Chinatown San Francisco

Chinatown–famed for its history, eclectic mix of people, business, and food, and vibrant colors.

The first time I visited Chinatown it was in a whirlwind power walk from the Embarcadero BART stop straight to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory then back , which didn’t leave much time for me to soak up the place with my camera (and taste buds.) So for this visit, I made sure to slow down and enjoy wandering around. After Fort Point and lunch at Japantown, I zigged across the city to find the cookie factory once more.


On Clay and Spofford. The Transamerica Pyramid rises above the skyline.


I love alleys for the many different variations of materials and textures. Steel, brick, wood, and even hanging laundry.


The fortune cookie factory is located on Ross Alley. It has very humble signage and is tucked away so neatly that it is easy to miss. Inside, the freshest fortune cookies are made daily in huge batches. Free samples are always offered, and it’s really hard not to walk away with a bag or two of fresh cookies.


The manufacturing process: three or four workers sit near the rotating presses. As the hot cookie comes off the press, the slip of fortune is quickly tucked into the folded cookie, and the whole thing cools off on a rack. The factory also produces chocolate ¬†fortune cookies as well as rounds and wavy, unfolded versions of the cookie batter called Smackles. The tin can of money on the right is for paying a fee to photograph the workers. It is $0.50 to shoot a photograph, but they do not seem to mind how many you take. The factory is so small that you can really only shoot the first worker in great detail (shown here.) They are used to gawkers, I suppose. I gawked and shot a bunch but other people wanted to take a photograph/get samples so I didn’t linger too long.


Here is a Chinatown staple– the Golden Gate Bakery. I know they serve good pastries and savories, but the line was too darn long to trifle with. Next time I’ll go earlier in the day and buy a pork bun or two.


I saw many Buddha statues and figures while walking around, but this is the only one I saw done in white and blue porcelain. It reminded me of my aunt’s china collection.


Many of the small markets had their stalls and tables spilling out onto the walkway. I wonder if they get some of their produce stolen at times? These box of mangoes were practically on the street next to the cars.


If I were a resident of Chinatown I would bank here just to see the awesome building.


Even in the summer, there is a need for scarves and beanies. I learned my lesson–never travel to San Francisco without a hat or gloves, even when the forecast says 70F and sunny all week long. The fog and wind sneak up on you when you least expect it.


Before I left to go back to the hotel, I stood for a moment and took my last look around Chinatown in Portsmouth Square Plaza. These folks played and sang classical songs while families and older residents played and hung out in the park. If I had more time, I would have bought pastries from the Golden Gate Bakery and brought them here to eat and people-watch. It was a nice Sunday afternoon despite the fog cooling everything down.

As always, I hope I can go back to these places one day and discover more new things. Until then!


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