The appeal of dumplings is so universal that almost every culture has a variation on them, from potstickers to perogies. They’re perfect as an appetizer, a side dish, and if you're truly ambitious you can make a meal of them. We’ve covered your best dumpling options in San Francisco--as well as some great Dim Sum options-- but the East Bay is no slouch in the dumpling department, either. Here are some of our favorite spots for dumplings in Berkeley and Oakland. Each spot is great on its own, or you can combine them for a cross-cultural dumpling crawl. Did we miss your go-to? Let us know if the comments below.
Berkeley’s Chengdu Style Restaurant, named after the capital of China’s Sichuan province, is a Cal student’s dream, conveniently located steps from the campus and offering hearty portions at affordable prices. The restaurant, owned by Chengdu expats (and Cal alums) April, Bo and Jun Hu includes traditional Chinese-American fare along with spicy, peppercorn-studded dishes native to the region. It’s a homey place with scribbled-on menus (handwritten price updates, “steamed bums” corrected to buns), packed with Cal students watching movies on their phones as they slurp giant bowls of soup and girlfriends catching up in Chinese. The Chengdu Style Dumplings are hearty and juicy, flecked with green onions, but the best part is the red chili oil that characterizes the region’s dishes. Sweet, salty and spicy, it enlivens every bite.
Like Chengdu Style Restaurant, Berkeley’s Dumpling Express boasts affordable prices: for under $7, you can get a meal of six dumplings. The tiny restaurant, owned by Terry Chan, offers a variety of dishes--from fried rice to ice cream--but the soup dumplings are one of their biggest draws. After placing your order, you'll wait patiently for a worker to steam them before receiving your handmade Xiao Long Bao. They’re plump and chewy, with a salty broth mixing in with succulent pork. Visit for the soup dumplings, or to stock up on sub-$10 bags of frozen dumplings--your future self will thank you.
When introducing your culture’s cuisine to a new audience, there are plenty of tricks for marketing the unknown to a suspicious crowd. You can change seasonings, making it more or less spicy. You can wrap it in a tortilla or bun and transform it into one of the Bay Area’s signature food mashups. Or, like Berkeley’s Turkish Kitchen, from owner George Baylar and chefs Mehmet Vural and Ferzan Yolcu, you can change the names to make it more familiar to a Bay Area crowd. Thus, a kebab becomes a “Turkish burrito,” and manti, a style of dumplings that Turks have been eating since the Ottoman empire become “Turkish ravioli.” They’re tiny, and packed with a flavorful mix of ground beef, onions and spices. Covered with parsley and a warm yogurt sauce, they’re a well-seasoned, herby and filling comfort food, no matter where you’re from or what you call them.
What more is there to say about Oakland Chinatown’s Shan Dong? It’s a beloved institution that’s constantly packed with people eating the restaurant's signature handmade noodles and dumplings. The Mandarin menu, from owner Charles Hung, is wonderfully consistent, and seeing the process from the beginning--workers rolling out the dough as you walk in--to your plate makes it all the more satisfying. The Shan Dong special dumplings are plump golf balls, with a thick, doughy wrapper covering a flavorful mix of cabbage and well-seasoned pork. The tangy, vinegary dipping sauce adds a burst of salty richness and is the ideal accompaniment. As the server’s shirts will inform you, the restaurant, one of the few serving Northern Chinese food, is currently celebrating their 20th anniversary. They know what they’re doing.
Shan Dong Restaurant
328 10th St #101 [Map]
Oakland, CA 94607
Ph: (510) 839-2299
Hours: Closed Monday; Tue-Thu, 11am-3pm and 4-9:30pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-3pm and 4-10pm; Sun, 11am-3pm and 4pm-9:30pm
Facebook: Shan Dong Restaurant
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17)
Togi's Mongolian Cuisine is a new resturaunt aiming to bring real Mongolian food--not the barbecue of chain restaurants--to Oakland. The cuisine is wheat and meat heavy, and accordingly, one of their traditional dishes is buuz, a type of steamed dumpling filled with mutton or beef typically eaten with your hands. At Togi’s, they take twenty minutes and emerge from the kitchen piping hot, each large dumpling sporting a perfectly crimped top, accompanied by a side of creamy potato salad. They’re rich and filled with well-seasoned beef, a winningly homey introduction to authentic Mongolian cuisine.
Temescal’s Casserole House specializes in junggol, the Korean Casserole dishes they’re named for, but they’re also an excellent place to sample other Korean favorites like barbecued meats, soups and appetizers like mandu, the country’s dumpling. (The dish also
plays a key role in the cult Korean film Oldboy). At the Casserole House, they have Goon Mahn Du, featuring a wonderfully crispy shell filled with beef, pork, tofu and a fresh assortment of green veggies. It’s accompanied by their excellent, funky homemade kimchi, which--per their website--you can buy from Mrs. Lee by calling 510-601-6001.