In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a proliferation of Taiwanese restaurants cropping up in the San Francisco Bay Area, more so than anytime in the last 30 years. Not quite sure what the reason is, but I’m pretty sure this awesome article about a weekend trip to Taipei is the culprit. But hey, I’m not complaining. I mean, who doesn’t love to be surrounded by an abundance of delicious Taiwanese fares such as beef noodle soup, oyster omelette and minced pork rice to keep us occupied on the weekends.
Hence, we are doing our civic duty by selecting the most noteworthy Taiwanese restaurants to grace the Bay Area. Excluded from this list are both boba-first joints and hot pot joints. Essentially, we are only including sit down restaurants that serve traditional Taiwanese street fares, which, that statement alone can be open to interpretation. But again, since we are the ones paying the cash to keep this domain up and running, we get to make the final call on which Taiwanese joint falls on this list. =)
Since new restaurants are continuously popping up and there are restaurants we definitely have missed. Let us know in the comments section, but do be cool about it and try not to flame us.
13. Southland Flavor Cafe (台南風味小吃)
Must Get: Xiao Long Bao, Glutinous Rice Meat Ball
The OG spot on this list. These guys have been around since the first Bush administration was in office. Hell, I remember Southland Flavor Cafe as having the most nostalgia-inducing commercial on the Chinese news station(channel 66 or 26 for all of you Bay Area folks out there) ever, frickin, evening. At one point, these guys were one of the only game in town. It expanded operations beyond the original Cupertino locations out to a few branches, most notably, in the McCarthy Ranch plaza in Milpitas. It pains me to rank them this low, but admittedly, things haven’t exactly gotten better since its heyday back in the 90’s. None the less, the wide
12. Jim’s Taiwanese Cuisine (詹台灣料理)
Must Get: Chicken Roll, Steamed Pork Bun/Gua Bao
In the 90s, Pleasanton was a food desert when it came to Asian cuisine, despite the fact that there was a steady stream of Asian folks moving out to the area. Thanks to Jim’s Taiwanese Cuisine, those Pleasantonites(is that what they call them?) don’t need to trek the 30 minutes to get to Fremont to get their fill of fried pork intestines. Jim’s is the go-to spot for delicious Taiwanese fares along with less common eats such as the fried chicken roll, which, we just can’t get enough of.
11. Redi To Go
Must Get: Bento Boxes(any)
Redi To Go is one of the newest entrants on this list, but its place suggests that it is already earning its keep as one of the best Taiwanese places in the Bay. What makes Redi To Go so different from all of the other places here is the fact that it got it’s start selling bento boxes akin to the bento that you get on Taiwanese trains and railway stations. From big ole fried pork cutlets to chicken legs that can break your neck, it is a taste of the old country in the middle of 3rd Street in San Mateo. Woot!
10. Grand Harbor (廟口小吃)
Must Get: Braised Pork Rice, Stinky Tofu
Situated in a strip mall wedged between a Jamba Juice and a Japanese restaurant, if you are not looking for Grand Harbor, you could very well miss it. The only mark against this place is that it sits, almost next door, to the number 6 restaurant on this list. Which, is kind of like getting your pick of Arianny Celeste or Brittney Palmer as your date for the night(MMA reference). There are no losers here, only multiple winners. Probably one of the only places in the bay that serves big sausage wrapping smaller sausage. No, that is not a sexual reference. Get your mind out of the gutter.
9. Mama Chef Taiwanese Food(媽媽家)
Must Get: Beef Noodle Soup, Stinky Tofu
We found out about Mama Chef years ago when we were doing one of our earliest food reviews here. It certainly says something when the beef noodle soup at Mama Chef’s Taiwanese Food is considered one of the top 5 places in all of the Bay. It goes without saying that this is one of the spots you need to hit up if you consider yourself a Taiwanese food aficionado. Make sure you don’t have a date for the night so that you can pair a bowl beef noodle soup with the stinky tofu for a fun night in. #noregrets
8. Taste of Formosa (舊情綿綿)
Must Get: Tube Rice Cake(筒仔米糕), Salt and Pepper Chicken
For all of the Michelin Starred restaurants and all of the proclaimed Chinese restaurants in the city, I’m saddened by the fact that there is only one(count ’em) authentic Taiwanese restaurant in the entire city of San Francisco. Located on Clement Street in the Outer Richmond, Taste of Formosa is downright bomb. Its tube rice cake(筒仔米糕) evokes memories of walking down Shida nightmarket in a non-drunken haze and its pop corn chicken beats anything that Tapioca Express puts out by a mile. Ask for the upstairs seating and a bottle of Taiwan beer, you are halfway there to becoming a Taiwanese citizen. Also, off topic here, but does anyone think that tube rice cakes are shaped like a can of cat food, but more delicious and less cats?
