Riverside Seafood Restaurant
1201 Vicente St, San Francisco, CA 94116-3045
We’ve been going to this restaurant since it first opened in what must be almost two decades ago. In that time, Riverside Seafood has changed ownership three to four times, with the original owners retiring, and the place remodeled at least once or twice. Most of the staff (waiters and waitresses) left with the change in ownerships, but there are a couple of staff people who have remained throughout the changes.
While the best time, best service, and best food for Riverside Seafood in my opinion happened during the first original ownership, the food still remains really good as most of the chefs were kept during the change of ownerships. Riverside just changed owners and remodeled in 2011. With the new ownership, the prices have gone down and more dishes (such as more choices of soups, seafood, clay pots, and sizzling Iron Platters) were added to the menu. Riverside Seafood remains one of the few restaurants open all year round, even on Holidays, and we consider this the “place go to” if we need food and cannot cook because it’s close and has more authentic Chinese dishes with most not spicy hot. To me, Riverside Seafood is one of the higher-class Chinese restaurants in the Sunset District. The place does take reservations and I have never seen Riverside Seafood to ever make home deliveries in their entire existence.
We also consider Riverside Seafood to be one of the safer, cleaner, and healthier Chinese restaurants in the entire Sunset District; it has been ever since it opened. It’s less cramped, less crowded, and less noisy than some of the other (smaller) Chinese restaurants in the Avenues and Sunset mainly because the building it is under isn’t as old, not to mention that the owners have kept the place pretty shipshape. The large one-room restaurant is well-lit with windows on two sides so one could see outside and those outside could see in; therefore, eating there, I didn’t feel as if I sat inside a building since I could always look outside.
On some days, the waiting line could be out the door. Parking on the street is above average; we generally park by the Dianne Feinstein Elementary School down the block.
Seating varies from sofa booths that could seat four to rectangular tables of four to round banquet tables for twelve or more. Dinnertime is when the white tablecloths and napkins come out. The table layout often doesn’t change to there’s no jostling to add extra tables to elbow people in. Opening time for dinner is 5 p.m. and the crowd usually comes at 6 to 7 p.m. Take-out is a good option if the place gets too crowded. The Take-Out boxes are not your typical white trapezoid waxed cardboard carton with a wire handle that has everything crammed into that small box, but a clamshell plastic box, which makes for much larger take-out portions arraigned horizontally, not stuffed in vertically—Riverside has been using clamshell Take-Out boxes ever since it opened—and this means one does get full with Take-Out. Riverside also serves Dim Sum brunch which we haven’t tried since the new ownership so I cannot comment.
The food tends to be heavy on the sauce and less greasy depending on what’s ordered. If you want less grease, order more seafood and vegetable dishes. If you want flavor and more sauce, then order the meat dishes and Clay Pots. The current owners have brought back the sizzling Iron Platters.
The food looks fresh and the portions are quite large. In fact, there are some dishes not even on the menu. If someone in your party could speak Chinese, chances are that the chef could make that special dish if you describe it well and if the kitchen has the ingredients. Riverside offers dishes from the expensive lobsters and whole fishes to the cheaper Egg Foo Young and Won Ton Soups. Current prices range from $7 to $13 for the average dinner entrée. They’re also open for lunch. Riverside’s nice food quality doesn’t deviate, which remains a very good thing. The many times over the years we’ve eaten there, we haven’t had a bad experience. At the end of the dinner, patrons receive sweet (soup) desert usually in a bowl. Fortune cookies are available for those who buy Take-Out or if asked for those dining in.
Current service is average to okay. At times the place could get busy and the waiting staff kind of forgets you unless you get their attention. This is especially true when it comes time to get the bill. This is one restaurant were the waiting staff wears black and white uniforms so they’re easy to spot.
Another good thing about Riverside Seafood Restaurant is that when busy, the staff people generally don’t rush to kick you out. (Those waiting for a table will just have to wait which could make for some long waits sometimes. On weekdays, chances are you will get a table). The waiters and waitresses may take away the plates and hand you the bill, but on average your party could eat your meal at your leisure.
In summary, Riverside Seafood Restaurant is a very good place to eat Chinese food. While it may not be the best “knock your tastebuds off experience” compared to some other Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, Riverside does offer safe, clean, very good fresh food that has been their hallmark for two decades in an environment that is both pleasing and comfortable.