Not everyone will believe you when you say you’ve been to Oakland’s Chinatown. They’ll think that you meant Chinatown in San Francisco. Yet Oakland has its own pan-Asian neighborhood next to downtown. Look for the bilingual street signs stretching east of Broadway toward Madison St., and south of 12th St. toward the I-880 Freeway.
Chinese immigrants first arrived in Oakland during California’s Gold Rush era, when they helped build the USA’s transcontinental railroad. But it wasn’t until the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco that a flood of Chinese residents arrived in Oakland. Some of the neighborhood’s most famous 20th-century residents included martial arts expert and actor Bruce Lee, writers Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston, and yoga instructor Rodney Yee. Today, Asian Americans of all ethnicities, as well as new immigrants primarily from China, Vietnam, and Cambodia, call Oakland’s Chinatown home.
Annual events in Oakland’s Chinatown include the Lunar New Year in late winter and a summer street festival in August. On an everyday basis, this commercial district is the place for visitors to eat at bargain-priced restaurants or to grab a boba tea before walking down to Jack London Square or over to the Oakland Museum of California. Two of my favorite places to grab a meal are Shandong Restaurant, where they make the noodles and dumplings fresh by hand daily, and Cambodian Phnom Penh House.
Directions: From Oakland’s 12th St./City Center BART station, it’s a 10-minute walk southeast to Chinatown’s colorful main intersection at Webster & 8th Sts. For more Transportation details see Oakland and Around (in the yellow bar).