7. Liang’s Village Cuisine (梁媽媽家)
Must Get: Beef Noodle Soup, Green Onion Pancake Roll
Liang’s Village Cuisine is among of of the many fantastic Taiwanese joints in the Cupertino area. Not surprising given that Cupertino is predominantly Taiwanese. So you know the fares that you get in this city is not only authentic, but supremely delicious. The green onion pancakes rolls with meats are to die for. I’m not just saying that because I’m hoping the good people at Liang’s hooks it up, but because these rolls are the perfect mix of sweet, savory, sour, crunchy and delicious all thrown together. On top of that, Liang’s makes one of the best bowls of beef noodle soup anywhere in the Bay.
A photo posted by LJ (@lilbluexox) on
6. Fusion House (好年東)
Must Get: Goose Meat, Fried Intestines. Glutinous Rice Balls
We have written about Fusion House before and visited them more times then a drug addict does with his dealer. Suffice to say, Fusion house is legit. Their glutinous rice ball(肉圓) is almost as delicious as the unsanitary version you get on the side streets of Taipei. I use to believe that without the street oil, sweaty cook and the smokey output from scooters that no rice ball can be as good as the ones in Taiwan. While that is true, Fusion House does come pretty close.
5. Red Hot Wok (好客棧)
Must Get: Scrambled Bitter Melon with Duck Egg, Hakka Stir Fry
Wooden tables and benches, bottles of empty Taiwan beers on the wall and the smell of fatty oily stir fry coat the air of this glorious place known as Red Hot Wok. Taken cues from street side vendors from the neighborhoods of Taiwan, the food is Taiwanese stir fry staples, instantly familiar to anyone who is either from or has spent time in Taiwan. Although slightly salty, the food is meant to be paired with copious amounts of beer and eaten with a shitload of friends. Best do what the locals do. Send out a Facebook invite, start up a LINE group chat, and get your best buddies down there on a Saturday night for a rip roaring good time.
4. Chi (柒台式熱炒)
Must Get: Silk Gourd with Clams, Tofu with Preserved Egg, Crispy Intestines
Chi has only been around in the Taiwanese food scene for a year, but the impression that it has made on people has been tremendous. Chi is located in Lion’s Supermarket Plaza around Dixon Landing road. Currently occupying the space held by an all-you-can-eat hot pot place, Chi has been faring a lot better than it’s predecessor. The silk gourd with clams is to die for and the crispy intestines is out of this frickin world. The last time I had fried intestines like this was on the side of a busy road, next to an underpass in Taoyuan. It is that good and Chi is that authentic.
3. Mama Chen’s Kitchen (陳媽媽廚房)
Must Get: Beef Noodle Soup, Oyster Vermicelli
Despite being the 2014 winner of the Best Beef Noodle Soup in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mama Chen is more than just beef noodle soup. The pristine decor hides the fact that they serve some of the best home favorites this side of the Pacific Ocean. How’s the stinky tofu? So delicious that it smells like a leaky sewer pipe ran afoul in Chinatown. How about the oyster vermicelli? It’s so delicious that if presented in a paper cup, it’s still damn delicious.
2. Du Xiao Yue (渡小月)
Must Get: Three Cups of Pork Intestines
At a glance, you might think Du Xiao Yue is related to the famous chain that originated in Tainan. No, this is its American offshoot that has nothing to do with the original. Despite the obviously lifted name, Du Xiao Yue is one of the best Taiwanese restaurants in the entire San Francisco Bay Area. It might be the fact that it is so nondescript, located in a hidden strip mall facing the Tesla factory. It could also be that it’s three cups of pork intestines is so good I could’ve swore doves were crying when I ate this. Best of all, if you aren’t down with the salt or suffer from high blood pressure, you’ll love Du Xiao Yue as its food is the least salty of all of the places on this list. Plus, my Taiwanese parents love this place, so it must be good.
1. Taiwan Cafe (林家萬巒豬腳)
Must Get: Pork Hock
The owners of Taiwan Cafe are from Southern Taiwan and as a result, they have brought with them one of the best loved regional cuisine from the island. Pork hock, or rather, marinated pig’s feet, is like a gift from the heavens that keeps on giving. If you haven’t had pig’s feet before its truly one of the most underrated foods out there and no one makes it better than Taiwan Cafe. Everything else here is fantastic, including the hard to find Mi Tai Mu, a Hakka favorite. As the number one place on our list, we encourage you to hurry up and make it out there before it gets overrun by even more Yelpers.
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Cover Photo [mondomulia]