Chinatown Shopping

Chinatown Shopping

The shopping in Chinatown is on Grant, the area that most tourists frequent. Pass by the cheap souvenirs and look for the side streets between Columbus and Bush, for the shops that sell silk and jewelry, art and herbs. (Stockton Street is the real Chinatown, where locals do their own shopping.) The finds in Chinatown for gifts are vibrant silk robes, endless strands of exquisite pearls, enamelware, hand-made furniture, elegant kites and paper stars, fine linens, as well as authentic Chinese herbs and essential oils. The streets are incredibly crowded during the day while nearby North Beach is relatively quiet. At night, the reverse is true. North Beach gears up, the streets get busy and Chinatown goes to sleep.

But the biggest draw to Chinatown has to be the food. For an early lunch (get there around 11 a.m.) be sure to try dim sum, small but delicious bites of pork, vegetables, shrimp, beef, or chicken delivered to your table in steaming baskets by rolling carts that rumble constantly from kitchen to dining room. The portions are shared and paid for by the plate. The atmosphere is noisy and the clientele is mostly Asian but it’s a dining experience not to be missed. Gold Mountain, at 644 Broadway, serves a particularly tasty dim sum. (Note: AVOID hole-in-the-wall, cafeteria-style dim sum eateries. They may be cheap but the food will most likely be awful and will have been sitting there for hours.)

Dinner can be a casual or more elegant option. At 760 Clay Street, the Oriental Pearl, has great, authentic Chinese food in a family-friendly atmosphere. Try the house specialty, chicken meatballs, (chicken, shrimp, water chestnuts, and ham) in an egg white wrapper. The seafood in fried taro is also highly recommended.

If you love fortune cookies and even if you don’t, go to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company to watch them being made. This little factory in Ross Alley produces 10,000 fortune cookies everyday.

One of the perks of staying overnight in Chinatown is getting up early for a fascinating morning walk through Stockton’s open-air markets and produce stands.