If you have had a fortune cookie after eating at a Chinese restaurant and broke it open and saw a piece of paper inside, pulled it out and it said "Fu Ling Yu Says: Sex is bad for one but good for two.", it most likely was made at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.
Located in Ross Alley, about half way down, sits this factory that sells thousands per day of their fortune cookies with both funny happy fortunes to the adult themed ones like the one I just quoted.
You walk into this small factory, barely able to get by the two person aisle, leading to the women seated in front of a revolving assembly roll bar machine filled with tiny circular dough pieces that make their way to the front where a paper fortune is pressed into the dough. It then runs up a forming bar and the ladies bend it into the fortune cookie u shape. It is worth the walk in Chinatown to go to Ross Alley and the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory to see for yourself how they are formed. Oh, you can also buy all types of fortune cookies right at the entrance. They did charge a small fee, 50 cents to take a picture of the ladies forming the cookies. They have been around since 1962 and are open all day. To view the factory is free.
It’s always interesting to visit the Chinatown in some big US cities. We enjoyed in NY so we did the same in San Francisco. Although there isn’t something specific to see I always love to wonder around districts like this because it is full of life, you can just look at the locals (amazing how many Chinese people live here) doing their daily jobs and shopping and you can visit some of their budhist temples of course. It’s one of the most historic districts in San Francisco anyway as it was cropped up in 1850, just a year of the 1849 Gold Rush. The streets are full of the famous chinoiserie red lamps and pagoda rooftops, definitely you will have many photo opportunities.
We saw two of them, Ching Chung Temple (pic 1) and Kong Chow Temple (pic 2), we entered the first one but no photos allowed inside though so don’t even think to put your camera in front of Bouda statue. I tried to take a pic from outside and an old lady came at the door screaming at us! :) So, at Kong Chow Temple (at 55 Stocktom str, over the post office as you can see at the pic) we knew about it and we just wander around. The Chinese altar is probably the oldest in USA.
After visiting the temples we passed by a funeral (pic 3) at another temple and we stayed there for a while watching the ritual outside, weird to see all those people in black standing still for some moments while the sun was shining and the car traffic at the avenue was so noisy that definitely spoiled their moment…
The Chinatown Gate (pic 4) is probably the entering point for most of the visitors, we entered through there the second day of our visit. If you are interested to learn more about the Chinese community in SF you can visit the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum at 965 Clay Street. It is opened Tuesday to Sundayt 11.00-16.00.
San Francisco's Chinatown lays claim to being the largest Chinatown outside of China, it goes on and on and on for many blocks. I had wanted to do a free guided walking tour here but it didn't work with our plans so I used a couple of printed Chinatown walking guides from SF Gate and Frommer's to get us around this area.
While some parts of Chinatown, like Grant Avenue, are extremely touristy, all you need to do is go a block or so off Grant Street and you will realize that this is a real Chinese community with grocery stores and shops catering to San Francisco's Chinese population. Checkout some of the Chinese grocery stores with their unique stock of live fish, Chinese vegetables, teas and Chinese speciality goods even HUGE bags of MSG! Stop and enjoy a dim sum lunch at one of the many restaurants, some will pack you a box to go, others you can sit and order from the ladies with the carts. Try a delicious egg tart from a Chinese bakery or the unique red bean ice cream drink. Wander down Ross Alley and see the ladies making fortune cookies, 50 cents if you want to take photos, grab a bag of fortune cookies to snack on later.
Photo 1-Chinatown gate, Grant Avenue at Bush Street
Photo 2-Portsmouth Square, my guidebook said these men were playing chess, but it looked a lot more like gambling to me and nary a rook, knight or queen was seen
Photo 3-Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, I dare you to pass by after a whiff of the delicious smelling fortune cookies and not stop for a peek, 56 Ross Alley
Photo 4-Washington Street
Photo 5-the painted balconies of Waverly Place
San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest in North America. It is often described as being home to the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, and I have no problem believing it! Unlike many North American Chinatowns that only seem to keep up appearances to attract tourists, San Francisco's Chinatown is home to a bustling Asian community. Perhaps Grant Avenue is a little more geared towards visitors, but as you walk along some of the side streets you'll find it easy to imagine you've found a secret passageway to China! Between a group of elderly citizens practicing Tai Chi at Portsmouth Square and women seemingly arguing for the price of fish at one of the small markets, the cultural immersion can seem pretty complete :o)
Although I'm not a big fan, we did stop for some Dim Sum at one of the many Chinatown restaurants. I guess it was alright, but it didn't make me change my mind about it - I'm still not a big fan. However, we did go to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory for dessert (56 Ross Alley) and that, I liked! As soon as we walked in we were given a free sample fresh from the oven and were invited to take as many pictures as we wanted. We watched the ladies work for a little while and left with a small bag of fortune cookies (only $1) for the road.
