The Flavors of San Francisco’s Clement Street – California, USA
San Francisco’s Chinatown has always been a tried and true stop on any tourist’s itinerary, but the wealth of restaurants and shops that line Clement Street in the city’s Inner Richmond District are just as fascinating and colorful. Here you’ll get a taste of San Francisco’s vast array of Asian influences without having to elbow your way through Chinatown’s kitsch and crowds.
Asian influence with elbow room
The nucleus of the action on Clement lies in the stretch between Arguello and Park Presidio Boulevards, where a diverse community of city residents goes about the daily business of life in San Francisco: grocery shopping, meeting friends at cafes, getting haircuts, and fighting for parking. Up and down the street, cooks hang freshly roasted ducks for display in shop windows, hipsters slouch into their favorite bars, and teenagers slurp brightly-colored bubble tea drinks and giggle into cell phones.
In addition to a practically limitless selection of Chinese options, you’ll also find places that specialize in the cuisine of Burma, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Hawaii and beyond. Keep an eye out for storefronts dedicated to Hong Kong-style pastry, dim sum and hot pot. For take-out dim sum, check out the cases at Wing Lee Bakery and Good Luck Dim Sum for a broad selection of fresh dumplings, pillowy bao and rice porridge, or dine in on Mongolian lamb at inexpensive Taiwan Restaurant.
Some might consider Burma SuperStar, the anchor of Clement Street. Arrive early at this enormously popular (and tiny!) restaurant, or you’ll face long lines. The host will happily call your cell phone number when your table’s ready, if you prefer to wander around the area before your meal. It’s hard to go wrong here, but phenomenal favorites include the rainbow and tea leaf salads, samusa soup, SuperStar noodles and Burmese curry.
For a more interactive dining experience, head to Fune-Ya and snap up a few color-coded plates off the wooden sushi boats as they float temptingly before your eyes on a lazy river. Murasaki offers a more intimate, traditional sushi bar experience; it’s probably best to come with just one or two friends, given the small size of the place. Pho Clement, Mai’s, and Minh’s Garden offer solid, cheap Vietnamese food served with a smile. For a more portable meal, turn the corner on 6th Avenue and pick up some banh mi – Vietnamese sandwiches served on fresh baguettes – filled with your choice of meat, hot peppers, mayo and pickled vegetables, from Little Vietnam Cafe.
Clement’s culinary possibilities extend far beyond the Pacific Rim. Troya serves authentic Turkish meze and dishes like beyti, thinly-sliced lavash rolls stuffed with ground lamb and topped with tomato and garlic-yogurt sauces. The San Francisco Chronicle listed Restaurant Clementine as one of its top 100 restaurants last year for its cozy versions of French classics like mussels in vermouth, seared foie gras, and roasted rack of lamb. Feeling more casual? Drink too much, talk too loudly, and tuck into heaping plates of hearty comfort foods at fun, boisterous Q. Opt for the roasted chicken and mashed potatoes plate, or a giant helping of macaroni and cheese – with a side of tater tots, of course – then choose a tater-appropriate wine from their big binder o’ booze.
If you still have room, pop into Toy Boat for silly toys and a hot fudge sundae. Or admire Japanese candy packaging while you wait for a warm Nutella crepe at Genki. After you’ve had your fill, head a few blocks south on any of the numbered avenues and take a quick stroll through Golden Gate Park. But don’t dawdle too long here; after all, you only have a few hours until it’s time to eat again.