Did you know that fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco? They’re still being produced in a small, hole in the wall, “factory” or should I say shop, but you’ll smell this place before you see it, as the aroma drifts up the small side alley off Chinatown’s main street. The Alley is one of the oldest in the city and is lined with murals depicting Chinese American life.
These fortune cookies are addictive and delicious, and the location is filled with local character. The cookies are made by old Mr. Yee and 2 ladies, who swiftly whip the flat cookie wafers off of machines, put the paper message in place and then fold the cookie over into it’s well known shape. You can buy the cookies in the flat disc like shape they have before the message is inserted or in their fortune cookie configuration. There’s a range of flavors and shapes on offer, chocolate; sesame; almond – all delicious and relatively cheap -a generous bag for about $4. But if you want to take a photo, heed the sign and cough up 0.50c.
You can watch them making the cookies and then sample one hot, straight off the machine. As for the sage messages inside they are still being written by the billionaire and philanthropist C.H. Wang, but there are also bible verses, lottery numbers and x-rated fortunes, as well as those written in several languages and shipped around the world. If you bring your own message, a marriage proposal for example, they can put it inside a cookie for you for only 0.50c .
Tour groups do bring you to this cookie mecca, on the Chinatown walking tour or the ghost tour for example, but all things are better seen without a tour guide. If you try to come at the beginning or end of the day you will probably avoid being one of the tourist crowd.
Where: 56 Ross Alley, Nob Hill,Chinatown. Getting there: Parking is scarce, but you will probably be walking through Chinatown anyway, and the factory is off the main Chinatown street – Jackson Street.If you are coming from the Stockton St. end of Jackson St. then the alley is on your right, a little after you pass Duncombe alley on your left and before you get to St. Louis Alley on your right. Follow your nose, and ask around, although there is a small sign.
Tel: (415) 781-3956
Open hours: 08:00-20:00 Mon-Sun
Note: Not wheel chair accessible. Child friendly. No credit cards.
Website: San Francisco Chinatown