San Francisco Chinatown

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by panda2 on January 27, 2005

San Francisco’s Chinatown claims to be the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, with a symbolic gate entrance at Grant Avenue and Bust Street.

San Francisco's oldest road, Grant Avenue was originally named Calle de la Fundacion (street of the founding) in 1845, changed to Dupont after an American admiral when California ceded to the Union in 1846. It became notorious because of the Tong Wars, opium dens, sing-sing girls, about 1,000 slave prostitutes. The Chinese even today still refer to it Du Pon Gai. The name was changed to Grant in the late 1800s after the 18th president of the U.S. to give image an uplift.

Chinatown was destroyed by fire in the 1906 earthquake where some wanted the Chinese out of the city. Grant Avenue, along with Stockton Street and Sacramento Street, which run parallel to intersect Columbus Avenue, are the main drags of Chinatown, with some spillage onto Kearny Street near the Chinatown Hilton.

Many of the souvenir shops are mainly on Grant Avenue, while the locals purchase their goods along Stockton Street.

There are many restaurants throughout the area, the quality, price, atmosphere all varies from hole in the walls to upper scale. Some of the good quality food can come from a place that looks like a hole in the wall. Just be aware, if the place is full of Chinese customers they must be pretty good. But if the place is empty when the streets are full of people, I'd look somewhere else.

If your family is traditional with relatives and friends, going to banquets seem quite common, attending for event, I enjoyed it after the speech ended and the courses of food presented.

Shopping with my mom in Chinatown, a shop where fresh tofu was made on the premises and this older man holding a rather long, large pipe with the bottom end held over a pan for liquid dripping out of it while he was smoking through this device. I was curious about this but never asked, it may have been an opium pipe.

Shopping at a poultry shop on Grant Avenue when we were able to buy freshly slaughtered chicken where the merchant would take a live chicken from the holding pens the customer selects, slit its throat, put it in a garbage can, put the cover on it, retrieve it after the chicken died and stopped moving, plucked it, cleaned it, gutted the chicken, wrapped it up in several layers of newspaper for the paying customer to pickup later. The practice later became illegal to do in the city. So you have to buy it live and kill, pluck, clean it yourself or do like most urban city shoppers do, buy it already killed, plucked, cleaned at a butcher or meat department of a supermarket.

Take the BART to the Embarcadero, Montgomery, or Powell Street stations. Take the Muni nos. 1, 15 or 30; or the California Street, Powell & Hyde or Powell & Mason Cable Cars to the Chinatown stop.
Grant Avenue
San Francisco, California

© LP 2000-2009