S.F. is very well known for its Chinatown, which is worth a look for its produce stands, restaurants, etc. A little disappointing, but locals are of the opinion that the restaurants in Chinatown have some of the worst Chinese food in the city, and are in business only because of tourists.
Chinatown is no recent tourist invention, but a thriving neighborhood since the Gold Rush of 1849. Grant Avenue offers the heavily photographed Chinatown Gate and the most ornate Asian architecture but the true essence of the neighborhood is more readily observable a couple streets over on Stockton Street, especially in the early morning when locals are out buying their produce and freshly butchered meat. Live frogs, blue chickens, you name it. You’ll feel like you’re not in the United States, but you are. Chinatown is about as San Francisco as you can get so enjoy it. It’s free to look but get right in and buy something or have something to eat. It’s inexpensive, great quality, and fun too.
On 2008 return visit, Chinatown was the first place we rushed to.
We spent a wonderful evening and had a fantastic dinner while exploring Chinatown. We window shopped our way through Chinatown until we got hungry and found a restaurant. It was one of the best Chinese dinners I have ever had.
Chinatown is a part of SF we definitely want to visit again and have a chance to explore in more depth.
San Francisco's Chinatown dates back to the mid-1800's and is one of the most densely populated urban areas in the USA. It is also home to one of the largest Chinese communities outside of Asia. It is a very popular tourist attraction, but don't let that put you off as a walk around the colourful streets is an enjoyable experience.
The main entrance to the district is via the Dragon's Gate, on Grant Avenue, and this street heads up through the heart of Chinatown. Stop off at Portsmouth Square, the busy meeting place for local residents and see what they are getting up to.
There is a food market along Stockton Street where you will see a great variety of intriguing foodstuffs. Make sure you find your way to the city's oldest alleyway, Ross Alley, and stick your head into the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company shop where you can watch fortune cookies being made by hand. Very cool.
A great way to visit Chinatown is to enter through the 'Dragons Gate' on Bush Street. Once through you'll find yourself on Grant Avenue, this is the main tourist street in Chinatown.
The whole area is fun to explore as you take in the sights, sounds & smells of the shops, food markets and temples.
After many trips to Chinatown over the years, I never fail to find something new in the many small shops. While Grant St., the primary street for tourism, may seem to have much of the same in many shops, the side streets going up to Stockton Street, the alleys, and Stockton Street add a lot of variety to the scene. I've found antique postcards, amber jewelry, teas and other things to take home. Stockton Street is interesting if you like to see different types of foods. There are many produce and grocery stores here that have things you won't find in your usual supermarket.
Chinatown is a feast for the senses, where you will see shops full of interesting imported goods from China such as jewelry, incense, clothes, toys and gifts. The restaurants have familiar and unusual foods, and the streets busy with activity. Don't overlook the scenes up and around you, where the old buildings have history of their own to tell.
The sign at this cocktail lounge caught my eye. It is something you won't find anywhere else.
Ross Alley is the oldest alley in San Francisco. While once it was known for brothels and gambling, today, it is a little off the beaten tourist path. Here you can see a series of four murals depicting the everyday life of the Chinese American community. There is also the Golden Gate fortune cookie factory located here, a tiny shop where you can see them making the cookies that are given at Chinese restaurants all across the US.
As the tip title says San Francisco has the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. It is also the oldest Chinatown in North America.
The area was settled in the 1850's by immigrants from Guangdong province of China. It has grown over the years to a population of over 180,000 people and overlaps 5 postal ZIP codes!
The main street through Chinatown in Grant Street. It is lined with more then enough shops and restaurants to keep you busy for a while.
We walked into Chinatown and a man on the street gave us a menu. The food looked good and he directed us upstairs to a lovely restaurant with linen table clothes & Chinese patrons. Our food was wonderful, we sat in front of the window with views of Chinatown & the bill was very reasonable. Unfortunately, we didn't save a business card, menu or any info. with the name.
Grant Street is only about six blocks long but its chock full of culture, activity, and delicious aroma's! Chinatown is a frenzy of activity, with each block jam packed with shops selling knick knacks from the Orient. You can buy anything from a $300 tea set to a $1.98 t-shirt with just about everything in between. You will see shops selling cheap cameras right next to shops with live chickens in crates. But even if your not into buying live chickens there are many different shops to fit any taste. Speaking of taste, the best part of Chinatown is all the different places to eat, the streets are full of rich, exotic smells that will drift into your nose and get your stomach rumbling. So bring your wallet and appetite and plan on spending a afternoon in a different world!