Allow me to show you the ways of the Force, JKB …
Tak Kee Lee - if you go for breakfast, try a combo noodle soup. Perhaps a pickled mustard greens with pork, fried sunny egg, spam with an extra charge for instant noodles. Or pork chop in there somewhere. If coming for lunch (they are no longer open for dinner), lemongrass fried chicken wings rice plate, HK style drumstick rice plate with fried egg and sweet soy sauce, or whatever else looks good to you. Get a half milk tea half coffee (if hot, with condensed milk) or a cold version. If you are feeling adventurous, get the iced lemon coffee (no milk), I swear this stuff is like crack and they do it right. Otherwise if the older guy with glasses is there by the cashier, order the lemon tea…although lately they no longer poke the lemons for you.
Zhong Shan Hakka Cuisine on Taraval - Chef Li used to work at Hakka Restaurant on Balboa and was pretty legendary over there. He left and retired then decided he got bored at home and took over the Taraval spot. The original Hakka Restaurant is now run by his former sous chef and they say is no good. You’ll want to bring more people if you come here though. If you do come here and only have one room, if Chef Li is in the house, the sweet and sour spareribs is fantastic…otherwise it’s not bad but other chef might put a bit too much sauce over it. What’s amazing about this prep is that they use pickled garlic or leek bulbs to add complexity to the sour. Legit OG Cantonese style although a touch rustic, but really good stuff. If you don’t want this, Hakka pan fried stuffed tofu with pork is a good choice. Their pre order only double boiled soup (whole chicken wrapped in a pork stomach) is glorious, but you’ll need at least 6 to 8 to feast on it. If you have time and room I suppose give it a go anyway and see how this place works out for you. I would suggest not ordering salt baked chicken unless you are able to preorder a whole one and have enough people with you.
Marco Polo Gelato (Taraval) - legendary. Fewer flavors than Polly Ann (which is ice cream) but I feel far better experience and taste/texture overall. Especially if you are into black sesame, Marco Polo Gelato’s version beats the smell out of the black sesame ice cream at Polly Ann. MP’s Durian gelato is super amazing for those who are fans of Durian. Jackfruit is supposed to be good too. I’m more into the black sesame and Chinese Dragonwell Green Tea gelato combo. Do taste the lychee and red bean gelato as well, not bad at all. Coconut is decent too. The traditional Italian flavors, nowhere near as good as the Asian flavors. Walking distance from Mr Bread.
Stones throw from Mr Bread - Smile House Cafe. Cash only. Mostly HK style western fusion menu and a lot of fun. Inconsistent, but their chilled “champagne” milk tea (bottled cold milk tea on a bucket of ice) is worth the admission. Sometimes the brisket and tendon lo mein is good, and their BBQ pork neck meat fried egg rice (although the neck meat is nowhere near as great as Ming Kee). I quite fancy their spicy tomato sauce ox tongue spaghetti, and their HK style Hainan Chicken rice is not bad once in a blue moon.
Yuanbao Jiaozi - the Jiaozi are not so good…not a lot of filling and a bit too much skin sometimes and the mouthfeel is a bit weird. Focus on their beef noodle soup. The regular one is pretty good but last time I went the salt left a weird coating on my tongue. I think they use some sort of rib side brisket, but they cut into cubes. Noodles are soft, but the broth is good. They now have a sour cabbage beef noodle soup, never tried it.
Ming Kee - get a side order of their crispy ginger powder marinated chicken feet (I believe the Cantonese name translates to “Sand ginger phoenix claws” or “white cloud phoenix claws” (even to go if you like and just eat it in house with your rice plate), or take a look at the take out menu (deli by weight) and see if there’s anything else you want to try. Soy sauce chicken is a must and make sure you order is using regular chicken (in Cantonese “central” (zhong gai) chicken for the plump ones, or “ground” chicken (dei gai) for range chicken which is better suited for Empress chicken, but the local Toishanese want range chicken for anything). Roast duck is inconsistent, if you are unlucky it’s boney as F. You could do a 3 meat combo, but safest is half lean half fatty cha siu (on the sweet side, so eat it with their ginger scallion oil to bring the Force back into balance) with soy sauce chicken or just one protein. You could do soy sauce and empress chicken side by side too. If you are feeling gluttonous, upgrade to an uncut soy sauce chicken thigh, or duck leg/thigh for a fee. Or go low carb / no rice and just do plain protein entrees.
