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Kurobuta pork soup dumplings
Kurobuta pork soup dumplings
Din Tai Fung

19 Quintessential Places to Eat Chinese Food

From hot pot to dim sum and everything in-between, here’s where you can find exceptional dishes across San Diego.

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Kurobuta pork soup dumplings
| Din Tai Fung

Sunday, January 22 ushers in another Lunar New Year — the Year of the Rabbit. Also known as Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, Tet Nguyen Dan, or Seol-Nal, it’s celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian countries, from China and Vietnam to Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore.

Centered around family gatherings and shared feasts, the holiday is also marked by public festivals featuring cultural performances, food, and more. For 2023, local celebrations include a Chinese New Year Festival in Balboa Park, a Lunar New Year Festival in City Heights, and a Chinese New Year Fair in downtown San Diego.

In honor of the New Year, Eater presents our guide to San Diego’s essential Chinese restaurants. The history of Chinese food in San Diego dates back to the 1860s when the first Chinatown was established in an eight-block district where the Gaslamp Quarter sits today. Since then, standout Chinese restaurants have spread far and wide, from Kearny Mesa to North County and everywhere in between, cooking up regional Chinese cuisine and specialty dishes ranging from Shanghai soup dumplings to Sichuan hot pot, Peking duck, and Uyghur lamb.

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Taste of Hunan 湘村人家

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This Scripps Ranch establishment offers a wide range of traditional Hunan specialties, along with comfort food favorites like shrimp fried rice. The fish fillet with pickled vegetables topped with sliced hot peppers and scallions along with the tender beef and broccoli are popular. Another popular item is the marinated lamb with cumin, served on a sizzling iron plate to keep the meat piping hot and crispy. 

Cumin lamb
Taste of Hunan.
Helen I. Hwang

Golden Island

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This Mira Mesa establishment has undergone a revival with Chinese banquet specialties, dim sum, and regular jazz performances and recently expanded with a second Chinese restaurant, Diamond Palace, in the College Area. Its all-day dim sum includes all the greatest hits, like pork siu mai and shrimp har gow dumplings; expect lines for weekend dim sum but they take reservations for parties of eight or more. 

dim sum dishes
Dim sum
Helen I. Hwang

Mr Holy Gao

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This traditional Chinese restaurant in Sorrento Valley is popular among the lunchtime tech crowd and families who’ve been coming for years. The fish fillet in hot and spicy gravy is scrumptious and can be ordered with beef as well. The dry sauteed string beans are crunchy and tender on the inside. Chef Gao’s Special Tofu is a scrumptious mix of firm tofu and jalapenos, covered in a tangy sauce. On the weekends, the restaurant serves a Northern Chinese dim sum menu of soup dumplings and Jingdu pork pancakes. 

Chef Gao’s special tofu
Mr. Holy Gao.
Helen I. Hwang

Din Tai Fung

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The legendary soup dumpling restaurant from Taiwan lives up to its global reputation in the Westfield UTC mall. Diners can marvel at the rigorous dumpling-making process in the kitchen window when they first walk into the dumpling mecca. Pair the Kurobuta pork soup dumplings (also called xiao long biao or XLB) with the pear lychee martini made with whole lychees. Cap off the meal with the unforgettable chocolate XLB for dessert.

Kurobuta pork soup dumplings
Kurobuta pork soup dumplings
Din Tai Fung

Haidilao Hotpot San Diego

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The UTC outpost of this hugely-popular chain specializes in a personalized, entertaining customer experience. To start, the server prepares a bowl of soup for each diner to taste; you can choose up to four bases for your table, from Sichuan spicy to tomato soup. The Dancing Noodle dish is hand-pulled at your table by an expert noodle master, dressed in a traditional Chinese costume with a face-changing mask. 

