This time last year, Danshui
Lu had a lot of bars and restaurants and a much chiller vibe than Yongkang Lu
. Then in late 2015 / early 2016, most of the businesses there got shut down due to license issues. One of the biggest casualties was a comfy, owner-run Italian restaurant and bar called Favorita, who most unfortunately opened a bakery on the same street last winter, only to have it get shuttered just a month later. Major bummer.
Welp, they're BACK FROM THE DEAD, a little further south on Mengzi Lu. The new spot is roughly three times larger, with a big patio. The bathroom is outside the restaurant and that's a little mafan
, but otherwise all good. Still doing great pizzas for about 80rmb, plus charcuterie plates and lots of Italian wine. Classic neighborhood kinda joint.
Casual Yunnan restaurant Slurp just moved from north Jing'an to a smaller space on Wulumuqi Lu, near Wuyuan Lu. They're sharing the space with a guy who sells mobile phone cards – he's the landlord. Pretty rad one-stop-shop for SIM cards, Yunnan street food, fruit wine made with sour papaya, lunch sets for 58-68rmb, and brunch for 65rmb. Also, with Little Catch
and Brothers Kebab
next door, this strip is a crucial trifecta of good, cheap-ish eats. Lord knows Shanghai loves some Yunnan goat cheese.
So this the new café in the the place where Boona Café used to be. Boona was this chain of cafes circa 2009 that served good, cheap sandwiches and had a menu pretty similar to Le Casbah
. The one at this address lasted the longest, but they're all closed now. This Boona was always popular, due to its big, sunny patio and all the street cats who roamed there. It was a classic "bring the ol' laptop and get some work done" kinda spot. R.I.P. Boona, man.
The new owner has done the place up with a bohemian look. The patio is still there (clearly), but the street cats were not present on a recent visit. Feels kinda similar to the old Boona, but nicer and more expensive. They've got sandwiches, burgers, and pasta, and the second floor is a whisky, cocktail, and cigar lounge. Still a solid place to post up and work.
The people behind Donghu Lu pizzeria Gemma
recently opened a little walk-up spot on Anfu Lu. It's about the size of The Shanghai Bakery
, with room for maybe ten people. Portions [and prices] are on the smaller side as well. We're talking pasta from from 45rmb and sandwiches from 55rmb. Naturally they've got coffee, paninis, salads, cocktails, wine, and beer, and they're making their own cookies, croissants, and bread. Very casual. They do a buy-one-get-one happy hour from 6-8pm as well.
5. Phénix Eatery & Bar
Man, The PuLi hotel really has that rugged luxury vibe covered. You feel like Keith Richards in an LV ad as soon as you enter the lobby. They've finally revamped their long-running restaurant Jing'an into something called Phénix, and it's just a nice, urban hotel restaurant that doesn't feel stuffy at all.
The menu is just one page, divided into salads, charcuterie, confits (salmon, duck, cod), oysters & caviar, some meatless fare, and larger meat dishes to share, like lamb shoulder and suckling pig. There is a peanut butter parfait, and that's more than alright. For drinks, the wine list is big, and there's a full cocktail bar, as they're working with Bacardi on this. Again, casual luxury is the vibe, and the prices are like upper-upper-mid range. You could get out of here for 200-400rmb, depending on what you get into. Puli always had one of the best brunch spreads in town, but for now, there is no brunch until May 1. Sorry, y'all.
6. La Maison
This is that restaurant on Jinxian Lu that looks like some rich person's private villa but it's actually a restaurant. The place looks grand, with its huge patio and garden, and feels a bit like fine dining in a relaxed environment. Menu is indeed a mix of higher-end options and more casual fare like... mozzarella sticks. They also do an all-you-can-eat brunch on weekends for 180rmb. Word on the streets is that the food is a mixed bag but the vibe and service are way on point.
7. Le Bordelais (Bund)
Not quite on The Bund, the third outpost of popular wine bar Le Bordelais
is actually in that mall across from The Nest
, where Muse On The Bund
was. Opinions about mall restaurants aside, this place is damn good value with service to match. On a recent Wednesday, a waitress ran out of the restaurant to go meet a customer who called and couldn't quite find the place.
Like their other locations, the Bordeaux here is stupid cheap. The owner hails from the famed French wine region, and apparently uses his guanxi back home to get the vino for super cheap. Seriously, glasses start at like 20rmb. Overall, it's just a classic French bistro, with a big patio and quirky music. Good for a date, a business lunch, or just chilling with old friends.
Really feeling this bright new third-wave coffee café on Fumin Lu, between Julu Lu and Changle Lu. This is the place where Bell Bar opened their second venture about a year ago. That didn't work out so well, and this new one by a Taiwanese boss is a crucial addition to the neighborhood. They got rid of the dark interior, added some mirrored surfaces, and hung a bunch of moka pots on the wall. It's sharp.
They've got single-origin coffee and cheap Americano, but what you're really coming here for is their nitro coffee on draft for 38rmb a glass. It's like Guinness, but coffee. So smooth, so good. Place is already super busy.
