Over the past two centuries, the Chinese community and its cuisine have endured several forms of discrimination. The Chinese exclusion laws of the late 1880s left Chinese food in America exclusively Cantonese for over a century. Housing discrimination restricted Chinese Americans to a limited number of neighborhoods, affecting the geographic distribution of authentic Chinese restaurants to this date. And twentieth-century protests by labor unions threatened the very existence of Chinese food in the U.S.(more…)
In the past decade, Chinese dining in the United States popularized “Mainlander food,” or non-Cantonese regional cuisines. The Mainland moniker distinguished it from food from Hong Kong and Taiwan. But Mainland food largely excluded Cantonese cuisine, even though Canton (now known as Guangzhou) sits squarely on the Chinese mainland.(more…)
Five years ago, I wrote a Menuism article about why I generally did not eat at Chinese restaurants in the United States that were more than 20 years old. My reason for this 20-year rule was that Chinese food in America was evolving at a surprisingly rapid rate, with diners and chefs endlessly looking for that next more delicious, more innovative Chinese food creation. Because innovation is more likely to come from new players, and because existing successful Chinese restaurants are likely to stick with what works, I decided that after 20 years, most Chinese restaurants are behind the curve.(more…)
Hotel dining isn’t generally an interesting topic of discussion. With a few notable exceptions, people dining in hotels usually don’t want to bother to look for someplace to eat after a tiring day of travel. Meanwhile, hotels are sometimes not particularly keen to operate on-premises restaurants, particularly if they don’t have conference facilities, but do so grudgingly to offer an option for weary guests.
In the context of Chinese-American communities, hotel dining has been historically non-existent because in Chinatowns new and old, hotels themselves have been largely non-existent. While Chinatowns have been a tourist attraction for well over a century, few tourists desired to secure rooms there. Those few lodging facilities that did open in Chinatowns during the 20th century were largely independent motels without many amenities, such as the Royal Pacific Motor Inn in San Francisco Chinatown and Moytel in Los Angeles Chinatown. With the plethora of local Chinese dining opportunities only steps away, the motels did not need to offer on-premises dining. (more…)
The generally accepted story of brunch originates in England in 1895 with a man named Guy Berginer and his essay “Brunch: A Plea.” Beringer argued for brunch as a method of recovery on Sunday for those who indulged heavily on Saturday night.
In the US, brunch began in the 1930s in Chicago. Intercontinental trains would pass through Chicago in the late morning and early afternoon, when riders would disembark for a meal. Over time, it expanded across the country and grew to be a major part of the culture in metropolitan areas like New York.
Once a simple, light meal, brunch has grown more controversial, as some see large, luxurious feasts on weekends as an expression of privilege while many struggle to get by.
This is certainly the case in San Francisco. With dozens of brunch options across the city, you’ll find just about anything you could want, whether it’s traditional breakfast fare, bottomless mimosas, Mexican brunch, or indulgent buffets. More interestingly, many of these brunches have taken on the character, history, and culture of the city. With so many options available it can be hard to know where to go, but a few restaurateurs have made brunch their own to provide unique experiences that shouldn’t be missed. (more…)
Why choose one restaurant for dinner when you could choose dozens? There’s a food hall and farmer’s market renaissance happening around the country, and if you visit any of these locations, you’ll want to make sure you start with an empty stomach.
Filet mignon and roast chicken have their place, but for more adventurous diners, it’s all about the offal.
As I have previously written, for the first century of their presence, Chinese American communities were almost exclusively populated by immigrants from rural Toishan outside of Canton and their descendants. As a result, from the mid-nineteenth century until the 1960s, Cantonese food was the only style of Chinese food found in Chinese restaurants in America, albeit a bastardized version, both being Americanized and reflecting an era of the early 20th century that had been frozen in time. During this period San Francisco Chinatown was by far the predominant Chinese American community and remained homogeneously Cantonese, even for decades after the loosening of immigration laws that had prevented Chinese from other parts of China from coming to the United States. Legion are the stories of well meaning visitors attempting to address the locals with a few words of Mandarin Chinese, completely unintelligible to the Cantonese locals. Indeed, even today San Francisco Chinatown is by far the most Cantonese, most Toishanese community in North America today with these dialects pervasive on the streets of San Francisco Chinatown. (more…)
When the topic of Chinese food in the United States comes up, only three cities really come to mind: San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. Besides a deserved reputation for excellent Chinese food, all three have center-city core Chinatowns founded by Toishanese immigrants that date back to the 19th Century, and which were revived by post-1965 change in American immigration policy. They also all have developed newer Chinese communities outside of the core Chinatown where the Chinese food is significantly better. Yet, the three cities have markedly different patterns in where to find good and authentic Chinese restaurants due to the different manner in the way the Chinese population has spread out in each metropolitan area.
In comparing the Chinese food landscape in these three metropolitan areas, there is one unmistakably striking difference. In San Francisco, good Chinese food can be found in almost every corner of the Bay Area. In contrast, in both Los Angeles and New York, the best Chinese restaurants are located in a relatively small number of geographic pockets, with large areas of these latter two communities devoid of worthwhile Chinese eating. (more…)
In perusing the various food message boards, a recurring request which makes me a little sad is the one from first time visitors to places like San Francisco, Manhattan or Toronto asking for recommendations for a great Chinese meal in Chinatown. I get sad because in most North American cities having a historic core Chinatown, the best Chinese food tends not to be in Chinatown, but in outlying areas where tourists are unlikely to visit. And indeed, in most of these Chinatowns the Chinese food pales greatly in comparison to the suburban food. As a result, Chinatown is often not the place to find that great meal. (more…)