Hot pot at HaiDiLao
Haidilao Hotpot.
Stefanie Tuder/Eater

Qin West Noodle

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Branching out from Los Angeles, the noodle joint focuses on provincial dishes not commonly found in many Chinese restaurants. House-made noodles are found in the cold liangpi noodles and hot spicy wonton noodle soups. Their Guilin noodle soup (named after the picturesque Chinese city with looming mountains above pristine lakes) is a favorite with generous portions of tender beef shank, pickled vegetables, and lily flowers.

Guilin noodle soup
Qin West Noodle.
Helen I. Hwang

Village Kitchen家湘味

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This cozy establishment is decorated with festive Chinese lanterns, bird cages, and wall murals depicting life in historic rural China. Part of the Dong Ting Chun chain with locations in L.A. and Las Vegas, the restaurant features traditional favorites like stinky tofu, steamed medicinal chicken soup with hog maw in a clay vessel, and Grandma’s braised pork served with steamed buns.

Braised pork with buns
Village Kitchen.
Helen I. Hwang

Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant

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This fast-casual establishment, located in the 99 Ranch shopping plaza, offers quick buffet-style dishes along with the highly recommended homestyle Hong Kong dishes cooked to order in their kitchen. Along with their roast duck and barbeque spare rib dishes, their shrimp with scrambled eggs is a Cantonese specialty that leaves you craving for more.

Shrimp with scrambled eggs
Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant
Helen I. Hwang

Golden City Restaurant

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This longstanding restaurant in Kearny Villa serves a wide range of dishes, from seafood to sizzling beef with black pepper sauce. Popular favorites include Peking duck and shrimp with honey-glazed walnuts as well as whole steamed fish and lettuce wraps filled with minced chicken.

Eastern Dynasty 粤品

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The Hong Kong-style eatery on Convoy Street gives customers plenty of options for seafood and roast meat specialties. The roast pork belly is a standout with crunchy crispy skin combined with tender, juicy meat. Another popular favorite is the lobster, cooked as you like it: ginger and scallion, pepper garlic, or salt and pepper with butter. The add-on noodles round out the entree to balance the aromatic flavors.

Roast duck and roast pork belly
Eastern Dynasty.
Helen I. Hwang

Tasty Noodle House

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Chinese restaurants from L.A. are increasingly branching out to San Diego, and Tasty Noodle House is one of them. This modest restaurant specializes in Shanghainese cuisine as well as scrumptious plates from other regions. The fish fillet and beef with spicy sauce are numbingly spicy and delicious and the Shanghai pan-fried pork buns topped with black sesame seeds are a must-try.

Shanghai grilled pork buns
Tasty Noodle House.

Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon

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This homegrown popular Convoy Street establishment focuses on comfort cuisine. It’s hard to go wrong with any variation of the tasty morsels of dumplings on offer; boiled, steamed, or pan-fried are all good choices. Choose a drink from their extensive list of craft beers, whiskeys, or cocktails, like Mule in a China Shop, from the adjoining 1920s-style Shanghai Saloon.

Pork soup dumplings
Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon.

Jasmine Seafood Restaurant & Express

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One of the iconic mainstays in San Diego, Jasmine’s longstanding reputation as the flagship Chinese restaurant on Convoy Street is well deserved. Its spacious dining area fits the bill for large groups, banquets, and steaming dim sum with rolling carts. Dim sum highlights include seared taro cake and sweet rice wrapped in lotus leaf. Try the elaborate chef specialties like sweet-and-sour rock cod filet and Peking duck. 

Chinese Rock Cod Fish at Jasmine Seafood Restaurant & Express
Jasmine Seafood.
Allen Chan

Kroran Uyghur Cuisine

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Chinese Uyghur dishes come from the Xinjiang province where Chinese Muslims have combined a mix of Chinese and Turkish flavors in their homestyle cooking. They only serve halal meats, and their lamb is especially aromatic and tender. Try the Uyghur kebabs or the Uyghur plov — a subtle rice dish simmered in a cauldron of broth and topped with stir-fried meat mixed with carrots and onions. The hand-pulled Laghman noodles are springy and scrumptious, especially in the spicy fried noodles made with housemade spicy chili oil that you can purchase in jars to take home. 

