We are visiting SF from LA and would love your recommendations for reasonably priced ($10-18 max for entrees), large portion size items that are truly delicious. (basically stuff that my old Chinese grandparents would give their seal of approval if they were around).
In general, we like Asian food but it seems like the consensus is that SGV in LA is better in general. So far, I have on my list Zareen’s, Takahashi Market, and Back a Yard. Are Yamo Burmese and Dragon Beaux worth trying? I heard mixed reviews about the garlic noodles at PPQ and Thanh Long. Any other restaurants we should definitely visit?
We also are okay with 1 or 2 splurge meals for something truly unique and outstanding. State Bird Provisions worth it?
We are staying in San Carlos and have 3 small children but willing to drive. Thanks!
For inexpensive Chinese food, staying in San Carlos, your best bet is the San Mateo / Millbrae / Foster City. I recommend Easterly in Millbrae. My other favorite place went out of business. Hungry Onion’s a good source for tips on that area.
Palette Tea Garden in San Mateo is from the same people who have Dragon Beaux.
Old Mandarin Islamic on the southern side of SF for Peking-style hot pot.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at Back-A-Yard. I used to drive past several times a week and once was enough.
Shalizar in Belmont, great Persian.
For Burmese (which is way more of a thing here than in LA), I suggest Burma Cafe in Daly City. Yamo is a tiny hole-in-the-wall with five? stools at a counter in a neighborhood where parking is a challenge.
Zareen’s is decent/good but it is not something to go out of your way to eat - we live close to one of them and had a few time take out but wouldn’t send anybody visiting SF to go there.
We haven’t tried many Chinese/Asian restaurants in the SGV to be able to compare to local ones but friends who have done both pretty much only recommend Dragon Beaux (or one of their other related restaurants) as unique/better for dim sum than what you get in SGV.
Since we are living close to San Carlos be aware that traffic around that area (if you can’t take 280) can be really bad (same or even worse level than LA) if you have to drive a bit further (SF, South Bay) for restaurants you should take that into account.
The reason I added Zareen’s was someone mentioned that Indian/Pakistani is better in SF compared to LA. Supposedly more depth and breadth in general. We loved Shalimar on Jones several years so was looking for something similar but safe to bring the kids.
You’ll find the breadth and depth of Indian and Pakistani restaurants where lots of Indian and Pakistani immigrants live and work: Sunnyvale, Santa Clara. San Jose, Milpitas, Fremont, and Pleasanton. Anjappar Chettinad is great, but there’s one in Artesia.
Moved from SF to LA about a year ago. There’s not much that’s necessarily worth going much out of your way for in SF that you can’t find in LA. Dim Sum is solid in the Bay Area. Love Yank Sing and Koi Palace. Sushi Yoshizumi is incredible and will rival, if not exceed, the best in LA. Swan Oyster Depot - haven’t been to seafood joints in LA yet, so can’t compare, but it is absolutely a local institution. Some mentioned Refuge and it is a solid gastropub - had many a good meal / beer there. And in San Carlos, I always enjoyed both Milagros (Mexican, but more TexMex) and Donato Enoteca - good food, but nothing special.
can’t speak to fine dining scene up north anymore… hope this is helpful.
if you’re out in the neighborhood of Zareen’s, i think Chef Zhao Kitchen is a very solid shanghainese restaurant. great soup dumplings, special fish gluten, dong po pork, the shanghaninese style sweet and sour pork, stir-fried rice cakes - most other things on the menu are also done well, but this would be a standard restaurant in the SGV.
over on hungry onion, people are really into isarn garden. in my limited sampling, it was very good, but not doing anything you wouldn’t be able to find in LA.