Power Ranking Every Two-Word SF Restaurant That Starts With "Dumpling"

Dumpling Baby. Dumpling Specialist. Dumpling Home (not to be confused with Dumpling House). The list goes on.
6 pan fried dumplings with hand holding chopsticks reaching for one and bamboo basket in background

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

Take “dumpling” and throw a word on the end—congratulations, you’ve got yourself a dumpling restaurant in San Francisco. The concentration of these two-word spots in the city is borderline ridiculous, and it can be hard to narrow down which ones are actually worth your time. Despite the similar names, all of these spots have their own distinct strengths, so we decided to rank every single one. 

Our very serious formula takes into account important factors like menu variety, wrapper chewiness, and soup-to-meat ratio of xiao long bao. Bonus points for alliteration (hi, Dumpling Dynasty), or names that make us want to sign a lease and move in (love you, Dumpling Home). If you’re looking for all of our favorite dumpling spots in SF, regardless of what they’re called, we’ve got a guide for that, too. 


photo credit: Erin Ng


Hayes Valley

$$$$Perfect For:BirthdaysCasual Weeknight DinnerWalk-Ins
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Dumpling Home is the gold standard. The blueprint. The undisputed titleholder of all things boiled, steamed, and pan-fried. That’s thanks to their expertly folded xiao long bao, green vegetable dumplings that look like sleeping hedgehogs, and shengjianbao that might spray a scary amount of soup across the table when you take a bite. The Hayes Valley spot is the definition of casual—once you sit, you’ll be in and out within 45 minutes. But you’re not here for ambiance. You’re here for the best dumplings in SF. 

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

The Pacific Heights sister restaurant of Dumpling Home (they also have another location in Oakland called, wait for it, Dumpling Hours) serves almost the exact same menu, so come here when you want the same dumpling expertise in a setting that could double as the lobby of a spa—think entirely white walls, indoor arches, and shiny blob-shaped mirrors. The way to do things here is to order as many dumplings as you are years old, and roll yourself out. 

The only downside to Dumpling Specialist is the fact that there are about four tables inside. It’s the hottest dumpling destination on this stretch of Taraval, so prepare to wait for a seat, or just cave, order your potstickers to go, and plop down at McCoppin Square for a picnic. In this case, all the hype does equal quality—these are some of the best dumplings in SF. Do whatever you can to get your hands on the precious xiao long bao, which are served in tin cups and require extra delicate handling. They’re tiny, adorable as hell, and you should pop them like candy (that is, after they cool off). 

Dumpling Bites in the Sunset is a newcomer to the “Dumpling + Noun” scene, but they’ve quickly risen in the ranks. Their massive xiao long bao, which burst in your mouth like a pork-y water balloon, win our Soupiest Soup Dumplings award by a landslide. And the pan-fried Shanghai-style buns have bottoms so crispy, you’ll hear the crunch of you and your neighbors biting into them reverberating throughout the entire two-story space. 

photo credit: Julia Chen

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

Forget Hellman Hollow—we’re going to Dumpling Park for our recreational activities (read: inhaling boiled dumplings by the plateful). This unpretentious Sunset spot serves classic standbys like pork and napa cabbage or chicken and corn, with wrappers boiled to a precise, perfect chew. It’s very barebones inside—just tables, chairs, and the kitchen in the back—so save this spot for weeknight meals or massive takeout hauls.

When you want top-tier dumpling quality without having to spend an hour waiting for a table, Dumpling Zone is your sneaky sleeper hit. The relaxed Forest Hill spot would be easy to pass by, but you shouldn’t—fantastic pork and crab xiao long bao await. The standout is the shengjianbao that look like puffy balloons of tender pork filling and soup, but you can’t go wrong with any of the dumpling types on the menu. 

If Dumpling Home is the trusty old Toyota Corolla of the dumpling world, then Dumpling Union is the showy Porsche. They’ve got gaudy gold chairs, faux marble tables, and a seemingly random set of neon blue angel wings on the wall that make this place feel like a club-turned-restaurant. And the dumplings go along a similar route: there’s multicolored xiao long bao and spicy siu mai that’s extra red. But despite all the theatrics, each of these dumplings actually deliver on both flavor and quality. 

Don’t get it twisted—Dumpling House has zero relation to Dumpling Home. But this Castro spot is still a great option when your internal clock is in urgent need of potstickers. The space is usually filled with neighbors and groups of friends passing steamers and dunking soup dumplings in vinegar and ginger (the ones here come in those pesky tin foil cups, but hold their form when you pick them up regardless). And if you want to watch the entire life cycle of a dumpling, stare over at the TV playing the whole process on loop. 

Dumpling Kitchen has two locations: the original in Parkside, and a second offshoot in the Castro. Both are worth a visit for the pan-fried pork buns alone, which all have an ombré golden brown thing happening at the bottom—it’s both gorgeous and crunchy as hell. Also get here for the boiled dumplings that look like adorable, wrinkly little brains. Nothing will change your life, but it’s easy to be satisfied by a meal here. 

This mini-chain leans into gimmicks like ginormous xiao long bao served with a straw, and while these are far from the best dumplings you’ll have in the city, you’re coming here for the seafood gyoza, a.k.a. the standout at this SoMa spot. The plump shellfish sacks are stuffed with crab and shrimp, crisped up on the bottom, and dressed up with chili butter sauce. Order one all to yourself, and do your best to ignore the nearby tourists wearing freshly bought Fisherman’s Wharf sweatshirts. 

Not to be confused with its unrelated almost-name-twin Dynasty Dumpling in Lower Pacific Heights (because of course this exists), Dumpling Dynasty is an Outer Richmond spot with average dumplings—nothing more, nothing less. The xiao long bao could pass as golf balls in both size and weight, and have less soup than we’d like. You’re better off hitting up Dynasty Dumpling instead.

Arguably the cutest name on this guide, but unfortunately, the least successful in the dumpling realm. The titular dumplings aren’t far off from what you’d find in a frozen section, but the reason to make a trip here is for the entrées—the stir-fried Shanghai noodles and chicken and green beans are hits. 

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Suggested Reading

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