San Francisco's semi-legendary Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, established in 1962, famously offers free tours of their facility daily. Visitors anticipating a streamlined industrial marvel or historic wonder will likely be disappointed, however. So too if one expects a modern assembly line, state of the art machinery, or even a second floor. Nabisco this isn't.
Rather, on the ground floor of a building in a back alley of Chinatown you'll find a couple of mature Chinese ladies seated at hand-operated cookie presses, dutifully folding and shaping still-hot cookies straight from the oven (the key to achieving the unusual shape of traditional fortune cookies is to do so before they've cooled and hardened). All the action happens in a single crowded room which the tour progresses no more than two dozen feet into, just far enough to see over the shoulder of the lady making cookies seated closest to the door.
You'll likely be offered a free sample from a tin of flat, round would-be fortune cookies—failed attempts at making the expected shape—and assorted broken pieces. They taste perfectly delicious in any event and there are more successfully realized products, in both standard-issue and chocolate varieties, for sale by the bagful at well below market value and complete with whatever wisdom may be gleaned from the pithy observations they contain. It's quite unnecessary to arrange a tour ahead of time, but if you'd like to chat with factory personnel you can call 415-781-3956. Otherwise just drop by the factory at 56 Ross Alley, just off Jackson Street.
Explorer J. Eric Miller crash-landed on the alien world of San Francisco in the last millennium. Trapped in a world he never imagined, he seeks escape in his experience of living. Read more about it at: theupsanddownsofsanfrancisco.tumblr.com