San Francisco night markets are having a real moment in 2023. After the success of the Sunset's Taiwanese-inspired markets, Chinatown is seemingly next in line for a moonlit market.
The Chinatown night market, a two-night event, arriving just before the APEC summit brings heads of state from around the world and other bigwigs to town in November, is organized by BeChinatown, a community-based nonprofit. A test outing for the market on Sept. 29 during the festival featured foods from AA Bakery, the Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant and Dragon Papa Dessert, as well as a dozen other merchants.
The neighborhood is no stranger to public gatherings, going back at least 15 years: Last month's Mid-Autumn Festival and prior monthly night markets in Portsmouth Square have drawn crowds (and colorful characters), helping to buoy local businesses and vendors.
Lily Lo, the founder of BeChinatown, told The Standard in Cantonese that it was a successful event. She added, “Many younger people were coming to Chinatown. I hope they will come back.”
Lo said a diverse group of merchants will sell egg tart, pork bun and other pre-made Chinese favorites along a two-block stretch of Grant Avenue. There will be no on-site cooking.
Lo said Grant Avenue has put up some new lanterns already; she wants early-arriving APEC guests to appreciate the neighborhood's beauty.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency meeting has approved the street closures, including one for the market along Grant Avenue between Bush and Sacramento streets from 3 p.m. Nov. 10 until 10 p.m. Nov. 11.
On Thursday, businesses reached by The Standard hadn't heard of the market but seemed excited.
At Michael Fine Art and Antiques at 400 Grant Ave., a worker who answered the phone but declined to identify himself said he had heard of the night market about a week ago. "We're looking forward to it and hoping it will bring more business and foot traffic to the area," the worker told The Standard.
A manager at Venezia Art Gallery, 430 Grant Ave., said they did not plan to attend but were happy to hear the event would bring folks to the neighborhood.
In April, after San Francisco Supervisor Joel Engardio helped lay out the groundwork with a long list of local vendors, thousands of locals and visitors flocked to an extraordinarily popular market that packed a three-block stretch of the Sunset District's Irving Street this September.
“We started small—three blocks—because we weren’t sure how it would work out, but we need to double it,” Engardio told The Standard at the time. “We definitely need to extend it two or three more blocks. Based on the feedback I got in the crowd, people were clamoring for more.”
A separate night market on O'Farrell Street between Fillmore and Steiner streets in the city's Fillmore District, piloted by a small group of vendors, began taking place Friday nights on Aug. 11 with support from community groups, event organizers and city agencies. That event is scheduled to continue until Dec. 15.
With smoked barbecue, small business vendors and a domino tournament, the Fillmore night market serves as a one-stop shop for local food, art and neighborhood pride in San Francisco’s historically Black neighborhood.
Clarification: This story has been updated with more accurate attendance figures for the Sunset night market in September.