The Best Burmese Restaurants In SF guide image

SFGuide

The Best Burmese Restaurants In SF

Seven great spots, yes, including Burma Superstar.

The Bay Area has one of the largest Burmese communities in the US. So, safe to say, Burmese cuisine—known for its mild curries, noodles in an array of forms, and, of course, tea leaf salad—has a strong foothold here. From snug neighborhood spots and cash-only counters to Burmese institutions that have been around for decades (looking at you, Burma Superstar), there's no shortage of options. Use this guide next time samusa soup, and curry over coconut rice are on your mind.

THE SPOTS

Mandalay

Mandalay was the first Burmese restaurant to open in the city back in 1984, and the Richmond spot is still holding it down with hearty dishes you’ll instinctively want to hunker down over on foggy nights. Creamy ong no kaw soi is packed with bouncy noodles and strips of chicken. The balada is flaky perfection. And the tea leaf salad here comes without romaine lettuce, making it an earthier and more intensely nutty version than the others in town. It’ll boost your mood, much like Mandalay’s sun-yellow space and colorful decorations. 

When it opened in 1992, Burma Superstar got everyone with a pulse hooked on their tea leaf salad. Today, it’s even sold in local grocery stores, and Burma Superstar itself is a mini-empire, with a handful of spinoffs throughout the Bay. The original in the Richmond is still a go-to for no-fuss weeknight dinners, provided you’re willing to wait. That infamous line for a table is thanks to the consistently excellent Burmese staples coming out of this place. Yes, the tea leaf salad continues to be straight-up iconic, but so is everything else on the menu, like rich house curry, lightly battered sesame chicken, and buttery platha.

Burma Love is one of Burma Superstar’s aforementioned spinoffs (there’s also a swankier location near Union Square). It feels like the trendy, younger sibling that ended up more popular in high school, so we come to this Mission spot for occasions that call for extra-nice sweaters and cocktails with dinner. This place has a full bar, a bustling dining room with gorgeous tiled walls, big tables for groups, and a menu of dishes that are as good—if not better—than the original. Wok-tossed meat and vegetable plates and well-spiced curries loaded with chicken or eggplant are mainstays on every table. And everything is served in portions big enough to feed the Warriors starting lineup.  

Yamo is a tiny, cash-only Burmese spot in the Mission specializing in fantastic wok-tossed noodles. But you’ll need some patience to get them—there are a limited number of seats at the counter, so expect a wait outside during prime dinner hours. Once you’re in, prepare for greatness. A single bite of Yamo’s garlicky house noodles with pork is all it takes for you to commit to getting a “good comes to those who wait” tattoo on your ring finger. Get it with the tea leaf salad with fresh cabbage. Both are delicious and cost $8, as do most of the curries and soups on the menu. You won’t find a better deal in the city.

The menu at this Outer Richmond restaurant is split between Burmese and Thai dishes. But you’re reading this guide, so hone in on the Burmese side. Go for the palata, a buttery showstopper served with chunky chicken curry for dipping. Another can’t-miss: the ginger salad that hits you right in the nose with pickled ginger strips. We also love this laidback spot because it’s easy to grab a table, making it ideal for your next quick weeknight dinner or any time you need to fuel up before an afternoon of wandering around Land’s End (lunch is served on weekends).

On weeknights when you’d rather fold 100 fitted sheets than pull out a frying pan and cook dinner, the answer is always Burmese Kitchen. This spot has a lengthy menu of soups, noodles, and meat and seafood entrées—so if you don’t know where to start, go for the springy garlic noodles. They’re loaded with pork and crunchy garlic you’ll want atop everything on the table. They pair well with the bone-in chicken coconut curry, an onion-y dream. The best part? Walk in and you’ll always find a seat inside the bright orange space. 

Early 2023, Inle Burmese Cuisine moved from its original Noe Valley location to a bigger spot in the Inner Sunset. Even if they were to set up shop inside the bison paddock, we’d navigate through the herd and follow them—their Burmese specialties are that good. From mohinga, a fish and rice noodle soup, to fragrant chicken curry with chunks of potatoes, the comfort dishes don’t miss. The casual spot also has lunch specials on weekdays, a menu of Thai dishes like pad see ew and fried rice, and plenty of space to sit—all added bonuses to coming here.

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photo credit: Sarah Felker

The Best Burmese Restaurants In SF guide image