Since the return of indoor dining in San Francisco, one of State Bird Provisions’ most endearing qualities has conspicuously been missing from its dining room — dim sum-style service. Now, the wait for those three-layered carts on wheels and gray, hand-held trays is finally over.
“Returning to dim sum style service is a return to our identity,” said Stuart Brioza, chef and co-owner of State Bird Provisions. “At this point, most of our team has yet to experience the buzz and energy of State Bird Provisions with the carts and trays in service. So it’s new, just like outdoor dining was a couple of years ago.”
State Bird Provisions opened in 2012 and received instant recognition for its food, but also for its “innovative format” and “uncommon” service style. While there is nothing uncommon about this style of service in China or dim sum restaurants across the world, State Bird Provisions was one of the first to bring the push-cart style dining experience to a white-owned, American restaurant.
For those who don’t know, dim sum-style service offers multiple options of small-bite foods cooked in a “pre-ordered” fashion so there is less delay. These dim sum carts are pushed around the dining room enticing customers with their many aromas and flavors.
State Bird Provisions is known for its cart and tray service style.
Most of the time, diners at Chinese dim sum restaurants will place a checkmark next to all of the items they want to try at the beginning of the meal. Various carts carry different items. Next, the waiters roll the carts to each table and place the selected items from that cart in the center of the table before the next cart comes around.
For example, one cart might be piled high with steaming baskets filled with siu mai, while another is solely dedicated to xiao long bao. As the carts roam around the restaurant like ghosts in a game of Pac-Man, the cart-pushers will serve your items as they pass your table. And if you ordered siu mai or xiao long bao or (most likely) both, now you can feel like Pac-Man and chomp mindlessly, but happily.
At State Bird Provisions, half of the menu is pushed around on carts, so when one arrives at your table, you can decide whether or not to try something familiar or something new. Some of the most popular dishes are the sourdough-sauerkraut pecorino and ricotta pancakes, the CA state bird with provisions and the peanut muscovado milk for dessert.
State Bird Provisions will return to the dim sum style service on May 4th, 2022.
Jen Lo / Special to SFGATE
After being closed for a year due to the pandemic, the restaurant reopened in 2021, but changed their concept to a more traditional style to meet the needs of changing landscape.
“The idea of running dinner with the carts and trays during the past year wasn’t comfortable for our team or our guests,” Brioza told SFGATE. “We also found that we could make the same dishes and still be a dynamic restaurant — but the spirit of State Bird was missing.”
The return to its dim sum-style roots also signals a change for the kitchen team, as they pivot to new cooking methods and learn to pace orders accordingly.
“Everything is different,” Brioza said. “We are cooking in batches and changing our stance to an offensive role in getting food out to the guests versus waiting for orders to come to us.”
Executive chef Gabby Maeda agrees, and said bringing back dim sum-style service only adds to the overall experience at State Bird Provisions.
“The kitchen team has more responsibility, they are on their own station and must be self-motivated,” she said. “I’m excited for the kitchen to become reintegrated in service and connect with our guests in ways that they’ve not been these past two years.”
State Bird Provisions is located at 1529 Fillmore St., San Francisco. It’s open 5 to 10 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.