San Francisco’s Chinatown claims to be the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. So how could we miss out on visiting this area? As a matter of fact, it was less than a 10 minute walk from our hotel. And we ended up coming here multiple times during our vacation in San Francisco.
Golden Gate Bakery (Yelp)
1029 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
Probably one of the most well known places to go to in Chinatown in the Golden Gate Bakery. Almost everyone I’ve talked to recommended getting the egg tart here.
On our first morning here, Sarah, BH, and I ended up exploring a part of Chinatown while waiting for the Cable Car Museum to open. We figured that we can go to the Golden Gate Bakery, since it supposedly opens early.
Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture on the left, it was closed. We saw a hand written sign on the door, stating that they were on vacation.
Sad sad, our friend who went a couple weeks before said they were closed then. So we were hoping we would have better luck…nope didn’t happen.
I was even told that out of 10 times visiting this bakery, it would probably be opened once. I guess I don’t feel that bad. Anyone have had better luck coming here? Were the egg tarts really worth the hype?
We ended up walking into a post office in Chinatown for some stamps. And you would not have realized you were in the United States. Everyone in there were speaking in Chinese.
I completely forget I was in San Francisco for a second. All of the friendly employees were assisting the customers and not a word of English was heard.
I might be over-reacting but I think the only time I ever hear this much Chinese is when I am watching my Hong Kong dramas. It kind of felt like I was in Hong Kong again. Then it was all back to reality when we asked for stamps in English.
We ended up going to Chinatown everyday we were in San Francisco, but the actual exploring of Chinatown ended with our Post Office encounter. Each time we returned was to get some “authentic” Chinese food. Are you ready for some mouth watering food pictures?
Utopia Cafe (Yelp)
139 Waverly Pl
San Francisco, CA 94108
We came back to Chinatown on the same day for dinner. We ended up picking a restaurant that we had spotted that morning, Utopia Cafe. This is a cute family ran restaurant, specializing in clay pot rice. We ended up ordering eel fried rice, ginger and garlic veggies (pea shoots) and two clay pot rice.
The eel fried rice was something more unique, they were generous with the eel meat yet the seafood taste was not too overpowering on the rice. The veggies came to us as a surprise. We don’t really eat pea shoots at home so we didn’t know what to expect. They came out to be very fresh and had a good crunch. We liked it so much that we ended up ordering a second plate.
The clay pot rice dishes were more of the main dish for our dinner. We got the Chinese sausage clay pot and the seafood clay pot. The clay pots are rice cooked in clay pots topped with some sort of meat and vegetables. Then we top it off with some sweet soy sauce.
The Chinese sausage one is probably one of the more traditional pots. The sausages have a bolder taste and match rather well with the plain rice. And the addition of the soy sauce helps blend the tastes of the rice and sausages.
The seafood claypot was a little disappointing. Although the seafood tasted fresh, it all just felt kind of bland in comparison to the Chinese sausage one. Maybe because we ate the Chinese sausage one first, but it didn’t have much of a taste and really benefitted with some more soy sauce.
On a side note, besides the four dishes that we ordered, we we also we also served some complementary soup and dessert. Apparently this is a norm for Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. Yay for more food!
We came back the next morning to grab some breakfast for our car ride up to Muir Woods. We had an early morning planned and wanted to dim sum, but unfortunately dim sum restaurants don’t open until 10 am or 11 am.
Good Mong Kok Bakery (Yelp)
1039 Stockton St
San Francisco, CA 94108
What was even more promising to me was that it had a 4 star rating on Yelp (thats pretty good for a Chinese bakery) and there were even pictures showing how long the line could get. And I tend to get attracted to long lines for food.
When we got there at around 7:30 am, there was a short line out the door with 2 or 3 people in front of us. So not too bad!
The menu show a wide selection of dim sums to choose from, and you can also see stacks of steamers keeping the dim sum warm. As we were trying to decided a lady tried to cut us in line. I guess that’s a good sign on how much their food is in demand?
We ended up ordering har gao, pork sui mai, turnip cake, baked bbq pork buns, rice noodle rolls, and winter melon pastries. Since we were there rather early some of the things like the shrimp and chive dumplings were not available yet.
I won’t go into detail about how each of these tasted, but they all tasted super yummy. As my dad said, maybe its because this is San Fransisco food, but everything tastes so much better than what we can get in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Hong Kong Clay Pot (Yelp)
960 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94108
We went back to Chinatown one last time our last night in San Francisco for dinner. This time we chose a restaurant called Hong Kong Clay Pot. Like Utopia Cafe, it is a small family run restaurant, but felt much smaller.
It almost felt like the restaurant was located in a small apartment. But it was promising to me when we walked because it was pretty much full and we took the last available table.
Since this place has “Clay Pot” in its name, we of course had to order one. We got the seafood tofu pot. Unlike the one we had a couple nights prior this one did not have any rice in it. The food we ordered were more like the traditional Cantonese dishes eaten with rice.
I really like tofu, so this dish made me really happy. There was a good variety of seafood and the sauce helped blend the tastes of the seafood and tofu. I love to eat this dish with rice, which evens out the bolder tastes of the sauces.
When eating Cantonese dishes, you can never go wrong with ordering seafoods. So we ordered the sauteed clams. This was my dad’s favorite and to our surprise the clams were quite large and juicy!
We also had to be good and order some veggies. This time we picked the water spinach (or as I know it ong choy). When it was served, it was a pale green color, this was really weird to me. But it still tasted really fresh and had a good crunch.
We were craving some westernized Chinese food, and what better option than to get a sweet and sour chicken. The pieces of chicken felt a bit small, but other than that it was sooooo yummy. Like Utopia Cafe, we also enjoyed some complementary soup and dessert here!
All in all, it was super fun to be exploring Chinatown and most memorable of all was the yummy food! One of the reasons I wish we stayed in San Francisco was to try more food in Chinatown.