You don't have to go to Chinatown to find delicious dim sum in San Francisco (though there's some there, too). Dim sum, which is traditionally eaten for breakfast or lunch, involves picking out several different small plates to share and enjoy with friends and family. It's most associated with Cantonese cuisine, and since San Francisco has the highest percentage of Chinese Americans in the U.S., it's no surprise that the city has some of the country's best dim sum restaurants.
From traditional cart service to table Lazy Susans and even take out, dim sum is not just a meal but an experience, and SF's eateries offer everything from modern interiors to mouthwatering soup dumplings. Here are some of the city's best dim sum restaurants—get ready to indulge!
Hong Kong Lounge
Loyal customers flock to this massive spot (located within the city's Outer Richmond neighborhood, north of Golden Gate Park) that's about as close to authentic Chinese dum sum as you can get outside of Guangzhou. Offerings include traditional taro cakes, sticky rice in lotus leaf, and baked pork buns, as well as a range of colorful innovations, such as purple yam dumplings and fried green tea sesame balls. Come with a big group, order a lot of different dishes, and get ready to roll yourself out the door once you're through.
Shanghai Dumpling King
Dumplings are undoubtedly a specialty at this Sunnyside District dim sum eatery, most notably xiao long bao: a pork-filled soup dumpling oozing delicious broth from a firm exterior, though there are a ton of other varietals (think dumplings filled with spicy pork and chives; and vegetarian steamed dumplings) to choose from. They're also known for their chow mein, which makes the perfect dumpling pairing. Parking in the neighborhood can be difficult, but the Dumpling King's dim sum is also available to go.
The more modern off-shoot of Daly City's much-beloved Koi Palace, SF's Richmond neighborhood Dragon Beaux elevates the dim sum experience with an extensive menu of creative fare—items like squid ink dumplings and roasted duck burritos—and a hot pot menu that has customers returning in droves. Favorite dishes at this contemporary space include the Five Guys Xiao Long Bao, a selection of color-coordinated soup dumplings that range from spinach-skin dumplings filled with kale to dumplings filled with black truffle and wrapped in a skin of squid ink. The restaurant's egg yolk lava bun is a crowd favorite as well.
Kingdom of Dumpling
A tiny hole-in-the-wall that doles out handmade dumplings by the dozen, the Sunset neighborhood's Kingdom of Dumpling whips up a vast selection of dough-wrapped dim sum from across China. The restaurant's xiao long bao are good, but its Northern-style shuijiao dumplings are even better. Also on hand: bean paste crispy cakes, onion pancakes, and multilayer beef pancakes.
With two downtown locations (one in the Embarcadero and the other in SOMA), Yang Sing is a favorite stop among business workers. Each of its lively restaurants serves a mix of traditional and contemporary dim sum offerings straight from mobile carts, which makes the possibility of ordering to your heart's content all but guaranteed. Still, it's hard to pass up such delicacies as phoenix-tailed shrimp lightly battered and deep-fried, savory chicken turnovers, and lettuce cups filled with sautéed minced chicken and Chinese lap cheong sausage. It's even more so when they're carted directly by your table.
Walk-ins are standard at this brightly-lit Castro spot where the food is prepared home-style and delivered with flavor. Marv and Lily (“Mama Ji”) work together to recreate the kinds of Sichuan cuisine Lily grew up eating. Opt for the pork shrimp shumai and Shanghai dumplings or indulge in a hand-pulled rice roll filled with barbecue pork. A selection of Belgian beers are also on the menu. Both Marv and Lily are longtime Castro residents, giving the place a community feel.
Dim Sum Club
Tucked inside Nob Hill's Da Vinci Villa Hotel, the Dim Sum Club offers its customers a menu of dim sum staples at a convenient location along Van Ness Avenue, with friendly service and affordable prices. Though it's only been open since 2014, this unassuming eatery has garnered a loyal following who come for pork and shrimp shu mai, steamed barbecue pork buns, and deep-fried shrimp dumplings—not to mention delectable xiao long bao.
A modern, lively space opened by SF's Omakase Restaurant Group, SOMA's Dumpling Time puts a fresh spin on traditional dim sum with its Asian-California fare. The focus here is on (you guessed it!) dumplings, and guests can watch as they're being continuously handmade in a glass-enclosed dumpling room. Along with various types of har gow (steamed dumplings), bao (steamed or seared buns), and gyoza (pan-crisped Japanese dumplings), Dumpling Time serves up a selection of small-plate quick bites, meats, seafood, and noodles. The restaurant's also known for its craft beers.
Customers pour into this contemporary food emporium in the heart of Chinatown for its stunning interior design as well as its incredible selection of eats, with dim sum being one of this 30,0000-square-foot space's most popular offerings. From “water dumplings” to Dongbei vegetarian long potstickers, there's plenty here to please your palette and create more than just a meal, but also an experience.
Great Eastern Restaurant
Located in the city's Financial District, Great Eastern features an extensive array of dim sum offerings—even President Obama came here for his dim sum fix in 2012! Though its two-story interior is basic, menus provide colorful dim sum pictures so guests can order accordingly. There are nearly 100 dim sum items to choose from—items like steamed fish balls with vegetables, spicy salt-baked octopus, and water chestnut cake—in addition to a more expansive menu later in the day.
Good Luck Dim Sum
If you're worried about the line snaking out of Good Luck Dim Sum, it just means the food is that good. Plus, the line moves quickly at this no-frills takeout restaurant (just make sure to have your order thought out before you get to the register, because dawdling isn't appreciated). Most sets come with three items and cost just $2, so you can easily order a feast to-go and then walk it over to the nearby Presidio or Golden Gate Park for a picnic. Make sure the pork siu mai and shrimp chive dumplings—two of the house specialties—are on your list.