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Posted on Wed, May 16, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

San Fu: The best Chinese food in Ann Arbor?

By Will Stewart

For more than 15 years, San Fu has quietly and steadfastly been serving up some of the best Chinese food in Ann Arbor.

Maybe the best.

What? You’ve not been to San Fu? We almost hate to spread the word about what has long been one of our favorite places for a ridiculously cheap and delicious lunch.

But San Fu is just too good to keep to ourselves.

Of course, this unassuming Asian eatery, tucked into the too-often-overlooked South Main Market, seems to do just fine with its loyal clientele, many of whom can be found there several times a week.

But what makes San Fu stand apart from its competitors?

Ingredients are a factor, to be sure, and San Fu’s dishes are always fairly alive with the vibrant colors of fresh red peppers, green broccoli and other vegetables.

And of course recipes play a roll. Take General Tso’s chicken, for instance. Likely, you’ve had variations of it dozens of times. But has it arrived as delicately breaded and succulent as it does at San Fu? Is the sauce spicy, yet delicate, combining to create something bigger than the sum of its parts?

If not, you deserve a visit to San Fu.


San Fu
625 S. Main Street, Ann Arbor in the South Main Market
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m; Sunday, noon-10 p.m.
  • Plastic: Visa, Mastercard
  • Liquor: No.
  • Noise level: Low.
  • Wheelchair access: Fair; everything on one level, although access to the restroom is through the rather cramped kitchen.
Of course San Fu isn’t really a secret at all. Enter this smallish and understated eatery any day at lunchtime and you’ll find it buzzing with regular customers. The same is true at dinnertime. Meanwhile, delivery drivers are constantly in and out of the restaurant, bringing the goodness to an even wider audience.

With literally dozens of items on the menu, it’s impossible to offer a comprehensive summary of San Fu’s offerings.

But we can say this much without hesitation: The Hunan spicy pork may be one of the best things you ever eat. And at less than $6 for an massive lunch portion, it’s one of the best values in town, too.

Featuring succulent and tender strips of fried pork, red bell peppers, corn, and broccoli, all bathed in a hot-and-savory sauce, this isn’t a dish for the faint of heart. Even though it’s hot enough to singe your wig as is, we usually ask for it extra spicy, just because the hurt’s so good.

So good, in fact, that we struggle to bring ourselves to try anything else, even though we’re never disappointed when we do. Like the aforementioned General Tso’s chicken or kung pau chicken, which, like the Hunan spicy pork, offers plenty of heat amid diced chicken, mixed vegetables and peanuts.

A little more pricy, yet definitely worth the extra cost, are San Fu’s house specialties, which generally lean toward seafood. We loved the happy family reunion, which combines stir-fried chicken, beef, shrimp and scallops, as well as mixed vegetables in a luxurious special sauce.

And since we believe it’s perfectly OK to accept or eschew a Chinese restaurant based on the quality of its hot and sour soup, we’re happy to report that San Fu’s is top-notch, brimming with mushrooms and bamboo shoots in a thick, sesame-infused broth. If there’s a better version of this staple item in Ann Arbor, we definitely have yet to find it.

There’s nothing fancy about San Fu. You order your food at the front counter and the friendly, efficient staff brings it to your table, with in the spartan main room or in the larger side room, which is decorated with a large selection of Chinese pottery, which is also available for purchase.

San Fu is one of the few restaurants that can lure you in with its low prices, then surprise you with the quality of its food; or bring you in for a delicious meal, then surprise you with how inexpensive it is.

Either way, you can’t lose at San Fu.



Thu, May 17, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.

Emeral city/Yaror yan is my favorite along with Great Lakes.

Frustrated in A2

Thu, May 17, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

I typically go to Happy Wok on W. Stadium or T.K. Wu on E. Liberty. T.K. Wu has some really good hot & sour soup as well. Happy Wok has really good food across the board including my fav's General Tso or chicken egg foo young with great prices and good size servings as well.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

Haven't tried San Fu but I really like Evergreen on Plymouth Rd. Be a little adventurous next time and order something off their traditional menu. Spicy beef tendon anyone?


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

Getting to San Fu means that I have to go past Back Alley Gourmet, which has been impossible, so far. My favorite Chinese restaurant in A^2 is Evergreen on Plymouth. (Have you tried their spicy orange beef? omg.) But you've convinced me to give San Fu a try, Will.


Fri, May 18, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

I love BAG, #22 on Challah is my usual


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Serving the best Chinese food in Ann Arbor is like being the best italian restaurant in Kazakhstan. Not terribly difficult, given the competition.

Jeff Gaynor

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

I lived closeby when it first open and thought it as a guilty pleasure that I liked the food so much. It certainly didn't look like a high class restaurant. Actually, from the picture the dining area looks a lot nicer. I will also second Chia Shiang - for both it's vegetarian and authentic dishes.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

I'm partial to Gourmet Garden but they are more on the pricey side. San Fu is a good alternative


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

San Fu is decent, but for the money King Shing and Great Lake are probably the best in the area. Coincidentally enough, they're across the street from one another on Carpenter.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Middle Kingdom gets my vote. I keep trying other people's recommendations, and I always return to Middle Kingdom,, 3 blocks north of San Fu. Go ahead, compare the hot & sour soup, atmosphere, service, moo shu. How about a whole, steamed pickerel or other fish. Quality of ingredients shines when steamed, there's no hiding.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

I agree, ChrisW, this article reads more like an ad than a review -- but having said that, I have to say my first reaction was "Oh no, now everyone will want to go there," because that San Fu is MY favorite Chinese restaurant too, and has been for years. The hot and sour soup puts every other restaurant in the shade.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

who knew?? will try..


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

THE best Chinese food around, hands down. Me and my family/friends ONLY order from San Fu, as well as my office when we order lunch. Love the vegetable spring rolls as well.

rusty shackelford

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Never been to San Fu. Chia Shang is my current favorite. How do they compare?


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

Chia Shiang is my favorite. But I get San Fu when I want delivery. Chia Shiang has a much larger menu (not even close) and authentic offerings in addition to the typical Chinese-American stuff. I would recommend San Fu for standard quick, cheap, lunch or delivery, and Chia Shiang for when you seriously want the best in town.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Probably my favorite Chinese food in Ann Arbor, going back several years. It's only ever been take-out for me -- the adjacent room for eat-in service is a fairly recent development.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Restaurant reviews at least should have a mention of the Health Dept. inspections. This review is lacking such. At their last inspection on 3/21/12 they had 12 Health Dept. violations, of which 2 were critical. See for details.


Thu, May 17, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

Wow, thanks for that link! Very interesting.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

I've always found the Chinese food offerings in Ann Arbor lacking, but I've never heard of San Fu before. Thanks for this review. Can't wait to try it!


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

Review or advertisement?