Celebrating Chinese New Year in San Francisco
I grew up in Los Angeles where each year my family celebrated Chinese New Year. Not too different than how families get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, our extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles would come to my house for the best potluck dinner of the year. Even second generation kids like myself can appreciate good Chinese food. I had dumplings (jiao zhi), steamed fish, rice cakes with mustard greens (nian gao), fried noodles (chao mian), soups with sweet rice balls with black sesame fillings (tang yuan), and many other dishes I am actually unable to name in English.
Of course, the other great part was getting red envelopes filled with money. Those Hamilton’s went a long way back then. Looking back, what I appreciate the most about these family reunions, however, was the passing down of Chinese tradition and culture.
My father emigrated from Taiwan in 1965. That was the year the U.S. States Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which effectively ended the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this act into law at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. This law abolished quotas that limited the immigration of people from Asia and Africa.
Today, America is even more diverse than ever before. My American experience of growing up in L.A. meant experiencing food and culture from Mexico, Japan, Iran, American Southern, Korean, and of course Taiwan and Hong Kong. There is not a week that goes by today that I am not eating foods from Vietnam, Pakistan, India and China. My life is enriched because of the immigrants from those countries who now call America their home.
Chinese New Year will be on February 16, 2018. It’s also known as Lunar New Year as other Asian countries celebrate it as well. If you are in San Francisco, here a few restaurant recommendations.
3 Best Chinese Restaurants in San Francisco
1. R&G Lounge: 631 Kearney St., 415-982-7877
This Cantonese restaurant is a gem in the Chinatown-Financial District. R&G Lounge is best known for their salt and pepper crab. I’ve had it many times, and I can tell you that it’s worth taking extra cholesterol medication for. Their other dishes are solid Chinese classics. It’s a popular place, so I highly recommend making a reservation. Tip: Park at Portmouth Square Plaza down the street and get it validated for a discount from R&G Lounge.
2. City View Restaurant: 662 Commercial St.
Just around the corner from R & G Lounge is another favorite but for Dim Sum. City View Restaurant may not have a view of the city, but you won’t be disappointed otherwise. Dim Sum is a Hong Kong and Southern China cuisine. It’s the Chinese version of small plates or tapas. Select a type of tea and sample a dozen different dishes. I take my mom to Dim Sum every time she visits.
3. Golden Gate Bakery: 1029 Grant Ave.
Golden Gate Bakery is the king of egg tarts. Come early and get in line. There is always a line. The only thing you need to order here are the egg tarts. Fresh from the oven. Buttery and sweet. Like Krispy Kreme donuts, they are best eaten right away.
Best Chinatown Hotel: Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Also down the street from R&G Lounge and City View Restaurant is the centrally located Hilton San Francisco Financial District. I love this location because it’s central to Chinatown and the Ferry Building Marketplace on the water about half a mile away. Before I moved to the Bay Area, I stayed at this hotel for that very reason. There is no need for a car. Between walking and taking an Uber, most tourist places are within 15 to 20 minutes.
Happy Chinese New Year! Or, as we say in Mandarin: Gong xi fa cai.
You may also enjoy:
- 5 Unique Places to Visit in San Francisco
- Your Guide to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park
- Must-See San Francisco Attractions – A Two-Day Itinerary
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Know Before You Go
- Golden Gate Park has many activities – there are countless trails to walk, lakes, ponds, fields for sports activities, and even a Conservatory for Flowers.
- Check out these spots for great photos: Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill, Dolores Park, and Alamo Square.
- Always dress in layers for the weather. Even in the summer, it can be chilly!