A Spies Guide To San Francisco’s Chinatown

The most established Chinatown in the U.S.

If you imagine yourself the James Bond type (or the Annie Walker type, ladies) and if you happen to find yourself on a secret mission in San Francisco’s Chinatown, here’s a short list of places that could not only be very useful to your mission, but also may satisfy your curiosity to experience the lesser traveled road of San Francisco’s city within a city.

San Francisco Chinatown
Image by Darius Smiley from Pixabay 

Covert meeting place

Need to find somewhere to exchange information with your local asset while your enemy loses you in the crowds? Try Portsmouth Square. Picture a one block square plaza filled with 100’s of elderly Chinese people milling around playing mahjong, tour groups coming through regularly, and Falun Gong acolytes meditating in large neatly spaced groups. As they said in the Bourne Supremacy, “It’s a security nightmare.” This is a perfect place to do a brush pass or have a quick chat. And if everything goes south, underneath the square is a parking garage, so you have the potential for a really wicked car chase!

Weapons dealer

Feel the need to get your hands on some non-lethal weaponry that looks and feels like the real thing? Check out the airsoft guns and replica swords at Eternity Gifts (not the jewelry store on the same block). They’ve got everything from big electric rifles to small spring powered pistols (even a Walther PPK!) and some great movie prop daggers. For training purposes only, of course.


You’re probably going to need a distraction to slip by the sentries while breaking into the enemy embassy. You’ll also need to cloak your getaway. You’ll be able to find the needed noisemakers and smoke bombs at a lot of shops along Grant street, but we go to CVU Chen Tseng Trading co @ the corner of Washington & Waverly.


When the opposition has spotted you and they know what you look like, it’s time for a change of appearance. Sometimes, something subtle, like adding a hat & shades or donning a new shirt, can do the trick. Sometimes, it might be as drastic as getting a coat, cane, surgical mask, shopping cart, and a wig. Whatever you think it will take to slip by the enemy to accomplish your mission. There are a myriad of shops on Grant Ave. between California and Broadway that can accommodate most of these needs and the prices fit your post cold war budget.


After action debriefings are best conducted over a meal. Here are a few places in Chinatown that offer decent food at good prices and won’t blow your cover.

R&G Lounge

The whole restaurant is located below ground (sadly no Get Smart phone booth elevator) and serves authentic Chinese food. Great place for 2 or 12 agents. It has a clean, dark and inviting atmosphere with typical Chinese hospitality. Perfect for a drink and a bite with your case officer. This place reminds me of most of the good restaurants I visited during my time in Hong Kong.

Grant Place Restaurant

This may look like a hole in the wall, but they make great take-out dim sum, like pork buns or sesame balls. You can eat inside at a modest table, or take your food to go and chat at one of the parks in the neighborhood with your handler.

Article written by SHANNON BRUZELIUS who isn’t a spy, but he plays one in real life. As the owner of Foxhound Urban Adventures in San Francisco, he’s been giving locals and visitors secret missions since 2010. You could be next!

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