A sign that says dumpling story hangs from the side of a building.
Dumpling Story, located at 694 Valencia St, is opening in March, 2024. Photo by Junyao Yang on Feb. 27, 2024.

Dumpling Story will open a new location March 1 at Valencia and 18th streets, serving Shanghai-style xiaolongbao and crispy pan-fried dumplings, according to owner Jimmy Shen.

Shen, 52, owns Dumpling Home in Hayes Valley, Dumpling Story on Fillmore Street, and now the new Valencia Street Dumpling Story. Opening these spots seems as much a way to satisfy his own cravings as a business decision.

“How come? How come we cannot bring the good xiaolongbao to the city?” Shen said he asked himself after traveling around the Bay Area trying to find good dumplings. 

Shen signed the lease last October at 694 Valencia St., once home to Luna Park, which closed after 15 years in 2015, and then to Luna, which shuttered in 2023 after only five months. Shen is keeping the hardwood floor and the handmade red-and-tan booths, but offering a very different menu. 

Shen knows he has competition on Valencia Street. Bao SF, the dumpling restaurant that opened in 2021, is just a block away. 

But he’s not too worried. For one thing, Bao SF serves dumplings in Cantonese style: BBQ pork buns, swan puffs with custard, and shrimp siu mai. Shen’s offerings, like those in his other locations, are in Shanghainese style: His xiaolongbao has almost translucent skin and rich soup inside — a combination that requires extreme caution when picking them up with chopsticks. 

“When I think about it, if you can have so many pizza stores, why not a dumpling restaurant?” Shen asked. “I want it to become people’s habit, like having coffee, having pizza or having pasta once in a while. Why not dumplings?” 

A man standing at a table in front of an art piece
Jimmy Shen, 52, prepares the Dumpling Story for its opening on Valencia Street in March. Photo by Junyao Yang on Feb. 27, 2024.

Shen moved to San Francisco from Guangzhou, China, and has spent decades working in restaurants. He was a dishwasher and busboy in his teens, then managed a Japanese restaurant for 15 years. “That’s what I know,” he said. 

Shen signed the lease for his first SF restaurant, Otoro Sushi in Hayes Valley, in 2008 ,and opened in April 2009, right as the financial crisis hit — but the business survived. Then, in 2020, he was planning the grand opening of Dumpling Home for March 15 — the day before the shelter-in-place order was announced. That restaurant began to take to-go orders in August 2020 and, last year, its sister restaurant, Dumpling Story, opened on Fillmore Street. 

Steering through these storms has turned Shen into “a positive person,” who says he believes that “everything should be fine,” even in the most difficult times. “If I cannot change [something] on my own, I normally don’t worry.” 

Instead, Shen said he just always asks himself what he could change.  

“Keep my business up,” Shen concluded. “Because there’s one closing, another one closing, pretty soon the whole city will be dead, right?” 

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Junyao Yang is a data reporter for Mission Local through the California Local News Fellowship. Junyao is passionate about creating visuals that tell stories in creative ways. She received her Master’s degree from UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Sometimes she tries too hard to get attention from cute dogs.

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1 Comment

  1. I can’t wait! Shanghai dumplings have become my comfort food, and one closer to Bernal is great news! Shen seems to be a smart and resilient guy – let’s reward this new biz!!

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