Uyghur plov with lamb
Kroran Uyghur Cuisine.
Helen I. Hwang

The Noble Chef (豪記)

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This long-established restaurant on Balboa Avenue serves tasty traditional Cantonese dishes. Chef Jia Hao Zhu specializes in gorgeous roast meat dishes, like Peking duck and roast pork. Other popular favorites include the tangy French-style beef dish and chicken stewed with Jinhua ham, Shaoxing wine, Chinese herbs, dried scallops, and shrimp. 

Kwai-pei chicken
The Noble Chef.
Helen I. Hwang

Szechuan Chef

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The Convoy Street restaurant has been on the strip for nearly a decade, serving up traditional dishes along with modern favorites. Standouts include the beef with king mushrooms and dried red pepper chicken, made with small morsels of crispy chicken thighs spiked with scallions and hot Szechuan peppers.

Dried red pepper chicken
Szechuan Chef.
Helen I. Hwang

Shan Xi Magic Kitchen

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The Shanxi region in northern China is known for its knife-cut noodles and vinegary flavors, and this establishment stays true to the traditional cooking methods. With a toothsome, bouncy texture, the house-made noodles are what make this spot special. Biang biang spicy hand-ripped noodles is the star dish, and can be ordered with spicy cumin lamb or beef brisket. 

Biang biang noodle dish at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen.

Shancheng Lameizi Hot Pot

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This hot pot outpost, with headquarters in Beijing, has a 30-year history of providing a fancy version of the Chongqing specialty. Customers can choose from various soup bases, including red-hot spicy Sichuan style and mild pork bone broth. Try the house-made mashed shrimp paste as well as wagyu and Kobe beef to cook at the table. The generous snack bar includes standard condiments, as well as sweet items like fried glutinous sesame rice balls.

Szechuan hot pot soup base and bone broth hot pot soup base at Shancheng Lameizi Hot Pot
Shancheng Lameizi Hot Pot.
Helen I. Hwang

Minh Ky Restaurant

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This longtime staple in the Little Saigon district has been dishing up traditional Chinese-Vietnamese cuisine since 2004. The same owner, rhef Phat Vuong, runs Dumpling Inn and Shanghai Saloon on Convoy Street with his two daughters. Favorites at Minh Ky include wonton noodle soup and roast duck noodle soup, chock-full of protein and homemade egg noodles with scallions and chives in a bony broth. 

Taste of Hunan 湘村人家

This Scripps Ranch establishment offers a wide range of traditional Hunan specialties, along with comfort food favorites like shrimp fried rice. The fish fillet with pickled vegetables topped with sliced hot peppers and scallions along with the tender beef and broccoli are popular. Another popular item is the marinated lamb with cumin, served on a sizzling iron plate to keep the meat piping hot and crispy. 

Cumin lamb
Taste of Hunan.
Helen I. Hwang

Golden Island

This Mira Mesa establishment has undergone a revival with Chinese banquet specialties, dim sum, and regular jazz performances and recently expanded with a second Chinese restaurant, Diamond Palace, in the College Area. Its all-day dim sum includes all the greatest hits, like pork siu mai and shrimp har gow dumplings; expect lines for weekend dim sum but they take reservations for parties of eight or more. 

dim sum dishes
Dim sum
Helen I. Hwang

Mr Holy Gao

This traditional Chinese restaurant in Sorrento Valley is popular among the lunchtime tech crowd and families who’ve been coming for years. The fish fillet in hot and spicy gravy is scrumptious and can be ordered with beef as well. The dry sauteed string beans are crunchy and tender on the inside. Chef Gao’s Special Tofu is a scrumptious mix of firm tofu and jalapenos, covered in a tangy sauce. On the weekends, the restaurant serves a Northern Chinese dim sum menu of soup dumplings and Jingdu pork pancakes. 

