14 Essential Dim Sum Spots in the Bay Area
Flag down a cart to order buns, rolls, dumplings, and more.
Dim sum: it's one of the most delicious ways to brunch (or brunch for dinner) that exists, but it can be a little intimidating at times, with all of those carts and servers who really don't want to take "no" for an answer. Well, here's how to make it intimidation-free:
Start with buns, rolls, and dumplings—but don’t order too much, because this is a marathon, not a sprint. If the restaurant uses carts, you can always order later from the menu or ask them to return (although, um… good luck with that). Be adventurous—now IS the time to try Chicken Feet or Durian Puffs—and don’t stop until you can’t eat another bite. If the whole cart situation feels overwhelming (we get it!), no worries. This list also has plenty of spots where you can order from a menu, including a couple of counter service options. And almost all of them offer takeout or delivery, although let’s be real: a soup dumpling is never as delightful as when it arrives straight from the kitchen.
Thanks to Bao, there is now a spot dedicated to dumplings on Valencia and 17th. Watch the magic unfold from the front windows and then enjoy it unfolding in your mouth at one of the indoor or outdoor seats. The menu has all of your favorites, plus some unusual interpretations, like a Beef Bao with kimchi and Baked Wasabi Sticky Rice. Considering this is a newcomer in a trendy SF ‘hood, it’s no surprise that many of the dishes are not just tasty and satisfying, but also fun to look at, especially the Coconut Bunnies and the Swan Puffs, which both look like the animals after which they are named.
How to enjoy: Walk-in or order online or pickup.
Dragon Beaux 俏龍軒
In case our recommendation isn’t enough, the fact that Dragon Beaux is the brainchild of the people who pioneered Koi Palace should do it. It’s a great option if you’re looking for excellent dim sum that’s a little out of the box (and also very photo-worthy). While you’ll find all of the traditional classics, some have a modern, slightly more refined spin via toppings, unusual ingredients, and presentation (the five guys Xiao Long Bao in five colors is a popular one for Instagram, but also has amazing flavor and texture).
How to enjoy: Reserve a table online, order takeout online, or get delivery via Caviar.
Dim sum is probably the last cuisine you think of when you think of Hayes Valley’s bustling restaurant scene, but now’s the time to change that as Dumpling Home is putting out some fantastic dumplings in a casual environment that’s perfect for settling and digging in. Obviously, the dumplings are the hero—try them all: steamed, boiled, and pan-fried. The “numb and spicy” Pork Xiao Long Bao is not to be missed and lives up to its name in the best way possible. The vegetable dumplings are not only delicious, but beautiful (we’ve never seen a dumpling wrapped quite so elegantly)—just make it your mission to eventually eat your way through the entire menu.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only or order online for takeout.
United Dumplings is a Bernal Spot spinoff of the Excelsior’s Beijing Restaurant that serves delicious traditional dim sum, but also fun and unusual takes, like a super-sized soup XLB that comes with a straw; a Korean bulgogi-flavored beef dumpling; a chicken breast, mushroom, and truffle oil dumpling; and a Mission chicken potsticker with chicken, sweet corn, and mozzarella cheese. And while some have strong opinions about United Dumplings’ departures from tradition, we promise once you try everything, your only opinion will be, “Yes, please!”
How to enjoy: Walk-in for indoor or outdoor dining or order for takeout or delivery online.
New Asian Pearl Millbrae
Millbrae is full of dim sum destinations, and Asian Pearl just might be the crown pearl of the airport city. This is grown-up, elegant dim sum: the Steamed Radish Cake is properly grease-free, they've got some artsy dumpling options, and you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, including the more traditional dishes like Chicken Feet with black bean sauce. The desserts? Exemplary fried Sesame Balls, Salted Egg Yolk Thousand Layer Cake, and gooey, charred-in-all-the-right-places Portuguese Custard Tarts.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only. Order online for pickup.
One may not immediately think of Alameda when it comes to dim sum, but the very spacious (350+ seats) yet incredibly comfortable dining room of East Ocean Seafood has hour-long waits for good reasons. The classics are winners, like delicate dumplings with Dungeness crab or the marinated seafood and pork dumpling wrapped in bean curd skin. Finish with durian custard-filled pastry puffs, which are sort of like beignets gone haywire. Go during lunch if you want to experience the bustle of the carts, or during dinner if you prefer to do your food ordering all at once.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only. Order online for pickup or delivery.
Good Mong Kok Bakery
If there’s one place to get takeout fare in Chinatown, Good Mong Kok Bakery is it: a seatless, bargain dim sum shop where the very affordable Pork Buns, Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai, and a myriad of other dough-filled selections are right on par with the Bay Area's best of the best. Make sure to grab a Steamed Egg Cake for dessert.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins and takeout only.
