The largest Chinatown outside of Asia lives in San Francisco. Experiencing the one in San Francisco feels like a vacation on its own. In fact, Chinatown draws in more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge every year. It covers a 24 block area.
Once you’re in the neighborhood, everything is suddenly written in Mandarin. Sometimes it’ll also have an English sign, but Mandarin is more prominent. It’s fascinating to see the cultural influences in the neighborhood on things that seem so mundane, like the street lights which are designed in the style of Chinese lanterns.
Food: Xiao Long Bao (XLB)
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat, I cannot recommend Bund Shanghai enough. Bund is a small, family-owned restaurant. All of the locals seem to enjoy visiting. There were at least two groups of people celebrating birthdays when we were there. Our server told us “great choice,” after we ordered. That’s how you know this place is good. You must order Xiao Long Bao. They’re little steamed dumplings that have soup in the middle.
Dragon Gate is the south entrance of Chinatown, located at the intersection of Grant and Bush. It’s probably the most iconic location of Chinatown. While its cool to see, frankly its not nearly as interesting as the inside.
There is also a lot of interesting street art throughout Chinatown.
My recommendation for visiting is to start somewhere like the Dragon Gate entrance, and follow the interesting and unique looking things. Keep an eye out for Ross Alley, San Francisco’s oldest alley notorious for gambling, and just take everything in. Wander where your eyes take you.
I could easily spend days wandering the streets here. There are so many colorful store fronts, and unique things to stare at. I’d love to spend a week photographing it all. I definitely know I’ll be going back!