R & G Lounge
R & G Lounge is the king of Chinatown’s many Cantonese seafood palaces, a gastronomic temple to live fish and shellfish of all varieties, prepared in any number of fashions from crispy fried to stir-fried with ginger and scallion. The quality of the raw ingredients used here is top-notch, and the price often reflects this. Their signature live Dungeness crab, large enough for two and prepared lightly fried with salt and pepper, may be the single best dish in all of San Francisco. Make reservations ahead of time as walk-ins often carry waiting times of over an hour.
R&G Lounge, 631 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 982 7877
No trip to Chinatown is complete without a visit to an authentic Chinese bakery. Eastern Bakery is one of San Francisco’s oldest (it claims to be the oldest) and most revered examples. Homemade pork buns (both steamed and baked), egg custard tarts, and mooncakes are comforting and always satisfying. For special occasions, large orders of mooncakes and birthday or wedding cakes can also be custom made. The best part is that just about every tasty treat here can be found for well under five dollars, making it a great place to stock up on snacks for the coming week.
Eastern Bakery, 720 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 982 5157
Great Eastern Restaurant
Great Eastern Restaurant is a rather excellent Cantonese seafood palace with enormous fish tanks filled with all sorts of ocean treasures to match. However, the real treat here is the dim sum. All of the classic dim sum standbys are done well, from the steamed pork buns to the steamed spareribs and pork shumai, but the seafood options tend to be especially good. Don’t miss the interesting combination of bitter and salty in the dumplings filled with shrimp and snow pea sprouts, as well as the delicate texture of the rice noodle roll stuffed with shrimp.
Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant
Be sure to visit Hong Kong Clay Pot Restaurant to experience the regional southern speciality dish known as clay pot cooking. Here, meats, vegetables, and seafood are placed inside a water-soaked unglazed clay pot that acts as a steamer when cooked. The result is a dish with well-layered and balanced flavors and meat that is always moist and juicy. Chicken and vegetables is the safe option, but branching out to meats like frog and abalone is worth it for those feeling more adventurous.
House of Nanking
A local favorite ever since it opened in 1988, House of Nanking offers Shanghainese cuisine, a rarity in a town dominated by Cantonese restaurants. Although the restaurant offers an extensive menu, it is has become largely unnecessary. Chef-owner Peter Fang is known to simply serve whatever he feels is best that day, despite whatever opinions the diners might have. This may seem strange, but trust in Fang is rarely misplaced. A note of warning; lines are known to go out the door so be prepared for a wait.
House of Nanking, 919 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 421 1429