It's a good time to a red-blood, chest-thumping MAN in Shanghai! Look at these three new ones this week: beer, bourbon, and red meat on the menu On the Radar.
The Beer Lady (Kaixuan Lu)
What It Is: If you're not familiar with the beermart concept, the original Beer Lady on Fahuazhen Lu laid out the basics: rows and rows of beer in refrigerators, a cashier, and maybe some seats where you can sit and drink. But Beer Lady was not satisfied, and decided she needed more.
The new location is on Kaixuan Lu, barely a diagonal stone's throw from Yuyintang, over multiple crosswalks and / or overpasses. It's the same thing, except bigger. Better. It's got a bakery. But it's not open yet.
Looks like a Bohemian food court; a big, open space with dark wood tables in the center and about 50 refrigerators lining the walls. Taller ceiling than the original, and no hidden nooks and crannies. There's a slightly raised area with some nicer lounge-chairs, because that's where the expensive stuff sits. There's also a pretty nice terrace.
They say they've got 3,000 brands in there, ranging from your cheap Asahis and your Le Chouffes to brands you've never heard. Bottles range from your little Qingdao gold things up to champagne bottled size things, and costs range to match. Prices have gone up a bit (as they have everywhere), you're looking at an average of 50rmb-60rmb for most beers, but there's definitely plenty at either end of the spectrum.
First Impressions: It's the Beer Lady but it looks nicer. The vibe was the same. On a Tuesday evening, there were four middle-aged Danes with twenty large bottles between them, being real boisterous and having an all-round good time. Seems legit.
I don't know what to say about the bakery. Feel like a hot dog or burger stand might've been a better idea. Maybe they'll offer those? I don't know. They said it'll be open probably end of this week.
Anyway, beers. Lots of beers. Hundreds of beers. Thousands. Stouts, IPAs, lagers, dark ales, light ales, weissales, tea-infused beers, craft beers, fortiified beers, beers that look like wines but are actually beers, sessionable beers, unsessionable beers, beers with names you can't pronounce, cheap beers, cheap(ish) beers, expensive beers. Brewdog does this one called Snakevenom which goes for 1,480rmb. They have very explicit warning labels saying you shouldn't drink more than 35ml in one sitting. I found this darling little craft beer from an unknown label that really, really speaks to me...
So, yeah. Beer Lady. Beer fans rejoice. Someone's going to get themselves killed crossing twelve lanes of traffic from Yuyintang trying to get here.
The Shed (Homgmei Lu)
What It Is: It's the new Shed out on Laowai Jie and exactly that. The end. It's the same food and drinks menu (Aussie steaks, burgers, pies, mains from 55rmb-150rmb; bottles and pints 40rmb-60rmb), same TVs everywhere locked on Aussie Rules Football, same rotating daily specials, same kegs-converted-into urinals, same weekly pool tournaments, same signed sports jerseys on the walls, same crowd of post-work professionals in blue button-up shirts and black slacks stretching their happy hours into week-night binges, asking whose round it is, ignoring their buzzing cell phones on the table that are their wives and / or girlfriends telling them to come home.
The Shed 2 is on "Laowai Jie" — and that's not just a nickname, that's the actual name for this stretch of sports and beer bars out in Hongqiao — and represents the Australian entry into this bar and restaurant row, which currently offers a bunch of American sports and "rock" bars, two German brewhouses, two Canadian sports bars, a smattering of Japanese sushi and sake places, a few Italian places, a Mexican place, a pizza place — you get the idea. The Shed 2 is for the Australians in the neighborhood. They've now got a seat at the table.
This Shed compared to the other Shed: It's newer obviously. It's farther (but I suppose that's relative). It's smaller. Quite a bit smaller. It has a bit of patio seating. It's has an entrance that is more "shed-like". Everything else is the same. Just a homey little neighborhood sports pub; a no-pressure drinking environment for the regulars with friendly management.
First Impressions: We turned up around happy hour and blotchy Shed devotees were already trickling in to check out the new place. The venture has survived the ups and downs of the Shanghai F&B industry since 2008 because they know their product. They're serving a clientele that just wants to drink beer at reasonable prices, watch sports, and maybe play a bit of pool later on. None of that other bullshit that Shanghai throws at you. This is that but in Hongqiao. Welcome, Shed 2. Live Shed or Die Hard.
(Too bad they couldn't have Usain Bolt's other shoe in there, though. That would have been a nice touch.)
The Blind Pig
What It Is: The Bling Pig is a massive menu of red meat carnage with a massive menu of bourbon to match. Assuming the space right next to the Fat Cow on Laowai Jie is The Blind Pig — Blind Pig and Fat Cow, it's just farm animals with issues here, people — coming from True Legend Hospitality, which is the Big Bamboo and Pistolera. Kind of feels like that organization embracing the winds of change in a similar direction to The Camel's recent reorientation. It's an upscale-ish, fashion-aware, BESPOKE operation angling to that certain brand of contemporary hipness as expressed in "craft" everything and anything, and a menu of almost comically intricate and overwrought renditions of standard pub and BBQ fare — all illuminated by the self-satisfying glow of Edison bulbs. It's stylish, neo-traditional, bourbon-infused, maple-candied, hickory, honey-roasted, avocado everything, beer collaboration, mason jar, we do our own chili sauce, blah, blah, blah.
But then the food comes and then the inspiration is clear: Epic Meal Time.
The Pig & The Cow Burger - 88rmb. Bacon mixed into the actual burger patty. Damn, son.
Smoked Beef Ribs 188rmb, comes with a choice of two sides - very decent slaw and creamed corn. Three homemade BBQ sauces in the back. Pictured with the second cheapest bourbon. Can't remember which it was but it was like 58rmb.
The menu is beef brisket, steaks (Australian beef — 248rmb for a 390g NY Striploin; 218rmb for a 200g Tenderloin Medallion); ribs (BBQ Pork Spare Ribs 168rmb; Smoke Beef Ribs 188rmb); Smoked Roast Chicken Half or Whole 88rmb/168rmb; and a slew of burger, smoked meat, and pulled pork variations in the 88rmb range. The menu also offers various flourishes like their range of smokehouse standard sides (creamed corn, potato salad, and about 6 more in the 20rmb range), Chef Tabasco's (of Pistolera) award winning chili, a pulled pork burrito and a few other Tex-Mex options, a smoked eggplant sandwich, and more, more, more. Yeah, there's a lot more but I'm loosely trying to stick to a word count.
And the bourbon menu is something like 50 labels. Huge bourbon menu that covers an entire page printed in like point 8 font size. Prices range from 48rmb for Jim Beam to 228rmb for Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, with a huge variation in between.
First Impressions: I gotta say, the food was pretty damn good. Maybe not enough to straight-up turn me into a campus Young Republican good but I'm starting to appreciate some of the benefits of their wonderful lifestyle. For smokehouse and BBQ fans, it's worth the trip out to Cracker Street to try out, for sure. Or you can wait until it becomes a chain, fans out into the city proper, and moves closer to you maybe...