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[On the Radar]: Taco Laoban, Blue Moon, Heaven Supermarket
A random smattering of new stuff out there. Beers and tacos: cornerstones of life.
By Apr 4, 2018 Dining
On The Radar is a weekly SmartShanghai column where we profile new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.

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Roll on with that weekly newness in restaurants and bars-land...

1. Taco Laobaon


168 Wujiang Lu, near Maoming Bei Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

tacolaoban

Quick Take:Cheap tacos in a bustling neighborhood. A more authentic alternative to the Bell.


tacolaoban

What is it: A ballsy move. Opening a taco place so close to the main Puxi Taco Bell location. You'd think the immediate 30 square miles would be adequately serviced for dirty dirt cheap Mexican like a nuclear blast radius. Although I guess Taco Bell isn't really "Mexican". It's like how the Red Hot Chili Peppers don't really play "rock music", they play "Red Hot Chili Peppers". Taco Bell isn't really Mexican. Taco Bell serves "Taco Bell."

That's some pop culture philosophizing for you. Here are some tacos:

tacolaoban

tacolaoban

taco

Cost effective and authentic. One for 20rmb. Three for 48rmb. Not bad. They've got six varieties on offer -- Beef Steak, Al Pastor "Trompo", Barbacoa, Chicken, Crispy Pork Belly, and Bean and Cheese. They come with some make-your-own leafy elements and salsa sides. Cheap beers to match. 30rmb Coronas.

The picture at the bottom is The Laoban (90rmb), which is a giant greasy beef steak thing -- a monster. Not to be ordered lightly. It'll be your last meal 'cause your heart's going to explode out of your chest immediately after.

First Impressions:

Not bad. Not bad at all. Really. Nothing mind-blowing but everything doesn't have to be. Accomplishes what it's trying to do. Overall, maybe something a bit more straightforward than you would find at El Santo and Cantina Agave but within that terrain. Definitely a good option for workmates lunch or afternoon beers if you work or live in the neighborhood. If you're in the area shopping (it's right across from Nanjing Xi Lu metro station on Wujiuang Lu), just know that it's there.

-Morgan Short


2. Blue Moon


688 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near Wuding Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

blue

Quick Take: Perfectly decent gastropub by Urban Diner, partnered with a beer it feels like we're seeing more of these days.


blue

What is it:

New spot right next to Pie Society, brought to us by the culinary talents of Urban Diner and MillerCoors Blue Moon beer. Edison bulbs, check. Brickwork, check. Wood, check. High and low tables, check. They show sports and they've got Coors Light and Blue Moon on tap.

The namesake beer goes for 50rmb for a 500ml glass, and the wide-ranging food menu covers pastas, salads, some seafood, barsnacks, burgers/'sammies' and more. Think 40rmb for barsnacks, 60-80rmb for starters and mains, 130rmb+ depending on how steak- and seafood-happy you want to go. Couple of 70-80rmb lunch sets, plus 15rmb to add a beer.

First Impressions:

Nice spot. A little torn between being a bar and a restaurant, but I guess that's what diners are. It's Urban Diner food, which is gutbusty and good in a caramelized-onion-juice-on-your-fingers way. The Blue Moon, meanwhile, is like a slightly better Hoeegarden, maybe? I hear it's popular in the US. I wouldn't know. I identify with a beer-drinking culture that pronounces lager with like five A's in it. That slice of orange strikes me as dilettante frippery. It's not for me. I understand, however, that the world has room for different opinions.

-Alex Panayotopoulos


3. Heaven Supermarket


B1/F, 531 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, near Longtan Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

heaven

Quick Take:Now open in a plum location in a sunken mall next to the ferry terminal on The Bund: It's... a little piece of Heaven (Supermarket, a Beijing bottle shop chain.)


heaven

heaven

What is it:

If Shanghai has The Beer Lady, Beijing has Heaven Supermarket, that city's preeminent version of the beer bottle supermarket format that also doubles as a place for people to get irresponsibly smashed. The original Heaven specialized not only in imported beers, wines, and spirits, but also cigarettes from all over the place, rolling paper and tobacco, sneaky weed pipes, Cuban cigars, bongs -- even imported giant-size chocolate bars. Basically, all the things you would want if you actually died and went to actual heaven. Predating the Beer Lady by a number of years, Heaven Supermarket is notorious in the capital for its... um... how to say... gritty colorfulness? Maybe? Basically, it's a place for standing red-faced and bleary-eyed in front of beer fridges all night, just ruling at life, with your fellow human. (Who is also your trusted dealer.)

The Shanghai version of Heaven Supermarket is very much watered down in terms of menu (only like 6 fridges? Pfffth) and completely unpopulated, unlike the Beijing one which filled up in about 2005 and never emptied. They have, however, managed to import that certain soul-grinding, spirit-lacerating cocktail of malaise, anxiety, and existential anguish that can only have been forged and perfected in Beijing, China. They have that in abundance. The TVs are off. There is no music save for the K-Pop blasting on the waitress' iPhone 4s somewhere in the back. It's like a suicide note written in wooden tables and fluorescent lighting.

heaven

Cheapest beers are like 15rmb. Corona. Budweiser. Heineken. Then they stumble drunkenly, menacingly, upwards to 40rmb to 60rmb for the beer bottles that you find in all the other bottle shops. Punk IPA. Ballast Point. Blue Moon. Goose Island. But if you're drinking at Heaven Supermarket, the choice order is the stupidest fucking thing you can find in the fridge.

heaven

JOOOOOOOSE. 14% percent. You know that tickle at the back of your throat you get when you know you're going to get the flu? This was like drinking a full can of that. Just a big, damn, king-can of impending sickness and infirmity.

First Impressions:

Ex-Beijingren, yes indeed Heaven is worth seeking out if you're missing that lil' taste of home. Self-flagellation and immolation is a big part of life in the capital, as you know. For others, with the 9,000 watt lighting scheme and decorative black iron cages, it's also a great option for people who like getting drunk in dog kennels.

What else to recommend?

Hmm. I can also see it as a great option as well if you're already on The Bund and want a good price on a final beer before walking right on into the Huangpu river and watery annihilation.

Thumbs up.

-Morgan Short

2 comments.

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  • 3 months ago handoogies

    Taco Laoban is not bad, but neither is it any good.

  • 3 months ago imokyoureok

    There's no durian & mayo taco on offer, so the name 'Taco Laoban' is a real misnomer.

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