28 Waverly Pl., Chinatown
If you're looking for world class Chinese food in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown, Mr. Jiu's is it. Chef Brandon Jew takes a modern approach to traditional Chinese food, putting his own twist on classic dishes such as pork buns and black sesame cake, already earning him a Michelin star in his first year. The wood paneled floors give the space Old World charm, but the views over the financial district let you know that you're at the heart of the city. They also have a wonderful bar with drinks such as “Harmony” and "Clarity", again blending Western spirits with traditional Chinese flavors like green tea, ginger, and lime.
Good Mong Kok Bakery
1039 Stockton St., Chinatown
"If you are on the go in SF and don’t have time for a sit-down meal, be sure to head over to this bakery and pick up some takeout. This is where Chinatown’s denizens shop for everything from breakfast to afternoon tea. Arrive early, since things sell out fast, and then power down into full Zen mode while hanging around in that long line. The counter ladies can be cranky and rarely speak English, but then again you just need to hustle your way to the counter, place your order, plunk down your cash, and leave. Snag some baked char siu buns, whatever steamed dumplings grab your fancy, and a couple of flaky pastries." —Carolyn Phillips
772 Pacific Ave., Chinatown
This place is as cavernous as a high school basketball court, but it's inevitably jam-packed with Chinese folks. Lots of them are elderly, telling you that it's good and cheap. The deep-fried radish cakes, Chinese beignets, and crackly-skinned pork belly here are the best. Always order off the menu and get things freshly made—this is especially important with the fried and steamed items, which lose too much of their magic when they’re wheeled around that enormous room. Get here before the rush. Park in one of the city lots and then wander around old Chinatown to work off those delicious calories.
242 Columbus Ave., Chinatown
This historic kitchen (the space has been around for close to a century) churns out the kind of no-frills, endlessly satisfying Italian food that for whatever reason appeals to ex-New Yorkers. The fact that the restaurant has been thoroughly revamped by April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman (The Spotted Pig, the Breslin) helps the cause, too. There's nothing precious about the plates of pasta and generous orders of whole roasted chicken, which is probably why getting a table is close to impossible unless you're willing to put in the time to wait. If dining alone, the bar is the ideal place to do so in peace. If you're with a large group, inquire about their private room—the entrance is located on the other side of the kitchen's warm chaos.
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