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Adorable Map Takes You on an International Food Journey Through SF

Updated: Jun 12, 2024 15:34
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California Migration Museum, a non-profit who shares stories of immigrants and refugees in California, launched a new immersive experience which takes you across SF on an epic food journey. Melting Spots is an interactive map which highlights immigrant chefs, restaurants, and dishes that are uniquely San Francisco.

The map art was a collaboration with illustrator Alex Foster and California Migration Museum research who started production in late Fall of 2023. It officially launched with 38 locations on the map this June. Online you can find Youtube videos with special audio about the food and immigration stories behind each location narrated by experts and food critics on the Melting Spots website.

Melting Spots: a map which leads you to immigrant owned food in SF

The origin of “Melting Spots”

I was able to ask the founder of The California Migration Museum, Katy Long, some questions about the project and the non-profit and she has some interesting thoughts and shared how how food serves as a vital connection to heritage and the soul of San Francisco.

Museum Founder and Director Katy Long Shares:

“When I founded the museum, I knew I wanted to find a way for us to at some point tell a story about immigration and food.  For every one of us, what we eat is an intimate expression of who we are. For immigrants, it’s often the most tangible way of remembering the places they came from — and connecting their children to their heritage (see the jar of Marmite in my own cupboard!). But what we quickly came to realize is that these were more than just stories about immigrants. They were about the soul of San Francisco, a city of immigrants — and foodies.  This is a city with an embarrassment of riches: we can choose between burritos and banh mí, hot sauce and harissa, mochi and momos.

There are some dishes that are so quintessentially San Francisco— garlic noodles, sourdough bread, cioppino, tea leaf salad, to name a few— that it’s impossible to imagine the City today without them. And it’s impossible to trace the origins of these dishes without their immigration stories.

So we decided to set out to try and map some of that. This wasn’t about trying to create an exhaustive list of every immigrant cuisine in the area (which would be a gargantuan and almost impossible task!), but more about trying to capture the soul of a City that I – like many immigrants – am proud to call home.

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We worked to identify some of the dishes that we thought were most “San Francisco”, researched their origins, and worked with La Cocina to identify some more contemporary immigrant food businesses. Then came the best part — interviewing the chefs and entrepreneurs. We got to taste our way across the restaurants and bars featured, recording our interviews in the quietest spots we could find (hidden behind store cupboards, perched on 50lb bags of flour, and asking many patient servers to turn off the music). All the businesses we worked on this project with were enormously generous with their time.”

Melting Spots: a map which leads you to immigrant owned food in SF

How to Take The Tour:

This is the most delicious adventure through San Francisco. So many of these places are my personal favorites but to be able to learn more about the rich history behind these amazing spots through the eyes of experts and those connected to each establishment is an extra special treat.
The tour is self-guided. To get started, pick up a map from one of our partners (full list below) or start your experience online at
IG: @calmigration

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy has lived in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.