Way out along Balboa, under the fog belt, lies San Francisco's greatest value meal. An unassuming little restaurant called the Shanghai Dumpling Shop churns out wonderful northern Chinese specialties at prices that boggle the mind.
I hope I will not regret ever posting something about this restaurant here, but good things like this really need to be shared among folks who love to eat, whatever the risk of potential overcrowding.
There are two important things that you need to know about Shanghai Dumpling Shop.
1. In a word: cheap. Ruth and I frequently eat our fill here for $10
2. Fresh. Just about everything they make is home made, from the noodles in your dish, to the skins on your dumplings.
There's nothing to say about the decor, or the service -- they give you a clean place to sit and bring your food when it's ready -- its all about the food. I go back again and again for one dish in particular: Beijing style boiled chive dumplings. These lovely little white pillows are lovingly fashioned by the same man who delivers them with flour covered hands to your table. Each dumpling is a rice flour skinned pouch filled with a bit of soup and fresh chives and pork, all of it bursting with flavor. The soup spoon is required to easily pick them up and keep them from sliding out from between your chopsticks. If you can manage it, they should be dipped into the small dish of soy sauce, vinegar, and shredded ginger that is the only other thing on the plate with the 10 lovely mouthfuls of goodness (about 8 of them are a full meal for me).
Other favorite dishes there include the hot and spicy beef stew with vermicelli noodles, the stir fried rice cakes, and any of their other dumplings, but especially the Shanghai style dumplings.
If you're there on the weekend, especially on Sunday, you can expect to wait a little while for a table of 4 or more, but the bonus of the weekends is that they make fresh homemade soy milk, which they serve hot and either salty or sweet to your taste.
During the week though, you can get lunch which includes 1 dish, rice, and soup for $4.95. This is also a great place to come with a large group of people. They have set menus for 4, 6, and 8 people. I can't read the small handwritten sign above our table to see what they include, but Ruth tells me that for 4 people you get 7 different dishes for $38. Not $38 per person, just $38.
I'm frequently the only Westerner in the place but no one seems to care who you are as long as you enjoy the food. And I am sure you will.
Shangai Dumpling Shop
3319 Balboa Street (bet. 34th and 35th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94121
Open 11-9 during the week, 10-9 on weekends. Closed Thursdays.
How much?: Ruth and I had lunch today (2 dishes, fresh soymilk for two, and tea) for $12.
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