On the other end of the café spectrum, this place does feel a bit wannabe-corporate downstairs, but they make up for that with a great rooftop overlooking the park. Prices are similar to Starbucks. Not a bad look if you're in the area.
Bars & Clubs
1. Dr. Beer & Dr. Wine Gubei
Dr. Beer is the brewery geared towards the local office ladies. Indeed that's their strategy, with fruity beers and occasional live music by handsome men. They're betting on Gubei with their newest venture, and will open in Xujiahui sometime soon too. The place can fit around 300 people, and unlike the first Dr. Beer, the design is a bit more than your usual industrial chic. The bathroom is like a nightmare about Bund party flyers coming to life, and at least two new venues have this concept. Is this a design trend in 2016? Hope not.
Then just next door is Dr. Wine (naturally). Mature themes over here. If you've been to Dr. Wine on Fumin, it's like that but bigger and brighter. Decent range of wines by the glass and bottle. Overall, looking good for beer and wine fans in Gubei.
And they've got the smallest patio ever, where your children or corgis can wait for you while you're drinking.
Alright this club used to be called LUNE – an outpost of Taipei's LoGO empire – but longtime Shanghai promoters / DJs Mau Mau and the Rehab crew entered the picture in early 2016 and totally redid the place. It was time. This feels like someone took the LUNE frame, swapped in a supercharged engine with the sound and lighting, did a nice paint job, got rid of some clutter, and opened up the space. Basically, it's an intimate nightclub with impressive sound and lights, and house, disco, and techno by local and international DJs. Notably, they've also got ping pong tables, board games, and other daytime activities, plus a micro-restaurant called Crouton that will open next month.
Drinks are mid-range at about 50rmb, and often made with fresh juice. They also serve Mate Mate energy drink, which is apparently "what people in Berlin drink to stay up and dance all night." Right on. Most nights will have a cover charge. Fans of house music and the better elements of the original Lola club will likely dig this one. It's still a work in progress, but bound to be popular.
3. The Parrot
Donghu Lu is the new Yongfu Lu. The street was swarming with people last Friday night, especially at this new bar by the Funkadeli people. The full name is "The Parrot Aperitivo Sound System." Nice one. It's right under Craft, and you gotta walk through an alley to get here. City vibes. They say the music is strictly funk, though I've heard a bit of good disco (e.g. Kano) on both occasions. Menu is concise, with aperitivo like spritzes and negronis, some good draft beer at 35-40rmb, and some nice looking cocktails. After 10pm they strip down the menu even more to keep the service brisk. For food, they've got pizza and are working on other fare like tacos and sandwiches. Super friendly people working here, and they seem like them have a lot of friends.
4. Bar Beagle
Shout out to Changning District – we didn't forget about you. This new 35-seat cocktail bar is in the same space where Mojito Heaven used to be. Looks real nice. Got a vintage vibe going on, with lots of '70s and '80s gear lying around, and strictly vinyl on the soundsystem. Depending on the day, the owner's two dogs might be hanging out. Hey they're actually looking for a head bartender. Looking sharp.
Muse used to be the club king of Shanghai, but nowadays they're wisely teaming up with others for restaurants like The Nest. This is one of their two collaborations with Barborossa, and the next one is a big place called Kokio -- in Disneyland. OMG OMG.
Anyway, Calix is an American-style restaurant and live music spot on the main Xintiandi strip. Looking quite nice, especially that open kitchen on the second floor. Music ranges between Latin jams on Fridays and Saturdays to rock, reggae, and funk classics on Sundays, and Top 40 and classics on Wednesdays. For cocktails, you're looking at around 80rmb and beers start around 60rmb. Steaks start from 218rmb, and they do 20% off the whole bill between 5-7pm. Xintiandi is still a touristy place, but it does look a lot better than it did seven years ago.
Speaking of Xintiandi and Muse, they finally opened their KTV there and it's obscenely palatial. Rooms start at 3000rmb a night and go up to 30,000rmb for those with space stations, lazers, balconies, DJ booths, rare paintings, and reality portals. If you're into karaoke and are balling out of control, you've probably been here already. Food is apparently really decent, too. Prices are significantly cheaper on Sun-Thursday.
7. Foam Heaven
After The Beer Lady / Pijiu Ayi got famous, a whole slew of imitators jumped out of the bushes. Most are forgettable, because they don't have a character like Beer Lady. Well, this place looks random as fuck but they've got about 300 beers, a big patio, and a central character – this cat.
Yeah man, The Beer Cat. It was only a matter of time before Shanghai's street cats entered the beer shop game, and lord knows Dagu Lu has a lot of street cats (and several unidentifiable animals). Not even making this up, Foam Heaven also stocks the rare Hello Kitty wine, and the staff told our photographer that the owner has some kind of relationship with the Hello Kitty Park.
Alright that's it. Many places have closed this year, but many have opened as well. It's the circle of life, dear friends. We do this for you, because Shanghai loves the new. Look out for more of What's New next month.