Looking for fun and easy places to get food and drinks with friends this Shanghai weekend? City Weekend's got the definitive list for you right here.
A few disclaimers before we begin:
1) We love food. Much like our own children, we cannot choose (or at least, publicly announce) our favorite, so we'll present these places in no particular order.
2) Most of these places are Chinese food. If you know of Western places that serve up inexpensive dinner and drinks on an obliging lazy susan, by all means, let us know in the comments below.
3) This list is intended for those looking for an affordable, casual night out with friends. These can be great places to start an evening right, but they may be more challenging for those looking for more upscale or English-friendly places. We recommend giving them a try anyway and practicing whatever little hanyu you may or may not speak.
Plus, just about all of these spots have picture menus, so simply speak the universal language of pointing, and learn the all important word: pijiu (beer). (Pro-tip, bingde pijiu will ensure you get it cold as well.)
Without further ado, here's the run down of our favorite Shanghai spots for dinner and drinks with friends:
This city is full of great Xinjiang places. And thank god for it, because man do we love our barbequed meat. Yakexi in Jingan has got plenty of that and more for you, because what really sets Yakexi apart from the rest -- you can find killer yangrouchuanr (lamb skewers) all over the place -- is not their excellent Uyghur meat plates, but their atmosphere.
Yangrou Chuanr (Lamb skewers)
The place is dolled up like a da-ting right out of Arabian Nights and features regular performances by belly dancers, drummers, and more. If you're shy, avoid eye contact with the performers, because you will get pulled up on stage to join them. Or, if you're drunk, totally make aggressive eye contact with the performers until they pull you up on stage to join them.
Nangbaorou (Decadently fatty meat)
Whatever your fancy, check out Yakexi for your meat fill and take lots of pictures of your friends embarrassing themselves with their attempts at what they think Arabian belly-dancing looks like.
Where: 379 Xikang Lu, near Wuding Lu, Metro Line 2 Jing'an Temple Station 西康路379号, 近武定路, 地铁2号线静安寺站
In the interest of keeping things neatly geographical, our next pick is an "outwardly average" (but beautiful on the inside!) place, also on Xikang Lu. For those in Xuhui, they also have a location on the corner of Wanping Lu and Huaihai Lu.
"Dongbei" literally means "east north" (and so, as you might astutely guess, the food here hails from that region of China), but it may be easier to describe as what you might traditionally envision "Chinese food" to be.
Disanxian (potatoes, eggplant and peppers)
Of course it's still leagues better than anything you'd find labeled Chinese food in the States, but it's more along those lines -- xilanhua (broccoli with garlic), gongbaojiding (kung pao chicken), and of course, jiaozi (dumplings). It's also more vegetarian-friendly than Yakexi next door.
Shousiji (hand-torn chicken)
Our love for Dongbei knows no bounds, so we'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Yuxiang qiezi (Eggplant in fish sauce)
Where: 379 Xikang Lu, near Wuding Lu 西康路379号, 近武定路
If you have set foot in Shanghai and haven't visited this fine establishment, then we really don't know what you've been doing with your life. Hunan Village is a Shanghai staple -- where else can you order 20 delicious dishes for you and 10 of your closest friends, round after round of Qingdao's, and at the end, pony up a mere 60-70RMB per person to cover the bill?
Kouwei zhushou (Tasty pork trotter)
It's also right on Wulumuqi Lu near Wuyuan Lu and Anfu Lu, which makes it an ideal spot to start the night.
Get your cheap Chinese on at Hunan Village, then make your out to enjoy everything else Xuhui has to offer -- Senator Saloon serves great cocktails down the street on Wuyuan Lu, wine bar Enoterra is right down Anfu Lu, and all the fun places like Boxing Cat, The Apartment, Shiva, and The Shelter are right down Wuyuan Lu on Yongfu Lu.
Tieban baicai (Sizzling cabbage)
If you don't feel like keeping the boozy revelry going after dinner, instead relax on Wuyuan Lu with a massage at Zen Massage or Yu Massage. You literally don't have to leave this few block radius to have the best night of your Shanghai life.
One more very important pro-tip: Order the jinzi mantou for dessert. You won't regret it.
Where: 168 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, near Anfu Lu 乌鲁木齐中路168号, 近安福路
So far we've brought you Xinjiang, Dongbei, and Hunan cuisine, so naturally our next recommendation has got to be from our personal pick for favorite province in China: Sichuan.
To be fair, Sichuan Citizen on Donghu Lu may not be the most authentic Sichuan you can find in Shanghai, nor is it the cheapest. But of the places on this list, it's one of the most expat, English-speaking-friendly places you can find.
The food is fantastic, but undoubtedly the real star of the Sichuan Citizen show has got to be the Basil Drop Martini. Like Hunan Village above, the Basil Drop Martini is a Shanghai staple, and a real must-have when friends or family visit.
Sichuan Citizen, also like Hunan Village, is in an ideal location -- its spot on Donghu Lu puts you right in the middle of some of Shanghai's best nightlife -- Lune, Craft and Monkey Champagne to name just a few of the many in that area. And, once again, if you don't feel like keeping the drinking going, check out Dragonfly for post-dinner pre-bedtime massage (they also offer cheap late night tanning deals).
Sichuan Citizen is owned by the same folks as Citizen on Jinxian Lu, which is a bit more upscale and serves French food. The cool thing about Citizen is that it in addition to the beloved Basil Drop, it also has a full list of other fancy martinis to try out. Plus, with Citizen's location on Jinxian Lu, there are a bunch of great places to stop by afterwards, like Masse's Kung Fu Komedy Club.
