"The good, the bad and the trampled" Chinatown Tip by goodfish

Chinatown, San Francisco: 183 reviews and 334 photos

  Grant Avenue, Chinatown
by goodfish
  • Grant Avenue, Chinatown - San Francisco
      Grant Avenue, Chinatown
    by goodfish
  • Near Waverly Place, Chinatown - San Francisco
      Near Waverly Place, Chinatown
    by goodfish
  • Lots of color - San Francisco
      Lots of color
    by goodfish
  • Buddha-for-a-buck - San Francisco
    by goodfish
  • The cat thing just freaks me out - San Francisco
      The cat thing just freaks me out
    by goodfish

It's the largest and oldest Chinese community in the US. It has a fascinating past. It's usually the first thing many visitors want to see. And you should see it - at least once. With all due respect to the culture and valuable contributions to San Francisco history though, it's just not my favorite cup of oolong. On this fourth trip to the city I gave it another shot and detoured off the main drag into the back alleys where it was rumored that "real" Chinatown could be found. That was interesting - will follow this up with more on that.

So what's not to love? I find it just too insanely crowded, cluttered, noisy and overloaded with shops hawking cheap, mass-produced tchotchkes (what IS it with the weird Waving Cats??!!), t-shirts and electronics.

What makes a trip worth the shoe leather? Interesting architecture (although essentially created for the tourists), temples, a handful of better stores, a stroll through a few of the Chinese groceries (love those piles of neon-hued candies), some great bakeries and tea shops, and maybe a stop for dim sum. I also think you'll find your experience much richer if you do some background reading before you go - it's the heritage of this resilient, hard-working community that is its claim to fame.

Children will love the all the bright colors and you can pick up an inexpensive toy here for the grandkids at home (fun kites!) but maneuvering strollers through the hordes of people and displays clogging the sidewalks can be a real challenge. Do get off Grant Avenue and into some of the lesser-traveled corners (try Waverly Place) to find a little breathing room and less of the tourist junk.

Address: Bordered by Broadway, Bush, Kearny, Stockton sts.
Directions: Ornamental gate at Grant and Bush intersection.
Phone: 888-212-3203
Website: http://www.sfchinatown.com/

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jun 9, 2010
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