On Irving Street, you can pop into Pineapple King Bakery (they specialize in pineapple buns) and you can get a pineapple bun with butter with a milk tea. It’s not super duper but it’s not bad and they toast the bun to order and put a small slab of salted butter inside for you (which is a nice touch since most bakeries won’t do that). It’s very close to Yuanbao for a bang bang. I think they also offer half sized pineapple buns too and ones with different fillings inside.
Mr Bread…suggest you try both Portugese egg tart and HK style egg tart (which I prefer). Local Cantonese and Taiwanese have mixed views between Mr Bread’s egg tarts vs Golden Gate Bakery (which has skyrocketed to $2.75 per!)…if you happen to be in Chinatown and the wait is not bad, and if GGB is open give them a try.
Dumpling Kitchen might be worth exploring (further down on Taraval though I haven’t been yet). I’m loving Dumpling Alley these days on Clement Street … it’s much less heavier Shanghainese themed bao and dumpling fare that suits Cantonese tastes and done in a nice refined way. The shrimp paste stuffed cruller is a must order for first time visit. XLB and SJB are very decent. Avoid beef noodle soup, it’s not the kind you are looking for.
Andytown… hmmm mixed feelings since the consistency hasn’t been there. Though give the original Snowy Plover a spin, it’s more about that in house whipped cream.
Some friends like Chili House on Clement Street.
Thai Nghiep Ky Mi Gia (Sunset on Noriega Street)- originally started by a female chef who left Hai Ky in the Tenderloin and doing Vietnamese Chinese noodles. It’s different than Trieu Chau in Santa Ana in style. I’d say just stick with #13 and order broth on the side, wide egg noodles then remix the condiments like you’re at a DJ competition. When they do the kidney right it’s very good. And when the shrimp cracker (with whole fried shrimp on top) is freshly fried it’s amazing. Skip the marinated duck leg pork wontons, those are inconsistent. The tendons only noodles (dry, broth on the side), basically tendons from Bo Kho, are pretty good too.
You could also look into Le Soleil on Clement. While their clientele are mostly Hong Kong expats, Asian Americans and non Asians, the flavors are quite fun…SE Asian + Vietnamese fusion. The coconut milk curry Dungeoness crab claypot is great if you want to splurge, and they’ll give you some baguette to soak it up…and if you go I think Monday or Friday lunch, they’ll offer their version of Hainan chicken and it’s very good (refer to the pictures i posted in the recent Dec 2019 thread). The soy sauce marinated flambe quail is very tasty too (appetizer). Other items could be a bit hit and miss. Chef owner Dennis Wong spends his time between SF and the Hong Kong location which I think is anchored inside a hotel in Kowloon (word is a multi billionaire from HK came to SF, tasted the food and became an investment partner to open the HK branch!).
Coffee: not too many great choices unless you really enjoy third wave which is more prevalent (higher acidity, under roasting). Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission is decent and if you’re worried about the higher acidity, get it as an affogato. Home which is up the street from Thai Nghiep Ky is ok in a pinch but the young un’s prefer to go their for their various toasts. If you make it to the Ferry Building, you can try Blue Bottle’s affogato with Humphrey Slocombe’s Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee ice cream, or get yourself a pint from Whole Foods (they might still have the HK milk tea ice cream, but it’s a bad joke…don’t bother with that one).
B Pat - you could bang bang it with Arsicault croissant…either a plain, almond, or chocolate. Ham and cheese is excellent too.
I’m sure I’m missing a ton.