Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a chore—so turn it into a joyful exploration by making your gifting destination the oldest ethnic enclave in San Francisco, Chinatown.
Our Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia, and it’s hot off a successful night market, sporting a brand new transit hub and planning for the coming revitalization of Portsmouth Square. It’s also basking in the light of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which drew renewed attention to the neighborhood and spurred activity from an art block party to a bar and nightclub crawl.
Chinatown Kite Shop
📍 717 Grant Ave.
Open since 1972, Chinatown Kite Shop is a one-of-a-kind store and San Francisco legacy business that has a Zoltar fortune-telling machine out front and an incredible selection of kites inside. Offering everything from simple children’s kites to elaborate handmade dragon kites, you can find a range of gifts at various price points (including options of the non-kite variety). Perfect for San Franciscans, the store even has on sale a phoenix kite—the mythical bird that serves as the city’s symbol.
Ellie and Eva Company
📍 709 Jackson St.
🔗 No website
The Wok Shop
📍 718 Grant Ave.
While you’ll want to forego picking up any knives as gifts—tradition says that’s bad luck—there’s a whole variety of woks and other kitchen items on sale at the Wok Shop that make the perfect present for the foodie in your life. It’s a delight to search through the filled-to-the-brim, atmospheric shop where the prices are reasonable and the woks are aplenty. In business since 1972, the Wok Shop is a neighborhood institution worth patronizing.
📍 729 Grant Ave.
Kim+Ono specializes in silk and charmeuse handcrafted kimonos in botanical prints, and the serene store is a calm oasis in the midst of frenetic Chinatown. Buy your darling a real silk kimono trimmed with velvet, and they will feel like absolute royalty. The shop also has a beautifully curated selection of books, smudge sticks and other gifts for those who prioritize wellness.
Vital Tea Leaf
📍 95 Grant Ave.
You won’t just be shopping for tea, but getting life lessons—and splashes of humor—from owner Kenny when you stroll into Vital Tea Leaf on Grant Avenue. Owner Uncle Gee has his own words of wisdom: “Tea makes you younger, smarter, and twice as sexy,” as the store’s website informs you. You can sample any of the store’s various offerings—including black, green, white, oolong and tisane—for free and also pick up teaware sets as gifts.
📍 607 Grant Ave.
Jade Chocolates is a feast of the senses, a beautifully appointed store where you can shop for some of the most delicious chocolates in the city. There, delicate confections come in a range of shapes, flavors and colors, each more gorgeous than the next. We recommend a salted caramel called the Gold Mountain (the Chinese nickname for San Francisco during the Gold Rush), the olive oil and yuzu piece, and the peanut and mango jam Buddha, dusted with gold and in the shape of its namesake’s head. The signature chocolate bars—in particular, the Genmai—are also insanely delectable.
The Chinese Culture Center Gift Shop
📍 750 Kearny St., 3rd Floor
Tucked alongside the Hilton Chinatown San Francisco Hotel on Kearny Street, the Chinese Culture Center has a delightful gift shop that’s like a miniature SFMOMA with its delightful array of quirky goods. Here’s where you can stock up on dim sum pins, Vitasoy keychains and Get Rich earrings to give to your friends—and gift them complete with a Chinese zodiac postcard. As an added bonus, you know your purchase is going to support a cultural institution that supports Chinatown’s vibrant heritage.
📍 1256 Mason St.
Abacus Row owner Christine Trac curates an ever-changing assortment of locally made jewelry and gifts at a variety of price points at this Mason Street shop. While the store is arguably in Nob Hill, Trac is a fierce advocate for small businesses in Chinatown and features many of them in her own shop.
📍 616 Grant Ave.
🔗 No website
There are numerous emporia crowded with wares on the cramped streets of Chinatown, and Canton Bazaar is one of the better ones to find a large assortment of gifts at a range of prices. Try picking up a set of silk pillowcases—your loved one will never sleep better—or a mahjong set for wiling away lazy Sunday afternoons.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
📍 56 Ross Alley
For a truly unique gift—or over-the-top marriage proposal—place an order for custom fortune cookies at the factory where the signature Chinese treat (which is technically a Japanese invention) was born. You can customize each order with up to three different messages, and you also have the choice of five different flavors. Visit the atmospheric store to watch the cookies being made and select from an even wider range of flavors, sizes and messages—including X-rated ones.