Visit a country inside the city of San Francisco

Established in 1848, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest and oldest neighborhood of its kind in the country. Drawing more visitors annually than the uber-popular Golden Gate Bridge, this really is a country within a city, twenty-four square blocks of Chinese American culture that has its own distinct hospitals, parks, social clubs, parades and, of course, restaurants.

The smell of Chinese food dominates most of Chinatown, whether it’s the sweet waft of fresh egg tarts from Golden Gate Bakery or the savory aroma of stirfry sizzling from House of Nanking. To understand San Francisco’s Chinatown is to eat in San Francisco’s Chinatown, so trying some dim sum is a must.

Plan for a long stroll, too, keeping your eyes wide open and your ears tuned as if you’re a traveler in another country – because, for all intents and purposes, you are. If you want the full history and cultural context of Chinatown, then don’t skip The Chinese Historical Society. If you’re an adventurous traveler who believes every trip – even a trip within one’s own country – should include something of the mysterious and exotic, then head to Chinatown.

CHINA LIVE: If you’re looking for a more modern and sleek Chinese food experience – with some California-infused attitude – try China Live. This grand 30,000 foot square space belies its name, as Chef George Chen wants guests to witness the skill and thoughtfulness that goes into each and every dish served. From the BBQ station to the Salad station and Dimsum Station, this interactive and experiential food hall is a delight for all the senses. Also featuring a Market Place and Cold Drinks Bar, China Live enables guests to bring goodies home, as well. And for those who want a more upscale experience, “Eight Tables” by George Chen, China Live’s fine dining counterpart above the marketplace and restaurant, was recognized as one of TIME Magazine World’s Greatest Places in 2019.

Recommended for Best of San Francisco’s Chinatown because: China Live might not follow in the footsteps of the more traditional Chinatown restaurants, but it’s hard to argue with their delicious offerings.

Tom’s expert tip: Don’t pass up the Stone Oven Roasted Duck Peking with Seasonal Fruit Glazes.- USA Today 10 Best (09.01.21)