It’s the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, the oldest in all of North America, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, so whether visitors demand traditional herbal remedies and ornate temples or a giant plastic garden Buddha, the bustling streets offer it all – and much more.
Established in the 1840s, Chinatown is the city’s most densely populated neighborhood, packing more than a hundred thousand residents into an area of less than 1.5 square miles. Tourists begin their day at the elaborate Chinatown gate on Grant Street, wandering past dragon street lights and row after row of shops peddling furniture, fabrics, and every trinket imaginable.
Adventurous foodies and Chinese residents alike head to Stockton Street, especially on the weekends, where everything from turtles and pigs to chickens and what-in-God’s-name-is-that? hang from market awnings and the terse shouts of seasoned hagglers fill the air.
Restaurants, of course, run the gamut from authentic to tourist bait, although a good measure of the latter is how many Caucasians are inside.
Most drinking dens trend on the divey side, with old institutions filled with even older regulars playing dice, sipping cheap beer, and chain smoking Panda Brand cigarettes, but those same bars often cater to a rowdy young Western crowd on weekends.
No visit would be complete without experiencing the Chinese New Year – a two-week February event and one of San Francisco’s largest festivals – or September’s Autumn Moon Festival, when the streets fill with martial artists, acrobats, and opera performers.
Reviewed by Gor G.
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919 Kearny Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
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916 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94108
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Roughly between Columbus Avenue on the east, Jones Street on the west, Broadway
to north, and Bush Street to the south
San Francisco, CA 94133