Chef Gao’s special tofu
Mr. Holy Gao.
Helen I. Hwang

Din Tai Fung

The legendary soup dumpling restaurant from Taiwan lives up to its global reputation in the Westfield UTC mall. Diners can marvel at the rigorous dumpling-making process in the kitchen window when they first walk into the dumpling mecca. Pair the Kurobuta pork soup dumplings (also called xiao long biao or XLB) with the pear lychee martini made with whole lychees. Cap off the meal with the unforgettable chocolate XLB for dessert.

Kurobuta pork soup dumplings
Kurobuta pork soup dumplings
Din Tai Fung

Haidilao Hotpot San Diego

The UTC outpost of this hugely-popular chain specializes in a personalized, entertaining customer experience. To start, the server prepares a bowl of soup for each diner to taste; you can choose up to four bases for your table, from Sichuan spicy to tomato soup. The Dancing Noodle dish is hand-pulled at your table by an expert noodle master, dressed in a traditional Chinese costume with a face-changing mask. 

Hot pot at HaiDiLao
Haidilao Hotpot.
Stefanie Tuder/Eater

Qin West Noodle

Branching out from Los Angeles, the noodle joint focuses on provincial dishes not commonly found in many Chinese restaurants. House-made noodles are found in the cold liangpi noodles and hot spicy wonton noodle soups. Their Guilin noodle soup (named after the picturesque Chinese city with looming mountains above pristine lakes) is a favorite with generous portions of tender beef shank, pickled vegetables, and lily flowers.

Guilin noodle soup
Qin West Noodle.
Helen I. Hwang

Village Kitchen家湘味

This cozy establishment is decorated with festive Chinese lanterns, bird cages, and wall murals depicting life in historic rural China. Part of the Dong Ting Chun chain with locations in L.A. and Las Vegas, the restaurant features traditional favorites like stinky tofu, steamed medicinal chicken soup with hog maw in a clay vessel, and Grandma’s braised pork served with steamed buns.

Braised pork with buns
Village Kitchen.
Helen I. Hwang

Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant

This fast-casual establishment, located in the 99 Ranch shopping plaza, offers quick buffet-style dishes along with the highly recommended homestyle Hong Kong dishes cooked to order in their kitchen. Along with their roast duck and barbeque spare rib dishes, their shrimp with scrambled eggs is a Cantonese specialty that leaves you craving for more.

Shrimp with scrambled eggs
Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant
Helen I. Hwang

Golden City Restaurant

This longstanding restaurant in Kearny Villa serves a wide range of dishes, from seafood to sizzling beef with black pepper sauce. Popular favorites include Peking duck and shrimp with honey-glazed walnuts as well as whole steamed fish and lettuce wraps filled with minced chicken.

Eastern Dynasty 粤品

The Hong Kong-style eatery on Convoy Street gives customers plenty of options for seafood and roast meat specialties. The roast pork belly is a standout with crunchy crispy skin combined with tender, juicy meat. Another popular favorite is the lobster, cooked as you like it: ginger and scallion, pepper garlic, or salt and pepper with butter. The add-on noodles round out the entree to balance the aromatic flavors.

Roast duck and roast pork belly
Eastern Dynasty.
Helen I. Hwang

Tasty Noodle House

Chinese restaurants from L.A. are increasingly branching out to San Diego, and Tasty Noodle House is one of them. This modest restaurant specializes in Shanghainese cuisine as well as scrumptious plates from other regions. The fish fillet and beef with spicy sauce are numbingly spicy and delicious and the Shanghai pan-fried pork buns topped with black sesame seeds are a must-try.

Shanghai grilled pork buns
Tasty Noodle House.

Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon

This homegrown popular Convoy Street establishment focuses on comfort cuisine. It’s hard to go wrong with any variation of the tasty morsels of dumplings on offer; boiled, steamed, or pan-fried are all good choices. Choose a drink from their extensive list of craft beers, whiskeys, or cocktails, like Mule in a China Shop, from the adjoining 1920s-style Shanghai Saloon.

Pork soup dumplings
Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon.

Jasmine Seafood Restaurant & Express

One of the iconic mainstays in San Diego, Jasmine’s longstanding reputation as the flagship Chinese restaurant on Convoy Street is well deserved. Its spacious dining area fits the bill for large groups, banquets, and steaming dim sum with rolling carts. Dim sum highlights include seared taro cake and sweet rice wrapped in lotus leaf. Try the elaborate chef specialties like sweet-and-sour rock cod filet and Peking duck. 

Chinese Rock Cod Fish at Jasmine Seafood Restaurant & Express
Jasmine Seafood.
Allen Chan

Kroran Uyghur Cuisine

Chinese Uyghur dishes come from the Xinjiang province where Chinese Muslims have combined a mix of Chinese and Turkish flavors in their homestyle cooking. They only serve halal meats, and their lamb is especially aromatic and tender. Try the Uyghur kebabs or the Uyghur plov — a subtle rice dish simmered in a cauldron of broth and topped with stir-fried meat mixed with carrots and onions. The hand-pulled Laghman noodles are springy and scrumptious, especially in the spicy fried noodles made with housemade spicy chili oil that you can purchase in jars to take home. 

Uyghur plov with lamb
Kroran Uyghur Cuisine.
Helen I. Hwang

The Noble Chef (豪記)

This long-established restaurant on Balboa Avenue serves tasty traditional Cantonese dishes. Chef Jia Hao Zhu specializes in gorgeous roast meat dishes, like Peking duck and roast pork. Other popular favorites include the tangy French-style beef dish and chicken stewed with Jinhua ham, Shaoxing wine, Chinese herbs, dried scallops, and shrimp. 

Kwai-pei chicken
The Noble Chef.
Helen I. Hwang

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Szechuan Chef

The Convoy Street restaurant has been on the strip for nearly a decade, serving up traditional dishes along with modern favorites. Standouts include the beef with king mushrooms and dried red pepper chicken, made with small morsels of crispy chicken thighs spiked with scallions and hot Szechuan peppers.

Dried red pepper chicken
Szechuan Chef.
Helen I. Hwang

Shan Xi Magic Kitchen

The Shanxi region in northern China is known for its knife-cut noodles and vinegary flavors, and this establishment stays true to the traditional cooking methods. With a toothsome, bouncy texture, the house-made noodles are what make this spot special. Biang biang spicy hand-ripped noodles is the star dish, and can be ordered with spicy cumin lamb or beef brisket. 

Biang biang noodle dish at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen.

Shancheng Lameizi Hot Pot

This hot pot outpost, with headquarters in Beijing, has a 30-year history of providing a fancy version of the Chongqing specialty. Customers can choose from various soup bases, including red-hot spicy Sichuan style and mild pork bone broth. Try the house-made mashed shrimp paste as well as wagyu and Kobe beef to cook at the table. The generous snack bar includes standard condiments, as well as sweet items like fried glutinous sesame rice balls.

Szechuan hot pot soup base and bone broth hot pot soup base at Shancheng Lameizi Hot Pot
Shancheng Lameizi Hot Pot.
Helen I. Hwang

Minh Ky Restaurant

This longtime staple in the Little Saigon district has been dishing up traditional Chinese-Vietnamese cuisine since 2004. The same owner, rhef Phat Vuong, runs Dumpling Inn and Shanghai Saloon on Convoy Street with his two daughters. Favorites at Minh Ky include wonton noodle soup and roast duck noodle soup, chock-full of protein and homemade egg noodles with scallions and chives in a bony broth. 

Related Maps