Handheld takeout lunch options in San Francisco Chinatown?

I have a very specific request for Chinatown lunch eats. There is a group of middle school kids that will be going on a field trip touring Chinatown. The chaperones need to find something within Chinatown proper for the group to grab lunch. It has to be to go, easily hand held, not too messy, and hopefully delicious that can refuel the group. Each of the the kids will have their own cash so they can buy their own food. No ordering takeout ahead from a restaurant. No sitting down in a restaurant since splitting the bill is too much hassle. It has to be a counter order type of place. They’ll probably sit down at a park like Portsmouth to eat.

What’s our best bet?

  • Takeout dimsum? Are there any that are palatable?
  • Takeout roasted meat rice plate?
  • Any recommended boba type tea places?
  • What else can we grab to go?

Also, any suggestion for a park that’s more tranquil and less hectic than Portsmouth that a group of ~100 kids and adults can sit down and eat? St. Mary’s Square? Woh Hei Yuen? Any other places?

Not a location rec but a food rec that I recently ate in the same way — stuffed bing (xian bing?).

The places that have them here in nyc also have pan-fried dumplings that are a good option, and easier eating than steamed dim sum.

They’re also typically already cooked in bulk, so quick to order and go.

Bakery snacks would also be easy — various sausage & other stuffed breads, and of course, sponge cakes and more.

That’s quite an excursion!


Honestly that sounds a bit hairy.100 kids with their own $ and paying themselves. I can’t imagine having 100 kids and adults line up outside a dim sum place ordering and waiting…in a crowded SF Chinatown, and then walking to a place to eat? If every kid took 1 minute to order and pay, thats 1 hr 40 mins….and they all wait outside in line on the sidewalk . Also, I’m not sure any take out dim sum place could handle that kind of order on the fly without warning. So if they run out…do the kids at the end of the line get to eat? If not, there’s a problem.

I know you said can’t order ahead but I’d try and consolidate the task because in line with 100 kids and each paying is crazy. Also, there’s the dietary and allergy stuff and kids who will forget their money. Perhaps whose organizing could contact a walking tour group, or a non-profit to help or get info? Others must have done this kind of field trip before. Best of luck. It sounds like fun.


For to-go dim sum type offerings, both savory and sweet

For Boba … (Union Sq/Chinatown adjacent)

For BBQ on the go


I don’t have the details yet but I think the organizers probably will give some suggestions to where people can get food, and individual chaperones, each with a few kids, probably have some discretion where they want to grab food from. But yes, i can’t imagine all of them going to the same place.


Weekend or weekday?

I’ll think about this a bit.

At least on weekends, the long Good Mong Kok lines might be a deterrent, but the lack of queue at adjacent New Golden Daisy makes that block a worthwhile venture either way

Bubble tea next door to golden gate fortune cookie is decent, plus they have a bathroom. On that note, bathrooms, albeit poorly maintained, are a plus for Portsmouth Square, which has Sam Wo right there.

Since @Saregama mentioned xian bing, a jiaozi and xian bing place called Today Food ( anyone been?) recently opened. Its proximity to St Mary’s square might be a plus. St Mary’s is a lot less chaotic than Portsmouth.

Havent been to Woh Hei Yuen Park in a while— you may need to contact rec and park for such a big gathering there


Wherever they end up going, I do not envy the chaperone.

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Smaller groups and chaperones, that makes sense. Somehow I was imagining 100 kids standing in from of Golden Gate Bakery waiting for egg tarts.


This makes so much more sense.

How old are the kids? That might guide what eats make sense too.


This is going to be a weekday event. The kids are around 11-12.

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That will make things so much easier.

Chinatown and the adjacent areas (Union Sq., Little Italy, etc.) are ghost towns on weekday daytimes nowadays.

Sort of sad, but more convenient I suppose.

Someone posted a report on another thread about Today Food’s dumplings. Xian bing are a less dependable item— the women at the counter said it was too hot to make the meat ones today.

iCafe has the triple benefit of good zongzi and pork buns, few choices overall, and never too busy (out of stock stuff on display was cooling on a rack to the side).

FYI, Good Mong Kok has a banner of top 10 that items can help get kids in and out quickly (if there’s no line already)


interesting problem.

here is what i would do. make a map with the approx 10 places that have counter serve dim sum or fast take out. some have longer lines, some are quick with worse food, etc. but there are easily 8 just going by memory and a small search.

Assign one or two chaperones to each place. Set a maximim for each place. Have the kids divide up ( cluster around ) a chaperone. Then each group sets off, gathers back later.

On the back of the paper, pick out 6 classic dim sum that most places have and fit the description of easy to eat, etc. list the general ingredients.

depending on the kids ages, you can have each kid order or self organize, or have the caperone put in a group order. sticking to the items on the back simplifies the standing gawking at a list of 30 items asking what each is.

then you only need 10 counter serve dim sum places. let me see, when i get back to a computer, which i remember. since you can include restaurants with take out, maybe, you can get a few more places, but i would try to organize it so no place gets more than 10 or 15 kids.

Thanks all. The field trip went on successfully and uneventfully. The group size was actually quite small- limited to the number of kids that could fit into a car. So that meant 4 total. And they wanted to just hang out on their own in Chinatown and not combine with other groups so that was actually quite simple logistically.

And three of them brought lunch (somehow that thought never crossed the mind). so the lunch purchase ended up being quick and manageable.

Good Mong Kok was the pick and the lunch was eaten at Woh Hei Yuen a block away. Pleasant and tranquil lunch.

The boba was grabbed in a shop in an alley near the buddhist temples. That was more troublesome logistically since everyone got drinks and it took the shop a while to fill the orders.


Are there enough small take-out places in SF Chinatown to warrant a dumpling and bakery crawl there, like the one we had on 24th Street last month? I’m wondering about
Oakland Chinatown as well.

Yes, esp. bakeries.

They… brought… lunch… to… chinatown…


There are so many places, with so many different specialties, that narrowing down a crawl is difficult, and if you don’t narrow down, you’re not going to make it half way through.

How would you narrow it down?

Here was my crawl for my niece based on this group’s recommendations. I optimized for breadth.