So, tourists/white people, here's a free lesson. I present to you:
MIC's SF Chinatown quicktips
Chinatown quicktip #1:
If you walk into a restaurant in chinatown, and the name of the restaurant includes cheesy words like "dragon" or "garden" or "jade" or "palace", chances are, you're walking into an unauthentic tourist trap. And you'll walk in, eat, give them your money, and walk away with a satisfied belly, saying "that was some damn good authentic chinese food", without realizing how wrong you are. Avoid these restaurants.
Chinatown quicktip #2
The two main north/south streets of chinatown are Grant and Stockton. The tip here is to avoid Grant. While there are some rare gems of good authentic chinese food scattered here and there, most of Grant St is a giant tourist trap. The real shit is one block over on the parallel Stockton. Please try and avoid Grant St if you can, unless you really need to buy a goofy hat and take pictures and see lots of other white people with cameras. Go to Stockton, or many of the crosstreets in between Grant and Stockton. Lots of gems all up in there.
Chinatown kindoflongtipbutworththeread #3
The less English, the better. When I walk into a chinese restaurant, I can determine in seconds pretty accurately how good and authentic a chinese place is just by glancing at the menu and looking around at the walls (chinese restaurants often write their deals and specials onto paper and then tape them high up on the walls for all to see). If you are looking at the menu/walls, and all you see is Chinese written all over it, you hit the jackpot of damn good authentic chinese food. The only negative here, of course, is most tourists/white people don't speak Cantonese, so you're SOL if you don't bring a friend that speaks the language. Luckily I can speak it myself so I don't have this problem, although the confused reactions I get by the locals when they see a white-looking man speaking Cantonese without an accent is pretty funny. Anyways, most restaurants, even the super ultra mega authentic hole-in-the-wall places, don't have JUST chinese, since we are in Murica after all. They will likely have english and chinese written on the menus. Most of the time, this will be ok though. ESPECIALLY if, on the menu, the chinese is listed FIRST and then the terrible english translation is listed second underneath it. This is a huge generalization, but a good authentic chinese restaurant is catering towards actual chinese people, and mostly everything is in Chinese, and English only comes as an afterthought when they remember "oh shit we're in America, we may run into some white people" to help out those white customers that got lost and found their way inside. (Bonus points: the menus have Chinese/English, but the walls only have Chinese on them) Now, if that menu has the English first, and Chinese second, now we are wandering into potential troubleland. If English is prominent and Chinese seems to be an afterthought, chances are, you're not at a good place. And finally, if you are looking at the menu/walls, and there is ONLY English, jesus christ, grab your shit and run out that door. That food will be terrible. But again, it might taste delicious to the average Panda Express/P.F. Changes enthusiast. I only write this to say it will not taste good or authentic to someone that knows what real chinese food is supposed to taste like.
Not-really-in-actual-Chinatown quicktip #4
If you're one of those vegan gluten-free weirdos that probably smell funny and wears birkenstocks, then go to Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant. There are 3 locations, 2 of which are close to GG park. I've never stepped foot inside one because I like to bathe in meat, so I can't speak to its authenticity, but I've heard good things.
Chinatown quicktip #5
Most of chinatown starts to shut down around 630pmish, but real meals can still be had late night, you'll just have very limited options to choose from. Walk around chinatown around noon and then walk that same route around 7:00pm and you'll see what I mean.
Chinatown quicktip #6
One of the best restaurants in chinatown ever, period, closed down about a year ago. R.I.P. Sam Wo Restaurant. Open until 3am too. Sigh.
Ok enough about Chinese food in the OSL thread. God damn it, now I'm kinda hungry for some late night chinese food. Good thing I live in North Beach.