An authentic experience of San Francisco's Chinatown is a little bit of a contradiction in terms, catering as it does to the tourist trade with gewgaw-laden gift shops with faux Chinese facades. Perhaps no place better embodies that contradiction than the Li Po Cocktail Lounge, smack-dab on the neighborhood's main thoroughfare of Grant Avenue, its pseudo-Oriental entranceway leading to a colorful if a trifle dingy hole-in-the-wall dive bar.
With one foot in the last century and the other in this one, the bar's web-site announces in broken, sometimes borderline nonsensical English that it has been in operation since 1937 and proudly declares that it has been serving the best Chinese Mai-Tai in town since 1997 (one can be reasonably hopeful that this is not exaggeration since, after all, it apparently took sixty years to perfect the recipe). The much ballyhooed drink does seem to have become the ubiquitous choice for the establishment's clientele, first time customers rarely failing to order it, and has been famously endorsed by the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain, a fact the bar promotes at every opportunity.
Other drinks include the Purple Rain, recalling the early 80s period when the bar tried to adapt itself to the modern day and, having done so, decided it was too great an effort to maintain going forward so settled in to its faintly retro ambiance, reflected in the dated hip-hop music perpetually on offer. The music does inspire inebriated vacationers to stage impromptu dance parties, giving everyone a chance to bust a move. The bar only accepts cash, so make certain to bring some greenbacks along with your dancing shoes.
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