There are probably two things that visitors to San Francisco associate with the city: the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown. And there’s perhaps no one that knows the neighborhood better—or at least the best places to eat—than chef Brandon Jew of Michelin-starred Mister Jiu’s fame. (The restaurant name is his reclamation, a correction of the misspelling of his family’s name upon arrival in America to the proper pinyin romanization.)
Jew opened his restaurant in 2016, and he’s been serving contemporary Chinese American dishes like “dirty” chicken fried rice (which has the addition of okra and corn) and silken mapo tofu ever since. During Mister Jiu’s six years in business, Jew has racked up a number of awards, including three James Beard Awards and a Michelin star.
Mister Jiu’s is located squarely in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, and Jew has been in a love affair with the area for most of his life. He was born in the city and frequented the neighborhood with his family during his childhood, which you can read about more in the piece from our Summer 2022 issue, “What Chinatown Means to America—And to Me.”
Whether you’re craving dim sum or are looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, here are Jew’s picks for the best places to eat in San Francisco’s Chinatown:
Good Mong Kok Bakery
Location: 1039 Stockton St.
Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Good Mong Kok Bakery is a staple of San Francisco’s Chinatown. This no-frills, seatless bakery has always been cash- and take-out-only, even before the pandemic. Good Mong Kok is perhaps best known for its steamed fare, such as baozi (steamed, stuffed buns) and har gow (shrimp dumplings). There’s often a line out the front door of this establishment, so try to hop in the queue close to its opening hour.
Hon’s Wun-Tun House
Location: 648 Kearny St.
Hours: Monday–Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
For authentic Cantonese cuisine and Hong Kong–style noodles served in an unfussy setting, turn to Hon’s Wun-Tun House. Though there are many dishes to choose from, this place is best known (as you might have guessed from its name) for wonton soup—Jew recommends the kind with tendon and fish balls. This place gets busy, so get your party’s name on the sign-in sheet as soon as you can.
The Spicy Shrimp
Location: 150 Waverly Place
Hours: Thursday–Tuesday, 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Spicy Shrimp is well-known for serving up large portions of Cantonese food at affordable prices. One of the most popular dishes is its cheung fun (a steamed rice noodle roll often packed with a protein like shrimp or beef); Jew’s favorites are the egg and shrimp, though there are other options like barbecue pork and bitter melon. Cantonese is the de facto language, so pointing at the menu might be your best bet, though it’s all part of the fun.
Lai Hong Lounge
Location: 1416 Powell St.
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
This Michelin-starred restaurant briefly closed during the pandemic to remodel its space, but it is now back in action with a fresh look and additional dining room areas. Lai Hong Lounge has been a Chinatown staple for nearly 30 years and serves up some of the most popular dim sum in the area, with classics like chicken feet, pork buns, and siu mai. Jew is a fan of its Hong Kong–style crispy noodles, which are first parboiled then stir-fried.
Location: 1261 Stockton St.
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
On the hunt for succulent Chinese barbecued pork and duck? Look no further than Hing Lung, a take-out-only restaurant that’s been in the game for 41 years. Although it does serve sides of veggies and noodles, it’s all about the meats here, from honey barbecue pork ribs to crispy duck wings—Jew recommends the roast pork. In October 2021, Hing Lung expanded to a second restaurant, Go Duck Yourself (located at 439 Cortland Ave.), which serves the same fare and has enough in-house seating for 20 people.
Little Swan Bakery
Location: 1249 Stockton St.
Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Little Swan is located in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown just a few blocks from Portsmouth Square. Jew’s favorite are its pork sung (a sweet, dried, fluffy pork product) and scallion cake rolls, but this bakery also offers contemporary desserts, such as crepe cakes and cream puffs. (Don’t skip its pineapple buns—a sweet bun that doesn’t actually contain pineapple but features a crosshatch topping pattern.)