SFGuide

The Best Xiao Long Bao In SF, Ranked

Don’t burn your tongue.
The crab and pork xiao long bao from Dumpling Zone

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

SF runs on dumplings. Just look at the sheer volume of dumpling shops, iconic dim sum places, and the comical number of two-word restaurants that start with the word “dumpling.” But among all of the boiled, steamed, and pan-fried versions in town, the honor of “most beloved” goes to xiao long bao. 

Even though there are tons of options for soup dumplings across the city, not all XLB are created equal—so we decided to rank the best of the best in this guide. In it, you’ll find the top nine spots doing juicy meat parcels, including one place that offers a tableside xiao long bao service and another that dyes their wrappers with beets and spinach. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Lani Conway

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It was a close call, but the xiao long bao from HK Lounge Bistro in SoMa narrowly snagged the top spot thanks to these two words: tableside service. The soup dumplings here are served with a level of attentive theatrics usually reserved for fine dining places, but here it’s precious rather than over-the-top extravagant. Each wiggly dumpling is pulled off the steamer by a server who has been seriously trained in the art of not ripping the wrapper. Then the server gently dunks it in vinegar, places it into a spoon, and crowns it with an individual strand of ginger. We have never experienced anything like this. 

Dumpling Home in Hayes Valley nails every element to a textbook-perfect xiao long bao. The wrapper is so translucent you can see the soup through it. The fall-apart filling is savory and soaks up even more flavor from the soup. And there are tons of different options here: there’s the classic pork, yes, but you can also get your XLB filled with crab, beef, or numb and spicy pork. Come here, order one of each, and pat yourself on the back if you make it out without a burnt tongue.

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

There are now two locations of Dumpling Story—one in Pacific Heights and one in the Mission—and both have identical menus to their sister restaurant, Dumpling Home. So naturally, the xiao long bao at this swanky spot will also send you into a pork-and-soup-induced state of bliss. If you want a broth-filled bao with a bit more crunch, get the shengjianbao with crispy fried bottoms and enough soup to spray across the table. 

Dumpling Specialist is Parkside’s hottest dumpling destination, as evidenced by the perpetual wait on weekends and most nights. That’s because they’re leading a masterclass in tiny xiao long bao. They have the most delicate wrappers out of any spot on this guide—the skins get all wrinkly around the pork filling and practically dissolve when they hit your tongue. It’s only five to an order, so do the necessary math to make sure everyone in your group gets their fair share, or prepare to end a friendship over the last one.

You’ll see a pretty standard menu of steamed, boiled, and pan-fried dumplings at this Forest Hills spot. But obviously, you should zero in on the xiao long bao. The selection is similar to the ones at Dumpling Home and both Dumpling Stories, but the best one is the crab and pork—it’s topped off with a plume of crab resembling a macaroni penguin, and bursts like a salty seafood water balloon in your mouth. 

The headliners at this Sunset spot are, indeed, the mini potstickers—they’re basically dollar coin-sized xiao long bao that get fried until crunchy on the bottom. The minis have a decent amount of soup proportional to their size, but if you want to go for a more traditional soup dumpling, they have those, too, with tops twisted into chewy little nubs. And while you wait for your table, you can peek into the window where staff fold dumplings alongside a mountain of pork filling.

The xiao long bao from Dumpling Bites in the Sunset are each the size of a golf ball. If we were handing out superlatives, these would be crowned Soupiest Soup Dumpling. They also come in orders of 10, which is helpful when you’re attempting to consume your body weight in pork and savory soup. This two-story spot is also big enough to fit a dance floor in the middle, so it works for group dinners involving piles of steamers or last-minute weeknight meals. 

At Dragon Beaux in the Richmond, you’ll go in on xiao long bao more colorful than Union Square on Tulip Day (you can also find the same rainbow dumplings at their sister restaurant, Palette Tea House). In terms of presentation points, there’s really no competition—the skins are dyed with squid ink, beets, spinach, and turmeric, and each one has distinct corresponding fillings. The only issue is you’ll have to split the five different one-biters between your group, which will inevitably lead to more than a few passive aggressive sighs. Best to order one steamer apiece.

This casual Castro spot—not to be confused with Dumpling Home—is the neighborhood’s answer to any spontaneous xiao long bao needs. It’s easy to walk in any night of the week, especially if your internal soup dumpling clock is sounding the “need XLB now” alarm. The ones here come in those tiny tin foil cups that we truthfully find unnecessary, but they still hold their form when you pick them up and dunk them in the requisite vinegar bath. 

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