“This is a more living, authentic Chinatown,” says Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. “It’s a real, living Pan-Asian community.”
Chinatown “honors everything that’s trendy now,” says Roy Chan of the Oakland Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project, noting that Chinatown’s residents have relied heavily on walking and taking transit since before it was cool.
Here are just three of the many reasons to visit this fabulous slice of Oakland:
- Your stomach: Everyone knows that Chinatown is the place to go for great Asian food. Mayor Quan says, “I just think people need to experiment and try every little hole in the wall.” You will find not just Chinese cuisine, but a variety of regional tastes. If you’re in a hurry, here are some recommendations from the people we interviewed for our Love Letter to Chinatown: Shan Dong, for fresh noodles and dumplings; Peony or Legendary Palace, when you need to invite 300 of your closest friends; Phnom Pehn House for a taste of Southeast Asia; Rang Dong for Vietnamese cuisine; and Shooting Star Cafe, where you can get dessert after a night on the town ’cause it’s open late.
- Culture: Chinatown is home to an overwhelming array of cultural options, from classes in language, music, and dance to historical exhibits. The Hall of Pioneers is a stop not to be missed. Take a free walking tour and dig into over 100 years of Oakland history.
- Your stomach again: If you live in downtown Oakland, you may not realize what a treasure trove of fresh – and even organic – meat and vegetables at Chinatown’s many food shops. You can order personalized fortune cookies at Tom’s Bakery, where the smell of toasting cookies is nothing short of heaven.
Gilbert Gong, Director of the Lincoln Square Recreation Center has your Friday planned for you: start at the Old Oakland Farmer’s Market, spend the afternoon enjoying the delights of Chinatown, and end up at the food trucks of Friday Nights @ OMCA. What better way to enjoy the heart of the city?
Tom’s Bakery isn’t much to look at, but the smell of baking fortune cookies will drag you off the street. Photo by Laura McCamy.