Great Eastern Restaurant
This restaurant in the heart of SF’s Chinatown is well known for a surprise visit from President Obama in 2012, but also its classic menu and ambiance. Be sure to order the Zhu Zhou Dumplings, which are plump with pork and peanuts. This is also the place to rock the seafood side of dim sum: do any of the shrimp dumplings or rolls and the Deep-Fried Salt and Pepper Octopus. And definitely don’t skip the Golden Pumpkin Fries—sliced pumpkin fried tempura-style in a salty egg yolk batter. Reports say our former POTUS ordered basically half the menu, so probably just follow his lead and do the same.
How to enjoy: Walk in (no reservations), call 415-986-2500 for takeout, or get takeout or delivery via delivery apps.
Hong Kong Lounge I
Hong Kong Lounge I (not to be confused with Hong Kong Lounge II, which is closed because of a fire) is a cart-free zone, but still a good choice for dim sum, especially if you’re a fan of baked goods. The Steamed BBQ Pork Buns, filled with pork bathed in a house-made barbeque sauce inside of golden brown bun that is perfectly light and chewy are a must, as are the butter-rich Egg Custard Buns and not just because they are delightful (and Instagram-worthy) since they come out decorated as little piglets.
How to enjoy: Call 415-668-8836 to make a reservation for parties of six or more. Order online for takeout or get delivery via Uber Eats or other delivery apps.
The Kitchen 廚房製造
Almost as close to SFO as the rental car center, Millbrae’s The Kitchen utilizes various master chefs and consultants from Hong Kong and China (who definitely know what they’re doing) to help furnish lavish abalone- and crab-filled dinner banquets and equally quality dim sum dishes during the day. Check out top-notch Chicken Feet in black bean sauce with lots of nice gelatinous meat to gnaw on and beautifully constructed Sui Mai dumplings.
How to enjoy: Call 650-692-9688 for reservations.
Past the lions guarding this massive three-story, 400-seat giant, which shares parking lots with Taco Bell and Burger King, you'll find elite-tier Taro Root Rolls, Durian Pastries, chilled, steamed tripe with fiery pepper sauce, and killer Salted Egg Yolk-Fried Pumpkin. Show up with an entourage because big plates are really where it’s at. The (probably) ten pounds of fried noodles with fish are jaw-dropping, with a snazzy crisp exterior evolving into soft noodles towards the center. Across the street from The Kitchen, it's locked in an epic Millbrae showdown these days. One that we all win.
How to enjoy: Walk in or order online for takeout.
At 400+ seats strong, Koi Palace makes a Vegas Strip restaurant seem like an intimate wine bar. Luckily, there are no carts—otherwise, they’d need stoplights. This dim sum mecca is popular for a reason, and you’ll be happy with everything you order, but the Shanghai crab broth and pork-filled dumplings—the ultimate dough-filled example of surf and turf—are just two of the shining stars, best ordered in a large group, so you also get a whole fried crab with the dumplings. If you’re hesitant about molasses-sweet Stewed Chicken Feet or Stewed Tripe, now’s the time to try them. Oh, and if you are long-line averse or tend to get hungry, do not go on a weekend. Just don’t. On a weekday, there’s no wait.
How to enjoy: Make a reservation online or get delivery or takeout from UberEats and other delivery apps.
Millbrae and the Outer Richmond are definitely dim sum epicenters. The Castro? Not so much. Well, that is unless you're at Mama Ji’s, home to outstanding Shanghai Xiao Long Bao dumplings and handmade pulled rice rolls. Of particular note are the crispy-on-the-outside and pillowy-centered seared Pumpkin Cakes that are really deep-fried pumpkins filled with red bean paste that taste like autumn in a bite. Dim sum rules at lunch and takes up much of the dinner menu—including Szechuan classics (where chef/owner Mama Ji is from) offered as dim sum, like the gigantic, palate-numbing plate of spicy cold noodles. And you can always enjoy Belgian beers on tap.
How to enjoy: Walk-ins only. Order pickup and delivery via Caviar.
Yank Sing remains the most celebrated and gold standard of dim sum joints in the Bay Area for good reason. The Shanghai Soup Dumplings are essential and the Shrimp Har Gow should be as revered for perfection in texture and timing as Zuni’s roast chicken. Yes, Yank Sing can be crowded—its reputation brings in locals and tourists alike—and the cart action can be intense. Plan accordingly and go on a weekday or be smart and reserve. Yes,you can reserve a table—a rarity in dim sum.
How to enjoy: Rincon Center (Embarcadero): Reserve on OpenTable or order takeout or delivery online. Spear Street (Financial District): Reserve on OpenTable.