San Francisco Chinatown Food Tour - Poplar Travels
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Feb 06 2016

San Francisco Chinatown Food Tour

There are few things we love more than to explore a new city’s cuisine. While we had heard mixed reviews of San Francisco’s Chinatown (it’s overrated; really small) we knew we couldn’t miss it. So we were really excited to find a food tour on Tinggly that included a walk through Chinatown and beyond into North Beach led by a local.


We met our guide at Chinatown’s gate and set off towards our first stop: Eastern Bakery, the oldest bakery in San Francisco. We got to try a sampling of savory and sweet treats including a Jun Chinese tamale wrapped in bamboo leaves and a pork dumpling. Have you ever tried a Chinese pancake? What about a mooncake with homemade lotus filling? Our favorite was the mooncake which is a little cake about the size of the palm of your hand filled with a dense, mildly sweet filling. More traditional fillings include a red bean paste if you want to be really authentic, but the lotus is more like a western dessert.

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We left the bakery with some candied ginger we just couldn’t resist and headed to Tenren’s Tea Room. After our surprisingly filling snack at the bakery, we were happy to take a break with some tea. Our hostess ushered us to sit at a low table and began steeping tea in ceramic pots. We started with a mild white tea followed by a black tea and finished with a King’s Tea Oolong which was incredibly smoky and almost tasted like whiskey! Our hostess was not shy about her passion for her trade. She happily explained to us the ingredients in each tea and its origins. “I can enjoy every kind of tea” she said, smacking her lips and nodding, clearly speaking the truth.

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As we moved through Chinatown and into North Beach, we walked past some amazing buildings with interesting history including the oldest bar still standing (and still operating as a bar). It’s 160 years old and survived the major earthquake and fire that ravaged San Francisco in 1906. The church where Sister Act was filmed, an impressive mural and a restaurant famous for including garlic in every dish were also pointed out to us. Although this is a group tour, we ended up being the only two guests. It was great because we genuinely felt like a friend was showing us around his neighborhood. The tour would be great with a group as well since you’ll have plenty of opportunity for conversation and you’ll end the tour in a great neighborhood to continue your evening with new friends.

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Next up was a candy store, so I knew we were in trouble. The first thing we noticed were the rows and rows of huge barrels full of brightly colored taffy. Before we made it to those, however, we stopped at the fudge counter where the creative flavors of fudge taunted us from behind the glass. We took our fudge tastings for later since we got way more than we could have enjoyed standing at the counter. We got to taste everything from coffee to raspberry to maple flavored fudge. Of course we left with some gummies and chocolate bacon, because I just can’t leave a sweets store without buying several things.

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We stopped a few doors down for cannolis at a bakery that is famous for them. (More sweets!) Our guide suggested we come back to try the tiramisu and we hope to next time we visit. We took these to go as well since we were filling up and still had pizza to eat. Our final destination was an Italian restaurant (one of many in the neighborhood) where we had some pizza and a glass of wine.


We ended our night with a few meals worth of leftovers and sweets for days. Thankfully our hotel was a short distance away and we walked back to The Fairmont to help work off some of the indulgence.


We had a great time on this tour and appreciated how much our guide knew about the area (and the rest of San Francisco). He easily explained the history of the area, significant landmarks, and even gave us what turned out to be excellent recommendations for where to eat the next day. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “foodie” this walking tour mixes up the cuisine with food, tea and candy so it will appeal to even picky palettes. Plus, the historical aspect and San Francisco history will keep you entertained as you make your way between stops. 


You can read more about this tour and book the experience for yourself through Tinggly

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Poplar Travels participated in this activity as a guest of Tinggly. Our opinion is always our own.

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Evanne Allen

Evanne co-founded Poplar Travels after quitting her job in Washington, D.C. She got itchy feet at a young age and has never lost the urge to explore the planet. A previous museum employee, she is apt to drag travel partners into several cultural institutions anywhere she goes. She wishes she could speak every language and loves meeting new people.

  • Sounds amazing! I love San Francisco’s China Town, I must get back and sample a food tour! I was travelling with very fussy eaters last time round – eurgh!

    Danielle /

    February 7, 2016 at 12:55 pm
  • San Francisco is definitely on my to see list, so it’s good to see that the food scene there is happening. Can’t wait to go now!

    February 16, 2016 at 10:32 pm

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