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Visit a Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco

Visiting Chinatowns in American cities is a fun way to get a snapshot of immigrant culture. Even though my home city of New York has a sizable Chinatown of its own, it doesn’t hold a candle to San Francisco ‘s Chinatown– which is often called the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. While New York’s Chinatown always feels cramped and chaotic, San Francisco’s Chinatown feels spacious and open— on some hilltops you’ll even have wide open views of the Bay.

I recommend arriving by cable car and hopping off near the cable car museum to begin your Chinatown tour.

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Wind your way down Chinatown’s broad avenues and hidden alleyways. Explore the selections of exotic vegetables and sample some delicious pork buns. You’ll want to skip most of Chinatown’s so-called souvenirs though– they’re mostly plastic junk not worth the room in your suitcase.

But there is a unique place in Chinatown where you can witness a decades-old Chinatown tradition and pick up some tasty souvenirs to bring home– the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

Today’s fortune cookies are distinctly American– you won’t find anything like them in China. The actual fortune cookie recipe (flour, sugar, vanilla and sesame seed oil) isn’t even Chinese– it’s derived from a Japanese cracker, later adapted by Chinese American immigrants.

Today, most of the fortune cookies you get with your Chinese takeout are made in industrial factories in pockets around the US. But in San Francisco’s Chinatown, you can still walk into a small factory and watch them made in front of you.

Golden Gate fortune cookie factory san francisco chinatown souvenirfinder.com

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, opened in 1962, is a shoebox of a space on Ross Alley. Look for the shop’s green and red awning.

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You can walk right into Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and watch workers remove hot cookies off the griddle press, place a fortune inside, then fold it into the traditional fortune cookie shape. We found it fascinating how meticulous the workers were– any tiny imperfections in the spherical cookie discs caused them to be tossed into the “reject” pile, where they were rounded up and sold fortune-less at a reduced rate. Rejected cookies were also thrust into our hands as free samples.

I would have loved to stay a little longer and watch the cookie-making operations, but I was tired of being jostled by the various foodie tour groups that shoved their way into the shop. I picked up a bag of mixed standard and chocolate-flavored cookies and took my cookies home with me.

Souvenir Finder Shopping Tip Sheet

  • What to buy: freshly made fortune cookies in standard, chocolate and almond flavors. “Adult” and custom fortunes also available. In tupperware, cookies will stay fresh for about a month.
  • Where to get it: Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, Ross Alley, San Francisco California.
  • What to know: to discourage looky-loos, Golden Gate charges fifty cents to take photos.

What’s your favorite Chinatown? Share in the comments below!

 

8 Responses to Visit a Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco

  1. Sue Slaght 08/31/2014 at 3:37 pm #

    Love this tip Kristin. I look forward to a visit in the future and well worth 50 cents for the photos!

    • Kristin Francis 08/31/2014 at 7:55 pm #

      Lol I was actually charged a dollar! I must have been extra annoying with the camera! : )

  2. dianaveggienextdoor 08/31/2014 at 5:15 pm #

    I love, love, love fortune cookies! I would love to try some fresh off the press 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 08/31/2014 at 7:56 pm #

      They are totally different fresh off the grill! Yum!

  3. jwendy 08/31/2014 at 5:26 pm #

    Thanks! I am doing a photoshoot in S.F. soon. I’ll check out this place while I’m there.

    • Kristin Francis 08/31/2014 at 7:57 pm #

      I would definitely recommend getting there early to avoid the tour groups. Enjoy!

  4. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer 09/01/2014 at 4:58 pm #

    I would love to visit Chinatown in San Fran, I completely missed it during my last trip there! And those fortune cookies look yummy!

  5. This sounds fascinating!

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