San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia, and the oldest in North America. Even though you're right in the middle of the city, visiting Chinatown feels more like you’ve traveled to another continent. The best time to visit is at night. Chinatown is always a fun adventure, but a little bit more exciting when the sun goes down.
Start at Chinatown’s main entrance at Grant Street, through the ornate, arched Dragon Gate off Bush Street. Then, wander through the colorful lanterns and electric neon signs that light up the small family-owned shops filled with tea, herbs, and Chinese delicacies, like Peking duck and fresh dim sum. You’ll find loads of small treasures and trinkets here too, from sparklers to silk slippers and paper parasols.
Chinatown is nothing if not colorful, and it has three times more hidden alleyways than traditional streets, each one worth exploring. The best way to explore one of the oldest, largest and most active Chinatowns in the world is always on foot -- it's far too congested for cars. There are almost too many murals here to count, but the 8 Immortals on Trenton Alley is one of my personal favorites. There are several walking tours you can sign up for, which is probably the best way to see the murals - guided by a knowledgeable local. Or, grab some dim sum and just wander on your own, getting lost in the history, culture, and color of this vibrant part of San Francisco's history.
Owner and Executive Chef Brandon Chew, who has cooked from Shanghai to Bologna and in notable restaurants all over the Bay Area, opened Mister Jui's this past April with his own Northern California take on Cantonese cooking. A native of San Francisco, Chef Chew sources locally grown and sustainable ingredients for his restaurant’s dishes, like trout from McFarland Farms and pork from Devil’s Gulch. They are served in an elegant space designed with traditional and modern elements in mind -- like the spinning lazy Susan that lay flush with the table. Located on colorful and tranquil Waverly Place, Mister Jiu's also specializes in eight cocktail drinks representing aspects of good fortune and perfect for making a toast: Happiness, Wisdom, Joy, Luck, Prosperity, Longevity, Tranquility, and Wealth.
Also on the more modern end of the spectrum is Legion, a clothing, accessory, and home shop that also includes an art gallery located on the edge of Chinatown. Owned and operated by Sydney Pfaff, a writer and stylist before opening her own creative space, many of the pieces carried at Legion are from local artists and designers. You can also find unique apparel from Kaarem and Ilana Kohn from New York. Stop in for your fashion fix and check out the artwork on display -- there's always a fun series of colorful art in steady rotation.