The Sunset was already dense with Chinese restaurants when Terra Cotta Warrior opened in 2014, but by offering something different—specifically Shaanxi cuisine from Northwest China—it’s become one of the most popular spots in the neighborhood. At its heart, this place is a regional burger spot, with several options of cumin lamb (the dominant protein on the menu), pork, beef, and veggie burgers, or rou jia mo, stuffed into skillet-toasted buns. You’re also going to want to become acquainted with their hand-pulled noodles and cold shredded potatoes in particular, because either will help cool your mouth down and bring it back to life after all the heat and numbness. There are a few small veggie dishes like cabbage in chili oil and broccoli with garlic too, but this place is first and foremost for those of us who love meaty sandwiches.
3-In-1 Biang Biang Noodles
The super can’t-feel-my-face showstopper at Terra Cotta Warrior is this plate of wide wheat noodles topped with cubes of dry-fried pork, scrambled egg in tomato gravy, and an intimidating mountain of numbing peppercorns. 3-In-1 biang biang noodles should be an official dish of San Francisco rather than a well-kept secret tucked in the Outer Avenues.
Chili Oil Wonton
The technicolor hue of red in the chili oil wonton shows you that you’ll be feeling the heat once you pop one of these small boiled pork dumplings in your mouth. There’s a flutter of cilantro on top to add a small herbal finish.
Mixed Cold Shredded Potatoes
If rice and noodles are your reflexive side orders at Chinese restaurants, shake it up a bit and get some mixed cold shredded potatoes. The plate of blanched shreds looks like it’s about to go into some hot oil to make hash browns, but instead, you get crunchiness without deep frying. The addition of jalapeño will keep you buzzing, too.
Pork With Garlic Sauce
Share this appetizer, but only get it if you’re with garlic lovers who don’t mind having garlic breath for the rest of the night and possibly into the next day. Thin slices of cold pork are doused in oiled-up pieces of garlic that can overpower your whole meal, especially if you eat too much of it by yourself. But the bottom layer of cucumber slices help to restore your palate.
Cabbage With Chili Sauce
In this interplay between crunchy and sweet vinegar pickled cabbage and carrot and a metric ton of jalapeño slices, the chili pepper is what will hit you over the head. It’s good if you’re ready for that kind of extreme bite, and too much if you’re not.
Spicy Sliced Beef
A simple appetizer of cold slices of beef marinated with red chili pepper and topped with cilantro will start Terra Cotta Warrior meal nicely. Your sauce-requiring friends may lament the lack of a dip on the side, but can doctor it how they like.