San Francisco’s Chinatown, the largest outside of Asia, provides streets of restaurants, grocery stores, and shops for a whole afternoon of fun. Which is exactly what we did.
Roaming around the streets trying to find a dim sum place for Sunday lunch, we crammed ourselves in with other locals (and tourists!). Dried goods line almost every grocery store, fresh produce just right beside, and the smell of BBQ pork everywhere!
We ended up finding Dol Ho, a small dim sum restaurant that offered to go items. Definitely a hole in the wall place, with minimal seating but packed to the brim with locals aside from one group of confused tourists seated communally with a group of seniors. As we entered, we increased the tourist count, and likewise, were seated with a couple of elderly ladies, happily chatting away and eating a bowl of rice and spare ribs.
When we were seated, we quickly became confused as well. Items coming in from the back kitchen were lost in translation as none of the servers could speak English! Although we’re both Asian and had a rough idea of what we wanted to eat, we had to go with the tried and true method of “look, point, and eat.” Time to experiment! Our first dish: a shrimp batter nested inside sliced eggplants. Normally not a fan of eggplant, this dish was actually well done. The shrimp batter was nice and light and the eggplant added quite a bit of substance to the dish. It surprisingly held its shape during the preparation and wasn’t mushy at all, contrary to a lot of eggplant dishes that I had tried.
Our usual dishes started to roll out at this point: dumplings! The traditional pork siu mai dumpling, along with variations of shrimp and vegetable dumplings. Delicious! The couple sharing our table smiled at our selections and nudged the soy sauce and chili condiments towards us. Not that it required any of it, as they were all well seasoned.
By the time we finished our dumplings, we were in a bit of a lull. Not knowing what else to order from the carts and definitely craving to try something other than dumplings, we waited. When a different cart pulled up, our chatting tablemates pointed to a steamed rice and pork dish that they previously shared. Taking the cue, we nodded and tried it out. Pretty good! And although I had no idea what the pricing was on any of these dishes, I imagined this was the cheapest because it was not a seafood dish. Bang for your buck? Knowing the elderly Asian population, that’s probably why they urged us to try it. It filled the rest of our bellies up and we called it a day!
My thoughts? Although not your tourist trap, and trust me, we saw them along the streets, Don Ho ended up being pretty decent dim sum. It’s nothing particularly special, just some home-style cooked food, freshly steamed dumplings, and a chance to try new dishes at the suggestion of your new San Francisco friends. The price? For the two of us, it ended up being a tad less than $20. Bonus! No wonder the two women shared a rice bowl and left smiling!
Washing down our dim sum eats, which can be a heavier lunch than most, I opted for some guava bubble tea down the street. A nice relaxing day! Highly suggested if you’ve finished your tour of the Wharf and the piers and want to check out what else San Francisco has to offer.Dol Ho
808 Pacific Ave