San Francisco's Chinatown
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For a captivating snapshot of San Francisco history, Chinatown remains the urban landmark not to be missed. Originally a port of entry for Chinese immigrants in the 1850s to 1900s, Chinatown has since blossomed into a present-day feast for the senses. There is never a dull moment at this lively San Francisco epicenter, and Chinatown offers something special for crowds of all ages. Whether the person is part of a camera-happy family on a guided walking tour, or a thirty-something couple holding hands as they make their way to a romantic evening dinner, Chinatown features multifaceted destinations for everyone.
Walking down Chinatown's main strip is a dizzying overload of pleasurable sights, sounds and smells. Colorful paper lanterns are strewn across the rooftops of towering pagodas, and illuminate the atmosphere with a trimming of elegance. Bejeweled curio shops are so packed with goodies that most are forced to spill their delicate trinkets, fanciful kites and fine silk garments right out onto the street in additional displays. Noticeable hordes of pedestrians assert their way through busy traffic, traveling by foot through Chinatown is the most optimal way to savor its intricacies. It is no wonder why tourists and locals alike flock to the energetic buzz of North America's oldest, and one of the nation's largest, Chinatowns.
Chinatown Dragon GateGrant and Bush Ave., San Francisco California
Chinatown's Dragon Gate is perhaps the most thrilling stop in Chinatown. Snap a picture next to the famous Dragon Gate located at the corner of Grant Avenue and Bush Street, which sticks out as one of the most enchanting markers of San Francisco city. This large and majestic entryway will either lead guests right into Chinatown, or out into one of downtown San Francisco's largest shopping centers — only a few blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Union Square.
Red Blossom Tea Company831 Grant Ave., San Francisco California 94108; Tel. + 1 415.395.0868
Once the overwhelming beauty of Chinatown's décor has somewhat subsided, visitors of this miniature town will see that there are plenty of paths to take within the immediate vicinity. For starters, stop by the Red Blossom Tea Company on Grant Avenue and peruse their gorgeous ceramic, iron and traditional tea ware accessories. Tea lovers will melt at the scent of their delectable selection of tea varieties, which range from white jasmine blossom to green dragonwell.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory56 Ross Alley, San Francisco California; Tel. + 1 415.781.3956
Next, what San Francisco Chinatown tour would be complete without a bit of local trivia? Confirm the unusual fact that the fortune cookie did not originate in China — it is in fact a treasured San Francisco invention! Peek into the Fortune Cookie Factory to catch a glimpse of the little half moon cookies as they wiggle down the production line.
House of Nanking919 Kearny Street, San Francisco California 94133; Tel. +1 415.421.1429
For the grumbling stomach or short of breath, little snacks of dim-sum teacakes, Chinese pastries, and milk tea bobas abound throughout Chinatown. But for a more complete meal, venture away from the main strip to "House of Nanking" restaurant on Kearny Street.
This two-room establishment is an absolute crowd pleaser, best evidenced by the line of hungry visitors stretched around its exterior. House of Nanking offers an intimate dining experience and guests should be prepared to eat elbow to elbow with fellow patrons as everyone packs really tightly into this cozy hub. House of Nanking's interior is dimly lit and regular clatter from the kitchen can be heard as their busy chefs prepare tasty dishes at a non-stop pace.
The menu displays traditional Chinese favorites and staples. Just looking at neighboring selections is guaranteed to jump-start anyone and everyone's feasting frenzy. Starting with House of Nankings soothing hot & sour soup or their crispy fried fish cakes are enough to tease the palate. But the large portions of steaming sesame shrimp and mu shu pork, or the mountains of sautéed vegetables and fried rice, are the real daily draw that makes House of Nanking so popular. Each dish is served on a generously wide platter, with plenty of food to go around. Wash down the good eats with an equally good Chinese beer or a flower infused cup of tea instead.
On a busy night, which is every night, the service can suffer a bit. But overall, the quality Chinese food at affordable prices makes the wait outside well worth the shivers. House of Nanking is sure to top off an evening of Chinatown exploration with the perfect amount of sweet and sour. House of Nanking is open Monday – Saturday, 11am-10pm; Sunday, 11am-9:30pm.