Inner Richmond: A Multicultural Gem in San Francisco

The Richmond District in San Francisco (not to be confused with the City of Richmond across the bay) is a long swath of residential streets that stretches all along the northern corridor of Golden Gate park to the Pacific Ocean.

Formerly a predominantly Middle Eastern Jewish and Irish-American area before WWII era, the district has evolved over the last 40 years into a neighborhood where no ethnic group constitutes a majority, although a sustained influx of Chinese immigrants has given many parts of the neighborhood a heavily Asian influence. 

Many think of Richmond as the western reaches of Chinatown, because this is the racial affiliation of a plurality of its residents. Foodies and Western bloggers even call it the “real Chinatown” due to the excess of Asian shops and restaurants in the area. But even those of Chinese ancestry however, are amerely a minority here, in an area that might be better called “SF’s United Nations.” The Richmond District also strongly represents a population and cuisines of the Indian subcontinent and northern Africa, as well as Orthodox Russians from the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war.



The Richmond District in San Francisco (not to be confused with the City of Richmond across the bay) is a long swath of residential streets that stretches all along the northern corridor of Golden Gate park to the Pacific Ocean.

Formerly a predominantly Middle Eastern Jewish and Irish-American area before WWII era, the district has evolved over the last 40 years into a neighborhood where no ethnic group constitutes a majority, although a sustained influx of Chinese immigrants has given many parts of the neighborhood a heavily Asian influence. 

Many think of Richmond as the western reaches of Chinatown, because this is the racial affiliation of a plurality of its residents. Foodies and Western bloggers even call it the “real Chinatown” due to the excess of Asian shops and restaurants in the area. But even those of Chinese ancestry however, are amerely a minority here, in an area that might be better called “SF’s United Nations.” The Richmond District also strongly represents a population and cuisines of the Indian subcontinent and northern Africa, as well as Orthodox Russians from the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war.

Since many of the residents here are recent immigrants, they tend to bring with them stronger cultural connections to the foods and ways of their former homes. So you find the opportunity to eat not only the more common Chinese noodles and Japanese sushi, but also Burmese kebat, Korean barbecue ribs, and Vietnamese fried bananas as well. It also strongly represents the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent and northern Africa.

You’ll find a lot of the action on Clement Street, where you can (hopefully) find a parking spot, stroll, sip on a cup of coffee and eat in for lunch or dinner. Here are my favorite spots to eat and drink:

Hong Kong Lounge in San Francisco

Hong Kong Lounge in San Francisco

DIM SUM SPOTS

  • Hong Kong Lounge has two locations. Loved by SF Mayor Ed Lee and my go-to when my Asian family’s in town. Line up early!

  • Good Luck Dim Sum on 8th and Clement, where everyone else goes in the area. If you see locals and regulars lining up to grab fresh shrimp dumplings and BBQ pork buns then you’re in the right place.

  • Clement Restaurant on 7th and Clement. Home of the bun nazi… serves Shanghai style dim sum to-go. Get the chao shao and pineapple buns.

  • Golden River on 23rd and Geary (Outer Richmond)

  • Mayflower on 27th and Geary (Outer Richmond)

RESTAURANTS

  • Aziza: Contemporary Moroccan and Michelin-starred, so it’s a bit spendy. Try the rabbit tagines. 22nd and Geary (closed, boohoo!)

  • Blue Danube Coffee House: It’s not a Viennese coffeehouse, but they offer decent breakfast and lunch, coffee (yes, really), and a great view of busy Clement Street. They also have several beers, wine and cider on tap to drink when Burma Superstar is super packed. 4th and Clement

  • Burma Superstar: My friends and I are crazy for the tea leaf salad (featured in Food Network), platha and dip, tan poi and spicy/crispy chicken. 4th and Clement

  • Chapeau!: Attentive Chef Philippe walks around the tables to share a glass of wine with the customers. Try the skate wing, scallop carpaccio, salmon trio and then French Toast for dessert. 3rd and Clement

  • El Mansour: Traditional Moroccan food I really enjoyed from fish tagine, King Hassan (banana fritter) to kunefe (very sweet). They even have belly dancing, which is great for date night. 32nd and Clement (Outer Richmond)

  • Katia’s Russian Tea Room: A cozy place to down on eggplant caviar, chicken pozharski, beef stroganoff and other Slavic delights. 5th and Balboa

Cinderella Bakery & Cafe, San Francisco

Cinderella Bakery & Cafe, San Francisco

Cinderella Bakery & Cafe: Great piroshki and all around Russian pastries. Close to Katia’s on 5th and Balboa

  • Mandalay: My friends and I rely on this restaurant for good Burmese and Mandarin cuisines when Burma Superstar is packed. Try the tea leaf salad, samusa soup, Burmese curry lamb and the Mandalay special noodle. 6th and California

  • Thai Time: A hole-in-the-wall serving thai food without MSG. Try the had duck, kung roll (delicate prawn in wonton), and mango sticky rice. 8th and Geary

  • Toy Boat Dessert Café: The interior of this whimsical hangout is decorated with loads of cool toys you never got for Christmas. 5th and Clement

  • Troya: A Turkish ‘meze bar’ with a menu that veers all over the Mediterranean, with everything from Middle Eastern spreads to Greek salads, plus some dishes not seen in the Bay Area. I usually order for pick-up. 5th and Clement

The Plough & the Stars, San Francisco

The Plough & the Stars, San Francisco

IRISH TIMES

After my summer trip to Ireland, I wanted to feel an authentic experience again. There’s no better place for that than the Inner Richmond.

  • Ireland’s 32: Named for the Emerald Isle’s 32 counties, this old-school pub pulls pints about as good as any you can get outside County Kildare.

  • John Campbell’s Irish Bakery: My boyfriend and I loved this place, from the scones to rhubarb tart, and of course the Snowballs – sweet and decadent bread rolled in coconut, sliced with raspberry. 21st and Geary (closed, boohoo!)

  • The Plough & the Stars: Anyone looking to hear live Irish music will find a little bit of heaven in this pub. Local, upcoming and famed Irish musicians make their way to the Plough’s stage often, and have been doing so for over 20 years. They also have pool, darts and perfectly poured Guinness round out this esteemed neighborhood haven.

With shopping, you won’t find ritzy stores like some of its eastern neighbors. It’s a great place to get Chinese paper lamps, Czech beer, remainders, kosher Israeli meats, and overstocks of everything from Italian purses to books, European microwaves, vintage action figures or East Asian toys (think Pokemon and Dragonballs Z-kai).

Have you been? Let me know what you think of this ‘hood.

Beverly Rose