I‘m not a huge fan of Chinese food, but I’ve always loved cracking open fortune cookies to read the pithy sayings: “Good news will be brought to you by mail,” “When your heart is pure, your mind is clear,” or “Help! I’m being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery!” Eating fortune cookies in China was on my bucket list, until I made the shocking discovery that fortune cookies are not in fact Chinese—they are an American invention, based on a similar style cookie that originated in 19th century Japan. Bubble burst, I reconciled myself to nibble the cookies of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Down an unsuspecting alley is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Once you wend your way past dumpsters overflowing with greasy Chinese takeout containers and yesterday’s crumpled newspapers, you’ll smell the vanilla and baked-sugar sweetness wafting from this hole-in-the-wall establishment. Walk in and you’ll be greeted by a friendly old man spinning hot dough into the cookies’ trademark shape, and inserting the paper fortunes one by one.
Want to take a photo? That will be fifty cents please—a rule that is strictly enforced! Once he hears your coins jingle into the bucket, he will pose for the camera and happily hand out still-warm free samples (aka the misshapen or broken cookies that don’t pass fortune cookie muster).
The factory is also a shop, so you can buy bags filled with dozens of freshly formed cookies for just a few dollars. The factory/shop is very small, and takes only a few minutes to thoroughly explore (thus the short blog post!).
The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory may not be on par with Alcatraz or Fisherman’s Wharf in the San Francisco tourist attraction scheme of things, but in the wise words of a Chinese fortune: “A Pleasant Surprise is Waiting for You.”
The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is located at 56 Ross Alley, off Jackson St., in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
What’s the best fortune cookie message you’ve ever gotten?