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Living in Nobtown (on the street dividing Nob Hill and Chinatown) has opened our eyes to some pretty fantastic culinary adventures since September.  What’s not to love about having some of the freshest produce in town one hill away (we see it being unpacked each morning as we’re running through!).  Not to mention the fact that we can stock up on a weeks worth of fruits and vegetables for approximately $10, compared to the same purchases at the city’s finest grocery stores for at least three times the price.

But, our real obsession is dim sum, the to go variety.  Dim sum is offered at every other shop as you walk through Chinatown, but as we’ve found they are not all created equal.  Most are edible, all are cheap, and a few deserve a blue ribbon.  The BBQ pork bun is our litmus test.  Besides being one of our faves, the pork bun tends to vary greatly.  We’ve scientifically landed on a relationship between the yum factor of the pork bun and the rest of the dim sum offerings.  With lunch under $10 for two, let’s just say that we’ve tried our fair share.

We’ve found two so far worth talking about.  The winner is Good Mong Kok Bakery.  Their BBQ pork bun is to die for.  It’s the perfect ratio of bun to filling and, oh, the filling is delectable!  The service leaves something to be desired, but I’ll leave that to the language barrier.  Leave plenty of time to stand in line for these buns because there is almost always one out the door.  There’s pressure when you get inside to order, so ask for the cha siu bao and then point to anything else that tickles your fancy – you can’t go wrong! By the way, if anyone knows the trick for getting a hold of their pot stickers, please tell.  I have yet to be there when they have any left.

The second place goes to New Fortune Dim Sum.  The tiny shop is on the edge of Chinatown with friendly service and a few tables to sit and enjoy, though we usually get ours to go.  You can see the mixers and owner next door preparing the products for the next day.  As for the BBQ pork bun, the filling is excellent, while the ratio of bun to filling is a bit off – the bun overpowers.  The other offerings are tasty too and there is rarely a line more than one or two deep.  They rarely run out of the most popular things until late in the day.

Bonus Round!  Though not in Chinatown, the BBQ pork bun is worth mentioning at Out the Door, on Bush Street and in the Ferry Building. They are close to triple the price at $3, but the bun/filling ratio is perfect and the filling itself is just right.  They also offer some other dim sum-like tastes in the $3 range that are always worth a try.  For the record, their vegetarian spring rolls are the best that I’ve found in the city.

We’ve only just skimmed the surface for to go dim sum in SF, but be sure to include these in your dim sum tour should you have the opportunity.  And…please share your favorites – I’m on a never-ending dim sum lookout and would love to try your gems!!!

One last note, we’re dying to go on the Rick Evans Chinatown tour which is supposed to be fantastic for locals and visitors.  We haven’t made it yet, but I would bet he has some gems to share when it comes to dining in Chinatown.  So, sign up next time you have a little extra time and a desire to learn something new about our city!

Update (9/13/12):  We found another counter service dim sum well worth the trip.  Though we still probably hit New Fortune the most because it is closest, we prefer the dim sum at Wing Sing Dim Sum (1125 Stockton).  It’s a winner, so don’t skip it on your dim sum tour (hole in the wall variety) of Chinatown.