Tucked away in a narrow alleyway, this San Francisco institution has been dishing up bamboo steamers of dim sum for more than a century. First opened in 1920, it bears the distinction of being the oldest dim sum restaurant in the United States. Although the prices have inched up ever so slightly—back in the 1930s, a basket of ha gow went for a mere $0.30—the menu of Cantonese stalwarts has remained largely the same for decades.
Customers today can still fuel up on crispy potstickers, char siu bao, chicken feet in savory black bean sauce, and shu mai. Their garlicky house-made chili oil is such a favorite that many regulars purchase jars to take home. Particularly popular are the molten custard buns shaped like piglets, along with equally cuddly bear-shaped buns filled with red bean paste.
While Hang Ah Tea Room is understandably popular with out-of-town visitors, it maintains an equally devoted local clientele. Many neighborhood regulars have been coming here for three or four decades, if not more. The current owners have tried to preserve as much of the old-time character the interior, which gives it something of a time warp feel.
Know Before You Go
Don't expect the trolleys of steamer trays often found at dim sum parlors. Ordering here is a decidedly more sedate affair, with menus.