Here's a fun piece of Sichuan Citizen lore: During the 2013 Spring Festival, Sichuan Citizen caught fire due to some overzealous fireworks. Luckily they barely closed their doors -- renovations and repairs began on the top floor while Sichuan Citizen remained open for business, continuing their crusade to keep Shanghai amply plied with Basil Drop martinis.
What: Sichuan Citizen
Where: 30 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai Lu 东湖路30号, 近淮海中路
We've made our way through some of China's best cuisines -- but what to do if you're craving something Western? For one, be willing to spend more money. But no worries, Mexican joint el Luchador on Yongkang Lu is still fairly affordable as far as Western places in Shanghai go.
It's also a cool venue. The name and decor appeal to our love affair with all things kitsch, and the location on Yongkang Lu makes it accessible and ideal for a great place to start (or, as sometimes happens on Yongkang Lu when there's tequila involved) end your night.
You can find their full menu online to get you salivating right now.
What: el Luchador
Where: 85 Yongkang Lu, near Xiangyang Nan Lu, Metro Line 1 & 10 Shaanxi Nan Lu Station 永康路85号近襄阳南路, 地铁1&10号线陕西南路站
The Grandma's started in Hangzhou, but if you're not a fan of Zhejiang cuisine, don't let that put you off. This place has got everything under the Eastern sun.
Plus, this beloved chain boasts tons of locations around Shanghai. Our favorite is in Xujiahui on Huashan Lu near Guangyuan Lu between The Gap and H&M (there's another one in Jingan on 818 Nanjing Xi Lu).
So before or after dinner, shopping is right next door, as well as an incredibly divey bowling alley in the basement of the same mall that allows you to bring in your own cheap beer from any of the nearby Lawson's or Family Marts.
But we digress. The Grandma's has got some pros and cons, but overall she remains one of our Shanghai loves.
First of all, The Grandma's features just about the cheapest and yet still fully delicious Chinese food you can find in the city. And really, what more do you need to hear than "cheap" and "delicious"?
Waipo kaorou (Grandma's meat)
The menu, like the rest of these places listed here, is fully outfitted with pictures, and also translated with often hilariously Chinglish names, which really adds to the joy of the ordering experience.
The cons: the crowds. Oh, the incessant Chinese crowds. Such is life in East Asia, though. The Grandma's is popular (for good reason), but that means you often have to take a number and wait for a table.
The service can be a hassle, too. Don't expect to be waited on too conscientiously -- prepare yourself for standing up and yelling, FUWUYUAN! (waiter). (Don't be shy, this is an expat right of passage that we should all experience for ourselves.)
On the whole, though, we rate this is as one of the most fun and easy places in Shanghai to get uncomfortably full and more than a bit tipsy with your favorite group of friends.
What: The Grandma's 外婆家
Where: 3F, 2038 Huashan Lu, near Guangyuan Lu 华山路2038号百联徐汇购物广场3楼, 近广元路
Here we arrive at a rather controversial part of our list. We would be remiss not to mention expat favorite Di Shui Dong, with three separate locations at 5 Dongping Lu, 56 Maoming Lu, and 300 Guyang Lu (one for every neighborhood in Shanghai).
At the same time, Di Shui Dong claims to offer the best Hunan food in Shanghai, and we're just going to have to side with Hunan Village Flavor in this debate. Of course, we acknowledge there are impassioned, logical arguments on both sides of the debate, so please, we encourage you to unleash your vitriol in the comments below.
Ziran paigu (mouth-waterin' cumin ribs)
Does favoring Hunan Village over Di Shui Dong mean that DSD isn't worth a visit? Of course not. That's why we have to include it in our list of Shanghai's best spots for dinner and drinks with friends. But, we do accurately argue that you will spend more money at DSD; whereas at Hunan Village, it's easy to keep dinner under RMB70 per person, at DSD, prepare to spend more like RMB100 per person.
Ganguo niuwa (Steamed bullfrug. Go ahead, try it. You'll like it. We promise)
DSD's Maoming Lu location is also directly next to the entrance of Jinxian Lu, which as we mentioned before is full of fun places like Citizen, Masse, and shopping boutiques, so DSD does get some additional points for being so darn convenient.
What: Di Shui Dong
Where: 2F, 56 Maoming Lu, near Changle Lu 茂名南路56号2楼, 近长乐路
Here we go again with another spot on Jinxian Lu -- our apologies to those who live way out in Pudong or somewhere otherwise remote. Just pool some cab money with friends and get on down to Jinxian Lu if you're craving some good food.
Southern Barbarian's a bit hidden away, but if you can find the stairs leading up to this locale, the rewards will be delicious.
Like other places on Jinxian Lu, it's a bit overpriced for what you get -- the serving sizings err on the small side, and if you like spicy, make sure to emphasize that you want your dishes ZHONG LA (very spicy), but overall it's a dining experience deserving of the trip.
We recommend the goat cheese (椒盐乳饼) (or get it with delicious cured meat -- 火腿乳饼), mint salad (凉拌薄荷), and basically any meat that comes on a stick.
What: Southern Barbarian
Where: 2F, Area E, Ju'Roshine Life Art Space, 169 Jinxian Lu 进贤路169号生活艺术空间E区2楼
If you're not starving by now, we haven't done our job. If you're hungry AND too lazy to leave the house, note that the vast majority of these places deliver, or may be amenable to delivering if your Mandarin is good enough to argue them into doing so.
We know this is a far from exhaustive list of all the delicious places to eat in Shanghai -- we know because we've watched our waistlines grow since moving here -- but hopefully this can inspire you and your friends next time you're searching for an affordable place for dinner and drinks.
Help us keep this list growing -- in the comments below, let us know about new places you may find or places you think deserve to be on this list.
Happy eating, Shanghai!
Let the feedback fly, Shanghai -- what favorite spots of yours did we miss?
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