AAWAA staff and resident foodies give us the lowdown on some restaurants in San Francisco to try.
by Michelle A. Lee and Melanie Rose
If you’ve seen our Eating Cultures exhibition from 2013, you’ll know that food culture and foodways is a topic prevalent in Asian American culture. AAWAA’s been hosting its own community potlucks and art-themed dinners at our command. So we decided to compile a list of places we like and love of familiar and not so familiar local Asian and Asian American establishments you should try.
In the Bay Area we’re spoiled with Burmese options, but growing up in the San Francisco Richmond district Burma Superstar was my first love and current favorite. Re: Ordering – Tea Leaf Salad, Samusa Soup. That’s all you really need to know. If soup and salad just isn’t going to cut it, I usually get the Nan Pia Dok (spicy coconut chicken noodles), Steak Kebat, and Coconut Rice too. -MAL
They’re open pretty late and have great, quick service. I usually get the delicious crispy pork belly and the duck larb. Both have just the right amount of spice. Their menu specials also offer some more out of the ordinary fare like alligator, frog, and boar. -MR
Belinda Leong has a way with butter! She and her crew make the loveliest butteriest pastries including decadent kouign amann, passionfruit almond bostocks, and fruit and chocolate stuffed croissants. The beautifully refined and modern space is a great place to go with friends for a little self-care. If you go, look for the whimsical macaron-tree artwork on the wall. #treatyoself -MAL
It’s a little hidden spot in the Mission that looks more like a green 50s ranch-style house than a restaurant, just down the street from the AAWAA Studio. The pho is pretty good. I also really like their imperial rolls (they put fungus and taro in them!) and vermicelli bowls. The servers are very friendly (imagine being fed by Vietnamese uncles and aunties). And for the price, I’m here all the time. -MR
MCF is my go-to Chinese restaurant near the AAWAA studio. I love their clever reinventions of Chinese-American classics, and it’s the only place where I can be reminded of the glories of New York Chinese takeout/Jewish delis and get my Sichuan Peppercorn málà fix at the same time. My favorite dishes are the Tiki Pork Belly, Egg Egg or Spicy Peanut Noodles, Long Beans, Cumin Lamb Ribs, and Schmaltz Rice. If you dine-in (recommended) take a moment to look up at the 60ft long crowdfunded New Year’s Dragon. -MAL
This unassuming spot in the Inner Richmond is everything I ever want in a Korean restaurant- open pretty late, house made banchan, and a sweet Korean auntie serving up each dish with efficiency. It’s what I imagine home cooked Korean food to be like. Not to mention, that soft tofu soup is always good on a cold and windy San Francisco eve. -MR
Two words…chicken wings. Salt and pepper chicken wings! Whenever we’re in Chinatown we have to fulfill this craving because these are the wings that dreams are made of. They’re savory and crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Every time I get an order I eat the bones clean. -MR
This cute, bright little spot is great for brunch. They serve up seasonal dishes with well-crafted, tasty ingredients and also offer four-course taster dinners. And the presentation for the dishes is just to die for! Totally unexpected for the foggy Outer Richmond. Note: Saturdays have Caturday Brunch specials for sangria and dessert if you wear something with cats on it. Meow. -MR
Super new to the food scene (they just opened some months ago). Known as a rustic Filipino restaurant in the SoMa with a kamayan (eating with your hands) option dinner for Friday and Saturday nights. They also offer the basics for lunch and dinner…garlic fried rice with lechon kawali, please! -MR
I enjoy tiny, dirty well-worn spaces and salty rude matter-of-fact service – and that’s why I love Yamo! The Yamo ladies churning out inexpensive Burmese & Chinese greasy spoon fare don’t have time to mess around, so be sure to decide what you want before you take one of the 10 counter seats. What will you want? Cold or House Noodles, maybe a tea leaf or mango salad to break up the carbs, and a carbonated beverage to wash it all down. -MAL
Like our suggestions? We are offering to cook two private dinners for 6 at your home if you back Mural Muses, the first mural honoring Asian American women artists, at The Connoisseur Level. Visit the campaign page to see more about the project and the perks.