San Francisco Neighborhoods – Chinatown

Friday February 25, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 2 Comments

Welcome to the Neighborhood, A Series About San Francisco Neighborhoods

Chinatown, San Francisco

San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood

In our third installment of the “Welcome to the Neighborhood” series, we’re going to explore one of San Francisco’s most iconic neighborhoods: Chinatown.

If you’re a regular reader of this series, you know our point of view is that to really get to know a city, travelers should go beyond the famous landmarks and tourist attractions. Especially in San Francisco, where the neighborhoods offer the diversity and atmosphere that people from all over the world come here to experience. That is especially true in Chinatown; we can’t think of another neighborhood in the city that has the ability to transport a visitor to another place and time.
The trick is to get off the main street – Grant Street, with its souvenir, luggage and t-shirt shops – to explore the atmospheric back alleys of Chinatown. With a few left turns off of Grant, the tourists are left behind and it’s suddenly possible to forget that you’re in an American city.


Chinatown neighborhood

Explore the back alleys of San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Exploring Chinatown
By visiting the following three destinations, you’ll find yourself deep in the neighborhood amongst the locals going about their daily business. We suggest you park the easy way: in the Portsmouth Square garage on Kearny Street. When you emerge from the elevator, you’ll step right onto Portsmouth Square. From there, you can work your way up the hill to explore all of the other destinations. Along the way, let yourself be led down a mysterious alley or sidewalk – half the fun in Chinatown is discovering a few things on your own.

Portsmouth Square. We call this Chinatown’s living room, and it is in fact the former center of San Francisco as you will see by the numerous monuments dotted around the square. Currently it is where residents of Chinatown gather to gamble, gossip and pass time. Sit amongst the locals and soak it all in.

Tien How Temple. Up three flights of stairs, visiting this 100 year old temple is a magical experience. Wander on to the balcony for some of the best views in the city.
Chinese Historical Society. Not only will you get a deep understanding of the Chinese community in San Francisco and learn the history of this fascinating neighborhood, you’ll likely meet a couple of long-time Chinatown residents who are staff members. Of note – the building is a former YWCA designed by famous San Francisco architect Julia Morgan.


Chinatown mural

Explore the real Chinatown in San Francisco

Shop Chinatown
When in Chinatown, we skip the tchochkes and shop for something that will provide an authentic memory of our time exploring the “real” Chinatown. Here are a few of our favorite destinations:
The Wok Shop. The first thing you probably think of when considering Chinese cuisine is the wok. The Wok Shop has been in Chinatown for over 30 years, so they know what they’re doing when it comes to woks, steamers, cleavers and all manner of chinese cooking utensils.
Stockton Street. Between Sacramento and Broadway, Stockton has a plethora of small grocers, produce shops, butchers, bakers and five and dime type stores. The sidewalks and shops along this stretch are crowded with residents doing their daily shopping. Just insert yourself in the flow, elbow your way along and you’ll be rewarded with interesting, tasty and sometimes bizarre discoveries.

Chinatown Kite Shop. Okay, we’ve advised you to wander off Grant, but there are a couple of good destinations on this street and one of them is Chinatown Kite Shop. Until you enter this shop you think your life is complete without a kite; five minutes later you’re in dither over which one to buy (Dragon? Butterfly?Fish? So many choices!).


dim sum, chinatown, san francisco

Discover the foods of Chinatown neighborhoods

Chinatown dining

Let’s just put it out there: eating off the beaten path in Chinatown can be intimidating. Set aside your fears and grab your chopsticks because we have tasted our way around Chinatown and here are our recommendations:
Sam Wo. Located at 813 Washington, just off Grant, this place is all about the atmosphere. Go through the kitchen, up a narrow staircase, and wedge yourself in. Sam Wo delivers on the collective idea of a little Chinese “joint”. The food is cheap (we like the Chow Fun), the service is (ahem) authentic, and it’s BYO.
Yong Kee Dim Sum. Located at 732 Jackson between Stockton and Grant, this is one of many dim sum shops on the street. The signage is in Chinese, so just look for the shop with the red awning on the North side of the street. Their steamed chicken buns are great, and so are the pork dumplings and the shrimp dumplings. If your Chinese is rusty, the ladies behind the counter will understand your pointing and sign language.
Golden Gate Bakery. Back to 1029 Grant Street for egg custard tarts at the undisputed winner of the “best egg custard tart award”. Okay, there’s not an official award, but if there was, Golden Gate Bakery would have the biggest trophy in Chinatown.

