Exploring San Francisco’s Chinatown

The part of San Francisco is full of history and mystery. It is a small area of the city packed full of people many from families from the original immigrants who came over from China by the thousands to seek their fortune in the gold rush. They helped shape the San Francisco that exists today and it is a fascinating neighborhood to explore.

Stockton St Tunnel, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
There are several Chinatowns in the Bay Area, but this 24-block one is the oldest—not just in San Francisco, but in all of North America. The first record of Chinese settlers in San Francisco dates their arrival to 1848, but the gold rush a year later and the subsequent construction of transcontinental railroads led to dramatic leaps in immigration from China. San Francisco’s Chinatown has managed to keep its culture intact for more than a century, despite economic and at times political pressures on the community. Of the two main arteries of Chinatown, Grant Avenue is the more tourist-friendly, with noodle shops and stores selling Chinese curios. A stroll down Stockton Street, on the other hand, provides a glimpse of the more typical daily life of residents.

56 Ross Alley, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
Although most of the manufacturing of fortune cookies is done outside of San Francisco, one factory is still running and is a popular tourist spot in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Of course the smell of the cookies being freshly made will draw you in. You’ll get a free sample and be able to buy then in various-sized packages and flavors. If you can elbow your way in you can observe the making of the cookies, where lots of people fold them by hand. Whatever money they make on cookies probably pales in comparison with the 50 cents they charge per photo—quite entrepreneurial of them!
616 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
There are electronics stores that blare, “art” stores with porcelain anything that offend, jewelery stores that glisten, and souvenir stores that . But you don’t want any souvenir, you want something that says, “I was in Chinatown” but not “and all I found was this lucky cat.” May I recommend the Canton Bazaar? It’s right in the heart of tourist Chinatown and has more authentic Chinese wares like tea sets and snuff bottles. You’ll have to walk to the back past the medicine balls and silk purses, but it’s worth browsing museum-like displays.
1044 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
Walls of tea and a tea tasting experience mean an immersive tea experience in the heart of Chinatown, San Francisco.
919 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
This is all you need to know about the House of Nanking: If you’ve never been, the owner will take your menus and just start serving you food. It’s an experience I’ll never forget! The food is plentiful and delicious! Bonus: it’s right around the corner from North Beach so you can drink off your meal at Tosca. One of my favourite San Francisco meals. Worth the wait! How I researched SF: http://nearafar.com/2011/09/12/how-i-researched-san-francisco/ Photo: gogobot.com
772 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a stop in Chinatown and that usually means a dim sum lunch. We headed to New Asia after tastings of tea as suggested by the tea shop owner who lived in the area. New Asia certainly isn’t your average restaurant and dinning there is an experience. The banquet-hall like dinning room is packed with tourists and locals. There will probably be a wait to get in but it won’t be long. Try to listen as the woman working the microphone to call your wait list number talks too close to the mic and has a thick accent making her hard to hear and understand. You have a choice of either water or green tea but they bring you both anyways. Most of the staff is too busy so it’ll be hard to get their attention if you want a coke. Next the carts come. Carts filled with the day’s selections are wheeled around to each table where you then pick and choose what dishes you would like. They are pulled right off the carts still hot and fresh, ready for you to eat. Do not load up on your first cart as there will be more wheeled around to you soon enough with even more delicious temptations. Certainly a budget friendly meal and an experience you won’t soon forget.
4405 675 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
A San Francisco Chinatown spot that is fast-paced and cash only. They have a good variety of dimsum, but are known for making pretty good shrimp dumpling (Har Gow). The place can be intimidating but for 3 pieces of dimsum for $1.50 it is worth the trauma if you don’t speak the language! It is a good way to reward yourself after a morning of hunting around the “junk” shops and you will really feel like a neighborhood native with the aggressive locals!
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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