Visit San Francisco’s Fortune Cookie Factory
This post can help you plan your visit to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. We include directions, hours, advice on the best times to go, what activities you can do nearby and more.
A visit to the factory won’t take you long but it is well worth it, as it is one of the few places you can see how fortune cookies are made. You can also buy some, and you will want to as soon as you smell the aroma of freshly made fortune cookies.
- Plan Your Visit
- What to Expect
- History of the Fortune Cookie
- Tours of Chinatown
- Things to Do Nearby
- Things to Do in San Francisco
Our pay-what-you-like Chinatown walking tour makes a stop at the Factory, so why not join us and see even more of one of San Francisco’s most colorful and historic neighborhoods. It is also included in our Chinatown self-guided tour.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Hours and Best Time to Go
The Factory is open every day of the week. On Mondays-Fridays they open at 9:00 am and close at 6:30 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, they open at 9 am and close at 7 pm.
The tiny “factory” can get very busy, especially when tour groups shuffle in and out. If you want to miss the crowds, you are best off going to the factory during the weekdays, particularly Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The chart to the right (taken from Google’s “Popular Times” feature) shows a typical Wednesday. As you can see the best hours are between 9 am until 2 pm. The shop gets busy at 2 pm and then quiets down again at 5 pm.
The busiest days are Saturdays and Sundays — steer clear of the midday hours. You should be fine if you visit early in the day before 11 am or at the end of the day after 6 pm.
How to get here
The Factory is located at 56 Ross Alley. The easiest way here is to take one of three main buses that run through Chinatown and stop at Stockton Street and Market Street.
#8 Bus – The 8 runs from North Beach, through Chinatown and the South of Market area, to the southern part of San Francisco. The 8 has a stop at Stockton & Washington, just two blocks from the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.
#45 Bus – The 45 begins at the Presidio, close to the Golden Gate Bridge, runs through the Marina district, down through Chinatown, and into the South of Market area. The bus will drop you off at Stockton & Washington, two blocks from the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.
#30 Bus – The 30 begins at the Marina district in the northern part of San Francisco, travels through North Beach, south through Chinatown, and ends up in the South of Market district. And just like the other two buses, the 30 will drop you off at the corner of Stockton & Washington.
If you are approaching Chinatown through Dragon Gate’s (map) at the corner of Bush Street and Grant Avenue, follow these directions:
- Look up the hill (facing north on Grant Avenue) into Chinatown.
- Walk up the hill on Grant (remember to take some pictures of the great sights along the way!)
- Walk six blocks up Grant. You will pass Pine, California, Sacramento, Clay, and Washington.
- Turn left on Jackson Street.
- Turn left onto Ross Alley.
- Halfway down the block, you will see the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory sign. Go on in!
TIP: On the way there you will pass by a restaurant called Delicious Dim Sum. We recommend it! It’s so good we include it in our lists of Favorite International Foods and our Favorite Budget Restaurants.
Can I buy cookies at the factory?
Yes. The shop sells a variety of fortune cookies, in different sizes and flavors. Prices are very reasonable.
- They sell cookies in bags. Small bags have 5 cookies for $1.50. Regular bags have 35 cookies and cost $5.25.
- Flavors they sell are the classic almond flavor as well as chocolate, strawberry and green tea.
- They also have special fortune cookies that are chocolate covered with sprinkles!
- They sell a giant fortune cookie and you can customize the fortune. These cost $6.50 each.
- They also have coin-shaped cookie discs, like the samples they give out. They cost $4.75 a bag.
- You can also buy what they call “x-rated” fortune cookies. But really the fortunes inside are just in poor taste. But the cookie tastes great!
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE FACTORY
The last of its kind, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is a Chinatown must. The factory opened its doors on August 5, 1962, and remains one of the only places you can still find handmade fortune cookies in the country.
When you walk in, the factory manager will typically be handing out fresh, free samples. These are often right out of the oven, so they will be nice and warm.
There are typically two people making the cookies. You will see them pulling thin, circular discs off a hot press, like an assembly line. They place a fortune on one side of the hot, flat dough.
Then, using a steel rod, the cookie-makers shape the soft, hot disc into the shape of a fortune cookie. This process must be done very quickly or else the cookie will harden before it has the right fortune cookie shape. They work so quickly that the factory produces about 20,000 cookies a day!
Note: When you visit the fortune cookie factory, you are allowed to take all the pictures you want. However, the company asks that if you do take pictures, you just leave 50 cents in the tip jar, or buy some fortune cookies for a dollar or two.
HISTORY OF THE FORTUNE COOKIE
There is very little that is Chinese about the Fortune Cookie. They were invented right here in San Francisco by a Japanese-American man named Makoto Hagiwara, who is better known for creating the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
They are not traditionally eaten in China. If you go to Beijing or Shanghai and expect to find fortune cookies, you’ll be out of luck. In fact, an American fortune cookie factory began selling cookies in China, and advertised them as “Authentic American Fortune Cookies!”
The fortune cookie folding machine was invented in Oakland. Yes, the city across the Bay is actually known for several inventions, including the fortune cookie machine, rocky road ice cream, and the mai tai cocktails — all great reasons to pay a special visit over there.
THINGS TO DO NEARBY
There are a few great museums nearby that are free. These are all about 4-6 blocks away from the Factory.
- The Cable Car Museum
- Chinese Historical Society of America Museum
- Wells Fargo Museum
Find out about these free museums and others at our post, Free Museums in San Francisco.