What is your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco? What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?

Related Posts:

San Francisco Neighborhoods – Divisadero Corridor

San Francisco Neighborhoods – Pacific Heights

Things to Do in San Francisco

Where to Eat Cheap in San Francisco, California

Friday February 18, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 3 Comments


TCHO chocolates, chocolate, food tour, san francisco, nancy d. brown

Start Day in San Francisco with Shot of Drinking Chocolate

Why not start your foodie tour of San Francisco with a shot of drinking chocolate? While there are plenty of things to do in San Francisco, dark chocolate lovers will want to begin their San Francisco Food Tour with a stop at TCHO, located on the Embarcadero on Pier 17.

TCHO’s “flavor wheel” helps customers choose their chocolate by flavor profile; fruity, floral, citrus, nutty. The flavor wheel reminded me of  The Wine Aroma Wheel developed back in the 1980’s by Dr. Ann Noble. No matter if you like your chocolate “earthy” or “chocolatey” you’ll find something to make your taste buds happy at TCHO.

TCHO (rhymes with Joe) is a combination of technology blending with new American chocolate. TCHO’s social mission goes the next step beyond Fair Trade – helping farmers by transferring knowledge of how to grow and ferment superior cocoa beans, resulting in premium chocolate producers.

TCHO was my first stop on the  Snacker’s Delight Tour; a custom car tour with the ladies of Carried Away.  If you prefer the hour-long TCHO Chocolate Factory Tour, you’ll need to schedule direct with the company. You may follow TCHO on Twitter.  I hope you’ll follow Nancy D. Brown, too!

Tony's Pizza, San Francisco, pizza, north beach, Nancy D. Brown

Visit Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza in San Francisco’s North Beach

Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza – Respect the Craft

Working your way from the Embarcadero to San Francisco’s North Beach, you must stop to eat at Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza & Slice House in North Beach. Tony Germignani is the World Pizza Cup winner and he brings his own special weapon to the pizza wars – San Francisco’s first 1,000 degree, coal fired pizza oven. Whether you prefer thin crust or a square of Sicilian pizza, Tony’s pizza will teach you to respect the craft of pizza making.

Liguria Bakery Since 1911

If you like home made focaccia bread with garlic,  pesto, or simply with sea salt and olive oil, Liguria Bakery is a next door neighbor to Tony’s Pizza.

Insider Tip:

Stop at Liguria in the morning or the bakery will be sold out of their bread. San Francisco locals know this is where to eat Italian style bread.


John Campbell Irish Bakery, bakery, san francisco, Nancy D. Brown, travel

John Campbell’s Irish Bakery

On a recent visit to John Campbell’s Irish Baker in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco, I met the sweetest lady, originally from London. Denise regularly stops to eat here and picks up Irish breads and scones for her San Francisco tea parties.

“This place makes the right size sandwiches. You can have your coffee and eat your bun here,” notes Denise.

Originally from Belfast, Ireland, Bakery Owner John Campbell holds the Order of the Master Baker title and has been baking for over 30 years. While his buns may be tasty, the real stars here are the savory offerings. Sink your teeth in to a hot, flaky sausage roll ($3.00) or the chicken curry pastie ($5.00) and your Irish eyes will surely be smiling!


Chicken Curry Pastie, John Campbell's Irish Bakery, bakery, San Francisco

Insider Tip:

In addition to Cow Hollow, John has two other bakeries in SanFrancisco; Geary in the Richmond and one on Potrero Hill.

