Recently I have found myself craving hamburgers. And not just any ol’ burger. Heck, I make a burger at the restaurant during brunch. Think it’s pretty tasty too, but it doesn’t seem to hit the proverbial “spot.” These days I’m looking for something compact, garnished simply and juicy without being greasy, ideally coupled with a soft potato roll just big enough to hold it together, and, oh yeah, I want it to be under RMB35. I know that those are a lot of requests, pretty specific too. Some say I ask for too much, that I’d have better luck getting that unicorn I asked for 25 years ago. (Yes, I wanted a unicorn. In my defense, I was 8 and had just watched Legend for the first time. But I digress.) What I’m saying is that there is a very specific term for what I am looking for: I like to call it moderately fast food. What is available?
We have [Gourmet Café](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/american/has/shanghai-centre/) and we have [Bistro Burger](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/american/has/bistro-burger/), both delicious in their own right. But as their names suggest, they’re highbrow incarnations of the great American staple and are generally in the RMB60-plus price range. Go any further down the scale and you’re pretty much left with the fast food giants. I, like many others, consider [Carl’s Jr.](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/american/has/carls-jr/) the best of the bunch, but it’s still fast food: frozen, industrialized, mass marketed fast food. Inspired by the likes of [In-n-Out](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/blogs-shanghai/cw-radar/myth-busted-n-out-burger-coming-shanghai/) on the west coast and Shake Shack in New York, I firmly believe that we can have the best of both worlds—burgers that are affordable and wholesomely delicious. It’s simply a matter of effort. Some out there are working at it, and I salute them. That’s right, [Munchies](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/american/has/munchies/), I’m looking at you. The Mid-priced Dining Scene
But this lapse in judgment isn’t limited to hamburgers. There appears to be a huge gaping hole in the market where mid-to-low priced Western food is concerned. There’s a ton of cheap outlets doling out their watered down versions of hot dogs, spaghetti carbonara, fried chicken and other what-nots, plus a few luxe versions, but very little in between. The Future
I like to imagine this is changing. Shanghai’s culinary market is beginning to mature and I am really excited to see a spectrum of small enterprising restaurants and delivery services popping up, all selling on the tenets of quality food and affordable prices. Both [Taco Mama’s](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/mexican/has/taco-mamas/) and [Nosh](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/delivery/has/nosh-delivery/) get my seal of approval for their service, quality and price point. It’s not quite Western, but [Urban Thai](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/thai/has/urban-thai/) also gets praise for its amazing quality-to-price ratio. In a nutshell, the days where I pay RMB50 for eight obviously frozen chicken tenders appear to be ending, and that ain’t a bad thing. We may not be getting In-n-Out [like we hoped](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/blogs-shanghai/cw-radar/myth-busted-n-out-burger-coming-shanghai/), but the future still looks bright. ------------------------ When Austin Hu isn't busy writing City Weekend's [The Dish blog](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/blogs-shanghai/shanghai-the-dish-new/), he runs things over at [Madison](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/american/has/madison/).
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