When we first started looking for lodging near SF, I told Jess that I wanted to stay near Daly City or Millbrae because I have a couple friends who live out there. After a few recommendations to check out Oakland instead, and also a few peaks at the price difference between the two, we made the call to stay in Oakland. When we’re travelling, we always make sure to check out what we can do just outside our room, just in case we’re tired out from the day and don’t feel like walking too far or ubering to the other side of town. When we found our Airbnb, we noticed that it was right on the outskirts of Chinatown.
Now, for me, this was an immediate plus. I’m not necessarily the most knowledgeable about the topic, but I love Asian food. So I went on Google to find some of the most highly recommended places to try while we were there.
One of the things that stood out to me was the Chinese “bakeries”. Even though they may be called bakeries, they aren’t the same cafe with candied pastries that you’ll find in Jersey (and I’m assuming in most places?) These bakeries are filled with snacks, some desserts, but also some as hot dishes. Most items cost only $1 or $2, and are incredibly delicious. My favorite bakery that we visited was Sun Sing Pastry Dim Sum. If you like pork buns, this place is a must visit. Because it was in walking distance, Jess and I started every morning with a trip to Sun Sing, and every morning I bought a $1 pork bun, which came either baked or steamed. Personally, I prefer baked because of the sweet glaze that comes on top of the bun. But both are beyond appetizing and deserve a recommendation.
We took a walking tour of Chinatown when we first got in, stopping at Ruby King Bakery Cafe for egg custard tarts, Cam Huong Deli Restaurant for sandwiches (Jess had the Curry tofu banh mi, I had the barbecue chicken banh mi), and The Sweet Booth for a mango smoothie with boba. Every street had places we wanted to stop at and eat, but there was only so much we could eat before we were full. If we didn’t have so much to do in San Francisco, I would have loved to spend more time eating our way through Chinatown.
Apart from the food, Chinatown has its charm with various murals along the walls, and a few street-side market places. We didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to walk through and see the locals set up shop.
We loved getting to see the tourist spots in San Francisco, but experiencing local Chinatown was easily one of my favorite parts of our trip. If you’re looking for a non-touristy area, I highly recommend visiting Chinatown in Oakland. I’m not sure if I’d go so far to call it a hidden gem of the Bay Area, but it definitely felt more down to earth than other spots, and I’d encourage you to make the trip out there when you get a chance.