Chinatown is not one of those neighborhoods where there’s a question of whether you’re in it or not. In fact, they have a whole gate to mark the beginning of the neighborhood. This was by far one of the most distinctive neighborhoods in San Francisco—I mean, just look at this decor!
Not only is Chinatown visually stunning, but you can find amazing food vendors around every corner. One of the best places that I’ve visited for some good takeaway Dim Sum (think Chinese tapas for brunch) is Good Mong Kok Bakery. The typical rule is that if you’re one of the few people in line whose first language is English, you’ve gone to the right place. Here, I had the luck of having this kind old lady standing in front of me who taught me how to order.
I’m Taiwanese and have Dim Sum all the time… but with family. My parents usually do the ordering for me so I was a little lost without them! The problem is that I know what the dishes are called in Mandarin… but I’m not that literate in Mandarin; however, I don’t know exactly what the dishes are in English. The people of Chinatown are usually Cantonese though so I can’t even ask.
If you want a traditional sit-down experience, however, I’ve found Hong Kong Lounge to be amazing. (Equally amazing is the Dim Sum place I went to yesterday in LA. It’s called Lunasia if you ever want superb Shu Mai)
What to do
Like in many places, it’s hard to really get the feel of Chinatown unless you interact with it. This can be anything from sitting down in a local bakery and having a pork bun to taking a full-on Chinatown tour.
As part of training, we were able to experience one of the tours we offered and it was a blast. We tasted tea, munched on some fortune cookies, and had our fortunes told. You learn so much in one of these things that you can’t help but come away with some attachment or new perspective about a formerly unknown place.
I suggest taking half a day—though you could absolutely spend a whole day in this neighborhood—just perusing the little shops, losing yourself in the little alleyways, and imagining you’ve just transported into another country.
While you’re there, check out the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and see how these things are made; visit the Tin How Temple, the oldest temple in San Francisco, to get your fortunes told.
Rejoining Travel Tuesdays… on a Wednesday! I’m such a rebel.
Have you ever visited? What did you think?