We didn't love: the crammed-in feeling because tables are too close for comfort.
7. Gold Mountain Restaurant
Start your morning with a dumpling — or six — at Gold Mountain, a busy dim sum restaurant at the edge of Chinatown.
This warehouse-sized eatery seats 200 and is casual, fast and full of locals sipping tea, eating noodles, barbecue ribs and fluffy steamed buns. SF Weekly named it San Francisco's favorite dim sum restaurant. We stopped the passing carts to try pork buns ($2), sesame seed balls ($2.20), barbecue chicken ($8.25), assorted veggies ($6.50) and a few other items that ran our bill up to $29.95. But for a group of three, that's a bargain. If you're adventurous, try the hot pepper chicken feet ($2.20) or boiled beef tripe ($4).
We loved: the flavors and feel of being in Asia.
We didn't love: trying to stay out of the way of the carts.
Gold Mountain Restaurant, 644 Broadway; (415) 296-7733
8. Tommaso's Ristorante Pizzeria
Step inside the door of this noisy Italian restaurant in North Beach and you step into the past. The brick oven here has been firing pizzas for more than 75 years, and the décor, paintings and look of the dining room haven't changed since 1935.
The lines don't seem to have changed much either over the years. Shortly after the nightly opening at 5, people begin to queue up on the sidewalk of this San Francisco institution. By 7 p.m., especially on weekends, the wait may exceed 90 minutes, which can be dicey on a cold night. But once you're inside, a heaping dish of pasta or a giant wedge of pizza will warm you.
People don't seem to mind the wait, nor eating at communal tables; they're just happy that the pizza dough recipe has remained the same for decades. We were too. Our large mixed veggie and Italian sausage pizza pie ($25) had a crust that was puffy, crispy and a bit smoky. An old-fashioned classic.
We loved: the warm, traditional Italian atmosphere.
We didn't love: the line. Arrive early.
Tommaso's Ristorante Pizzeria: 1042 Kearny St.; (415) 398-9696, http://www.tommasos.com.
9. Utopia Café