San Francisco Stories and Tips

Shopping the Outer Sunset / Irving Street

sunset at sunset beach Photo, San Francisco, California

San Francisco has two Chinatowns now - the one on Grant and the other one way out on Irving. It's not called Chinatown but it should be - it's sort of a junior sized version.

Our base of operations (i.e. parking spot) was at 23rd and Irving - the site of yet another Ren Ten Tea store. After my experience buying white tasteless tea and heinous horrible tasting pumpkin seeds at the Chinatown Ren Ten Tea store why - you may ask - was I back in the store? I was back because I was told they had the absolute best bubble/pearl/tapioca tea drinks and I wanted one.

I had the coconut pudding drink with black pearl tapioca - there was no pudding involved but quite tasty. My friend had the mango something or other, also with black pearl tapioca - hers was even better.

The shop is much smaller than the Chinatown version with chairs to enjoy your drink.

What else is in outer Sunset? Some of the same stuff that you'll find in Chinatown, but for far less money.

Chinese silks? Yes, there's a huge two-storied fabric store.

Woks and steamers - yes absolutely for at least 10-25% less than you'd pay in Chinatown.

Dishes? There are seas of dishes and plastic knick knacks and joss paper and incense and incense burners and grocery stores and Hello Kitty.

Both sides of the street for several blocks both east and west of the Ren Ten Tea shop are full of places to get the Chinatown shopping experience without the Chinatown prices.

The best part of shopping the outer Sunset? Going to the beach - just a short drive down Irving - to view the sun setting. Sunset Beach is an odd neighborhood full of foggy, cold, windy days and glorious, light filled, almost but not quite warm sunsets. Park your car, bundle up in a sweater or jacket (yes, especially in the summer), grab your camera, and wait for the show to begin. It's a miraculous show almost every night.

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