Vietnamese Steet Food – Out the Door

On a cold day in San Francisco, nothing taste better than a hot bowl of pho from Out the Door, or OTD as it’s called by local residents. In additional to the chicken pho with beef broth, the Chicken Porridge with rau ram, crispy shallots and black pepper is a winner, but the hands down favorite for me was the barbeque steamed pork bun. Priced at $3.00 each, I could eat these buns for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Where are your favorite places to eat cheap in San Francisco? What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?


Out the Door, San Francisco, pho, soup, Nancy D. Brown

If You Go:

TCHO (415) 981-0189

Pier 17 Embarcadero @ Green

San Francisco, CA 94111

Tony’s Pizza (415) 835-9888

1570 Stockton St.

San Francisco, CA 94133

Liguria Bakery (415) 421-3786

1700 Stockton @ Filbert

San Francisco, CA 94133

John Campbell’s Irish Bakery

3101 Fillmore Street

San Francisco, CA

Out the Door (415) 923-9575

2232 Bush Street

San Francisco, CA 94115

Related Posts:

Things to See and Do in San Francisco

Fancy Food Show Trends

Article, YouTube video and photos by Nancy D. Brown

Urbandillo Hobo Bag -Travel Gear Review

Friday February 11, 2011 at 12:12 AM | 0 Comments

Fashion vs Function in a Travel Bag

Limited in what to pack for your travels, yet attempting to look fashionably chic? I know I often struggle with  fashion vs function in my travel gear; not so much with my luggage. I have found that the lightweight and durable Briggs and Riley luggage competes quite well on the fashion scene. It’s the purse, clutch, backpack situation that I struggle with. Backpacks and large shoulder bags are fine for day trips, but what do I use to carry my wallet, Canon Digital Camera, Flip Mino video camera, passport and lipstick when I’m at an upscale restaurant or on a cruise ship?

Hobo bag, Urbandillo, Nancy D. Brown, travel gear

Urbandillo Classic Hobo Bag Travel Gear Review

Shrink and Go Urbandillo Hobo Bag

Created by Veronica James, the Urbandillo brands include the Classic Hobo Bag. Priced at $69, the Hobo bag compacts from 23″ x 21″ down to a ball form.  The Hobo, made of polyester material, arrives in a 7″ x 7″ x 4″ packaging tin. However, my travel bag sample didn’t arrive in a tin. Like the Genie, released from Aladdin’s magic lamp, I imagine it would be easier to remove the bag, than to stuff it back into the tin.  Personally, I prefer to tuck the bag in my carry on and pull it out when needed.

The Hobo travel bag has an adjustable shoulder strap for cross body and shoulder wear and a side snap pocket to fit your phone or iPod, unless you have an Otterbox iPhone defender case. Fortunately, my iPhone slides into the side pocket. However, my iPhone, wrapped in the protective Otterbox defender case, doesn’t allow the the snap to close.

The Hobo travel bag comes with plenty of storage compartments to fit a water bottle, cell phone and includes an attached key clasp. The Classic Hobo comes in black or purple.

Hobo Travel Bag, Urbandillo, Travel Gear, Nancy D. Brown

Urbandillo Hobo Bag, a Travel Gear Review

Buy Urbandillo – Give Love

Travel writers and bloggers often write about how best to respond to third world children begging in the streets. To be sure, responsible travel is a subject fraught with much controversy. Urbandillo’s mission is to provide children in need with blankets. With every Urbandillo purchase, a blanket is personally given to a child in the US and worldwide.

Do you have a favorite travel bag? What travel gear can’t you live without?

If You Purchase: Urbandillo

Follow Urbandillo on Twitter and follow Nancy D. Brown on Twitter for travel tips.

Urbandillo supplied me with this travel gear for review.

Related Post:

Briggs and Riley BRX Explore 22″ Carry-on Luggage

Travel Tips on raveable