Like any cheap Chinese restaurant worth its copiously sprinkled salt, Shanghai Dumpling King has a hilarious and somewhat unsettling menu. You’ll find such mysteries as “vegetarian goose” (quotation marks theirs) right next to more matter-of-factly stated items like fish head casserole. Sliding your eyes a little to the right, you’ll notice most of the offerings hover around six dollars.
The restaurant has a reputation for being kind of a dirty dive, an assumption probably not helped at all by its adjacency to Balboa Pet Hospital. But on those frigid, damp Outer Richmond nights, one step into the SDK’s steamy warmth erases all previous worries. It’s pretty much always bustling with OkCupid first dates and big Chinese families and neighborhood crazies, and you’ll probably share your huge table with a set of strangers.
So here’s the scoop on the menu. Shanghai dumplings: good. Duh. Spicy wontons: better, lesser known, and peanuty. Green onion pancake: so greasy, so perfect for soaking up the remnants of a hangover. Lion head meatballs: three softball-sizes hunks of meat – eating one kind of feels like slowly carving a sculpture with your mouth. The only items I know that I cannot and will not vouch for are the glazed walnut prawns and the jalapeno with potato strips and pork, but you’d be pretty idiotic to want to eat those in the first place.
Shanghai Dumpling King also has the graciousness to be emphatically BYOB: that is, they really do not mind you getting embarrassingly drunk on Steel Reserve at their table. In fact, I think they kind of like it. Being on a first name basis with the tireless servers at SDK definitely has its benefits, like getting to throw a big birthday party there, for example, at no charge. But be warned: any dining experience at the King’s is a binge. There’s no way not go all-out, and the lovely family running the place watches their patrons for the telltale signs of flagging resistance: glazed eyes, gingerly-rubbed bellies, loud sighs. And then they swoop in, trays of puffed-up, sugar-crusted doughnuts in hand, for the coup-de-grace.
Shanghai Dumpling King
3319 Balboa St.
Photo Credit: Jonas T. on Yelp