Cannery Row is the living backdrop for the book. As described in the opening paragraph:
"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, 'whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,' by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, 'Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,' and he would have meant the same thing."
Lee Chong's Grocery
Lee Chong's is the first location we are introduced to in the novel, the hub of commerce in Cannery Row. Lee Chong's store is truly a "general store" in which you could buy, "clothes, food both fresh and canned, liquor, tobacco, fishing equipment, machinery, boats, cordage, caps, pork chops. You could buy at Lee Chong's a pair of slippers, a silk kimono, a quarter pint of whiskey and a cigar. You could work out combinations to fit almost any mood." Almost everyone in the area owes money to Lee Chong, but he is generous with his debtors because he has found they will usually pay him back rather than make the long trek to the next nearest store over in New Monterey.
The Palace Flophouse and Grill
Home to Mack and the boys, the house was originally a storage shed for fish meal and was given to Lee Chong to clear a debt. Mack convinces Lee Chong that letting him and boys move in will keep it safe from vandals and arsonists (an implicit threat). To save face, Lee asks Mack for five dollars a week in rent (all the while knowing he will never see a dime of it). Lee figures that if Mack and the boys ever had any money they would spend it at his place and would have very little reason to steal from him, as he had the right to evict them at any time. "The saving to Lee Chong in cans of beans and tomatoes and milk and watermelons more than paid the rent. And if there was a sudden and increased leakage among the groceries in New Monterey that was none of Lee Chong's affair." As the weeks go on furniture and paint and other niceties begin appearing in the Palace, and, piece by piece, it becomes a home to Mack and the boys and their adopted pointer dog, Darling.
The Bear Flag Restaurant
The Bear Flag is the local whorehouse, owned and operated by Dora Flood. It is described as, "A decent, clean, honest, old-fashioned sporting house where a man can take a glass of beer among friends... a sturdy, virtuous club," where profanity and hard liquor are not allowed. The Bear Flag is respected (if not liked) by the residents of Cannery Row because many of them depend on it. When a sickness spreads through Cannery Row, it is the girls of the Bear Flag who go delivering soup and company to the sick while they recuperate, and on the list of generous donors to local charities or events, the Bear Flag is always at the top.
Western Biological Laboratories
Doc's home and office, the lab is a place where all kinds of living things are kept and preserved (e.g., live octopuses, rattlesnakes, starfish). Doc makes frequent trips up and down the California coast to collect specimens from the ocean and sells them for dissection or observation at labs, museums, and universities all across the country. Doc also has a library's worth of books and records and an old phonograph player. Scattered around the walls are reproductions of great works of art, ".....pinned here and there at eye level so you could look at them if you want to." Doc loves his records; each song evokes a different emotion in him. Doc is also known to bring a girl home from time to time, though these flings never seem to last.
Doc goes on a trip to collect octopuses from the tide pools in La Jolla, California.