Chinatown has always been one of The City's most popular tourist attractions. It
has been called "quaint," "picturesque," and other terms that help people forget
that it's a slum with more neon lights than usual.
There are really two faces to Chinatown. Grant Avenue is designed to appeal to tourists,
with its giftshops and restaurants. Less glamorous (but more fun) is the rest of
Chinatown, where the actual Chinese population lives and shops.
Designed by Clayton Lee, Melvin H. Lee and Joe Yee back in 1970. (Grant Avenue &
THE FLAVOR OF CHINATOWN
Throughout the neighborhood, both the streetlight and streetsigns have taken on a
distinctly Chinese attitude. And, of course, there are the pagoda-style roofs on
the buildings at Grant & California.
A place for old men to hang out. There’s also a monument to the author of Treasure
Island and Kidnapped.
JACKSON STREET, AT GRANT AVENUE
The vibrant heart of the neighborhood.
OLD ST. MARY’S
The biblical quote about “flying from evil” was meant to be seen from the brothels
(now long gone) across the street.
This longtime San Francisco favorite recently closed. It wasn’t the best restaurant
in Chinatown, but it certainly was the narrowest.You entered through the steamy
kitchen, continuing up the stairs to the tiny dining room on the second floor. But
the prices were unbeatable, and it was open until 3 AM!
A dive bar in the absolute best sense of the term.
Take my advice: skip the giftshops and get some fresh bok choy.
DR. SUN YAT-SEN
Beniamino Bufano’s highly stylized statue of the Chinese revolutionary stands in
St. Mary’s Square.
Sadly, this is all the Chinatown some people ever see.
THE CHINATOWN PHONE COMPANY
In the early twentieth century, this bank was the Chinatown Phone Company, where
the operators sat on wooden barrels and were required to memorize every phone number
in the neighborhood.