Posted by: forgingahead | April 21, 2009

SF Chinatown Field Trip

Bert and I played tourist in our city the other day. We began our day in the Italian neighborhood of North Beach.

Mama's Restaurant in North Beach

Being savvy locals we did NOT stand in this line at Mama’s restaurant in North Beach. I felt kind of bad for these folks. A long wait for o.k. food at seriously touristy prices. (Seriously? $18 for a crab omelette? Are you kidding me?)

No, we made our way into the understated Liguria Bakery across the street. Makers of divine heaven in the form of foccacia bread. See all these people on Yelp! think so too!


Step through their doors and you feel transported to a small town in Italy. We’re purists and always get the pizza foccacia…pillowy bread drenched in olive oil, slathered in tangy tomato sauce and topped with green onions.

We each had a piece sliced into bite-sized strips and tucked into a brown lunch bag which we happily munched from as we wandered out into the world. Cost: $8. Wait time: Zero.

Washington Square park was packed with usual assortment of folks walking their dogs, doing Thai Chi and in general soaking up the greenery of one of the city’s pretty parks.

And these lovely ladies. Don’t you just love their hats?

washington square park

I just bet they’ve been friends for donkeys years and they meet up on this bench rain or shine every third Friday of the month (or on the first full moon, whichever comes first).

A few blocks later we drifted into Chinatown and our first stop was this one-of-a-kind shop. This guy carries it all. Pastel colored plastic stools stamped with silly characters and nonsensical sayings:

plastic stool

The words say:
Because mean so very much, because I need you so, and Because your love has given me the greatest joy I know. We Are Friends. (verbatim – and yes, there is a word missing for you smartypants out there who think I’m a lousy typist.)

I wanted to buy it but $3 seemed a little pricey.

Then I seriously considered this bad boy. Here he looks all regal with his ladies standing attendance.

king and ladies

A few rows over he was hanging with his homeboys:

bunches of kings

Then I found the place that all old bicycle pumps come to rest. Pretty colorful display and so artfully arranged. Not. Can we have a moment of silence for the fallen pumps?

bike pump cemetary

As we zigzagged our way through the alleys and side streets of Chinatown we stumbled upon the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. I was so psyched. My First Grade class had gone on a field trip to the factory and to my little kid self the place seemed huge and absolutely magical. Kind of like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.


Reality? Not so much. Tiny, dark and more than a little depressing. But it did smell good and it was kind of cool to watch the woman tuck each fortune into the flat disc and then wrap it around the bar to form its classic shape.

I, of course, purchased a bag of cookies. But not the fortune kind. I have a weakness for almond cookies (really, anything almond based at all…with marzipan being the bees knees) so I bought a bag of those. Mom used to get them for me and they came in a pink box. Isn’t it funny what we remember from childhood?





  1. Those cookies look amazing.
    Love the ladies in the hats too.

    Isn’t it fun to play tourist in your own town?

  2. Why don’t I live in San Francisco? Seriously? I could live like that. Meanwhile, I like to play tourist here. 🙂 Nothing more fun than a photo walk in Florida.

  3. Love the hats and the fortune cookie place! Next time I come to SF I’m asking you where I need to go first 🙂

  4. Sounds like a very fun day! I am trying to find your most recent entry and ran into this delightful one. I think I am destined to be forever “computer challenged”. There must be an easy way to get to your most recent blog?!? Love the fortune cookie memory. Smells evoke the most memory sometimes.



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