Neighborhood Spotlight: Chinatown
Ah, Chinatown. Full of illegal Chinese immigrants, crowded markets that sell weird herbs, and more cheap dim sum restaurants than you can wave a dollar at. I actually used to live here. Okay, it wasn’t for very long, and I only moved in because they have really cheap rent. But still, I feel like it gives me a slight amount of authority on this neighborhood. So as a proud former resident, here are my top picks:
- Check out a tea bar. My favorite is the Vital Tea Leaf. You can sit here for hours, shooting the shit with the friendly employees and drinking all kinds of different teas. They’ll give you as many free samples as you want – just ask to try any tea and they’ll brew it for you! You should probably buy something eventually, but that shouldn’t be a problem – they have so many great teas. My favorite is the Blue People oolong tea.
- Buy souvenirs. You will find the exact same souvenirs here that you can find in Fisherman’s Wharf – for half the price. Seriously, the exact same ones! You know: postcards, shot glasses that say I ❤ SF, that sort of thing.
- Try the egg custard tarts at Golden Gate Bakery. They are famous for them, and usually have the line out the door to prove it.
- Visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory to see fortune cookies being made, then feast on a bag of still-hot, freshly made cookies.
- Eat at the cheap dim sum places … but at your own risk. They are VERY hit or miss. If you’ve got a smartphone, Yelp is your friend here.
- Visit Portsmouth Square. It’s a community meeting place for the people of Chinatown, who are mostly old Asian men with no teeth who gamble a lot. You can join in on a game of chess or checkers here, especially if you like a competitive vibe. Just don’t throw down too much money on your game – these people will eat tourists like you alive. Or you can just relax on a bench and watch the action.