip: For a healthier alternative to fried rice, diners can make their own mix-and-match brown rice bowls with two toppings for $12.
660 Howard St.; 415-777-8568
Mission Chinese Food
Trendy crowds line up for the imaginative Chinese eats at this casual, nationally known permanent pop-up inside the Mission’s Lung Shan restaurant.
Must-order: Westlake lamb dumplings; mapo pork burrito; kung pao pastrami; thrice cooked bacon and rice cakes
Insider tip: When the menu says "spicy," be prepared. The kitchen isn't shy with the heat here.
2234 Mission St.; 415-863-2800
Old Mandarin Islamic
A snug casual restaurant near the SF Zoo specializing in Mandarin Chinese cuisine, including Beijing-style hot pots.
Must-order: Mandarin lamb with lots of cumin; extremely hot pepper (a chopped chicken and chile dish that isn't as extreme as its name); any hot pot
Insider tip: Ignore the online reviews and websites that say the restaurant is cash only. It's fake news! Credit cards are accepted.
3132 Vicente St.; 415-564-3481