SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco’s Chinatown was rebuilt as a tourist attraction after the 1906 earthquake leveled the area. But now, this world famous tourist destination is looking a bit worn out and needs a facelift.
It’s a neighborhood rich with history, but critics say San Francisco’s Chinatown is lined with tacky souvenir shops and restaurants serving mediocre food.
Chinatown business owner Betty Louie is leading the movement to inject new life into Chinatown. She’s lined up a group of young community residents and business people to work on the project.
Louie said a group of shop owners have agreed that Chinatown needs good restaurants serving good food.
Up and coming chef Bandon Jew wants Chinatown to be a foodie heaven. He’s taking over the old Four Seas Restaurant and turning the backdoor of the old restaurant into the front entrance. He plans to update the menu to include only farm to table produce and meats.
“My thought is to showcase what farmers are doing here now and also cleaning up a lot of food. A lot of it is getting rid of imported stuff from China and just make it here,” said Jew.
Well known restaurateur George Chen is on board. Chen operated Betelnut as well as the now-closed Shanghai 1930. He wants to turn an empty 20,000 square foot building on Broadway into a destination restaurant and Chinese food marketplace with a food court and food marketplace.
Betty Louie admits Chinatown’s transformation needs more than a food makeover. She said she’s enlisted the help of a Hollywood set designer to freshen up Chinatown’s shop worn, dumpy looks.
Some ideas include dragons on rooftops and other life-size art on the streets like lions and terrocotta warriors.
She denied suggestions that this might turn Chinatown into a Disneyland.
The intent is not only to bring in tourists but bring back locals. Louie is planning and financing the first phase of the re-do on her own and hopes other merchants will join in.