Shooters: They’ll Cap Your Glass

In the former locale of Moscow and just up from Kai, Shooters is rising up the hit list of favorite cheap bars – with a bullet. The place may not win any design awards, but is a cut above the competition, with a kind of mini-Browns feel. It has a bar, dance floor and seating downstairs, with sofas upstairs. Eddie O described it as “rough around the edges, but good.” Those over 25 may experience chaperone-like symptoms.

The handy laminated menu lists about a hundred shooters at 10 kuai apiece as well as pricier shots, cocktails and beers. (Note: As with all cheap drinks, you take your chances in this town.) I tried the passable Duck’s Ass (Bailey’s, Kahlua and white rum) and Baby Ruth (vodka, amaretto and peanuts). The Big V (dark cacao, blue cacao, vodka) was surprisingly good and I had a second. Eddie O stuck to Qingdao. Given the prices, drinks, location and ambience, this place will be a winner.

Beijing Boyce XXV: Mailbag!

Email: “I think you may have saved me something in the region of 300 to 400 RMB by telling me how badly overpriced Face is. A girl I had a date with cheekily suggested the place! I counter-recommended the old Black Sun.” – JB

BB: Beijing Boyce is happy to help. Black Sun seems a rather extreme drop-off from Face, however, akin to skipping blue cheese martinis at Centro in favor of vodka and Red Bull at Kai Club or rejecting her suggestion of The Orchard for dinner and going instead to Steak and Eggs. There is middle ground and I recommend The Tree or Stone Boat as such. In any case, I hoped you kicked her butt at foosball!

Email: “I concur with the Stone Boat terrace option [mentioned in the last BB]. I went with two visitors for a wine ‘tasting’ on Saturday and the location is sublime.” – AH

BB: I was among the first people to hang out at Stone Boat (Amy and Jonathan era), not because I have a knack for finding new spots, but because former that’s Beijing Cai Guy and current ASC Fine Wines Guy Perri Dong introduced me to it. I was new to town and, given chilly nights and stressful days, Stone Boat was a warm and relaxed retreat from reality. It helped that I was in “tourist” mode, thus making a sedate Qing Dynasty-style teahouse set on a pond in a park in the center of a morphing world capital of fifteen million seem pretty cool. The Stone Boat also had (and has) wireless. However, those were the heydays of First Café. In The Legendary Battle for Beijing Boyce’s Liver, George and Echo’s martinis routed Stone Boat’s hot chocolates. Thus, I traded caffeine-laced serenity for a shadowy interior, dizzying jazz and blues, and intoxicating vodka potions. Oh, how young and reckless was I then!

Email: “This is the best place in Beijing.” – PA (sitting beside me in The Bookworm)

BB: The Bookworm has top-notch seminars, an excellent selection of food and drink, and a pleasant rooftop garden, but to be “the best” requires a crucial step: hiring me as a security guard with total discretion as to which patrons to bounce down that long flight of stairs. Take last night, when the woman across from me verbally galloped for an hour at high volume and with a voice reminiscent of a squeaky door. Bounce. Take last week, when two lovebirds sat in front of me and shared a toasted sandwich that they ate with mouths open, molars revealed and masticated tomatoes, cheese and bacon visibly and audibly on churning display. Bounce and bounce. Take the people who avoid sneezing on their own laptop screens and instead send the mist toward yours, who scream “Wei!” into a cell phone a half-dozen times, or who for hours lightly sing, hum or tap out with their pencil some annoying Black Eyed Peas’ song. Bounce, bounce and bounce. Thus, PA, until justice reigns – and service is more consistent – The Bookworm will only be “one of the best.”

Email: “This is Alex (the former American bartender at Phil’s)… I’ll be coming back to Beijing soon but I’m not too sure when. I’ll keep you informed.” – AK

BB: To those who missed it, Alex suddenly showed up at Phil’s earlier this year and for a few months helped Sally whip up cheap but good drinks. He also wore the diplomat’s hat and quelled rowdier patrons, making him a nice addition to a nice pub. Let’s hope he has time to mix a few cocktails at Phil’s when he returns to our fair city.

Email: “I always read your newsletter, but I too find it difficult with that font. Can you change it to Arial narrow perhaps?” – PM

BB: You got it. Ladies, Gentlemen and Barbarians, this issue of Beijing Boyce sports this fall’s most fashionable font – Arial narrow.

Beijing Boyce XXIV: Opening Shots

These are the nights to enjoy a drink on a rooftop, deck or patio, and my favorite spots remain Pavillion and Stone Boat Cafe, with other good options being Drum and Bell, Frank’s Place and Q Bar. Remember, our lungs filter pollution from this city’s air and a strong collective outside drinking effort might allow us to spot a star or two some evening. (Note: Pavillion offers the added flashback value of hearing Wham!, Huey Lewis, The Vapors and Jackson Browne within an hour.) / John Bull Pub, run by legendary bar proprietor Frank Siegel, is saying toodleloo London and hello Houston as it transforms into a Texas BBQ joint (see “We Got Email” / Zing by Doodoo, an esteemed member of the Bad Bar Name Hall of Fame, is also changing identities and will reemerge as Thai restaurant Serve the People, which is hardly a better name given that it evokes cannibalism. / 49 kuai for a pint of Carlsberg at Face. Ouch! / The Bookworm celebrated its one-year anniversary yesterday. With tasty food, interesting lectures, live music, plenty of books for sale or loan, and an extensive beverage menu, this place has been a runaway success. Not surprisingly, its incredible popularity can make it tough for wireless seekers to get a seat, and that can mean occasional forays to Le Petit Gourmand or SPR Coffee. / Browns now serves jungle juice” during Wednesday ladies’ nights, which means people may soon be swinging from the rafters as well as dancing on the bar. Speaking of Browns, the foam party two weekends ago saw bubbles upon bubbles for most of the night, but they had burst by Sunday brunch. The place was virtually empty, yet it took over 20 minutes to get a simple breakfast and the COFFEE MACHINE WAS BROKEN! “If this had been my first visit to Browns, I would never go back,” said a downright bitter and caffeine-withdrawn M-Dawg. / Nearby, The Loft has renamed itself Hot Loft. I have no punch line to do justice to this marketing brilliance. / Reader K.S. aka Killer Schoolmarm has spoken to the owner of recently chai’d The Big Easy and says the Louisiana-style hotspot will again grace our city, retaining the spirit of its original interior, but with a new outside look (more to come on this). / M-Dawg and I visited Q Bar two Saturdays ago and waited not only 15 minutes to order, but also 30 minutes in vain for our drinks. With parched throats, we went to Phil’s Pub and soon had Gin Tonics at one-third the cost. It seems to me that Q Bar is best when providing quality cocktails in a tranquil environment, which suggests a need to focus on speeding up drink delivery rather than on, say, hiring a DJ to play house music. Translation: I want my dry martini and John Lee Hooker! Fortunately, the drinks were coming fast and slightly furious during a visit earlier this week. / Speaking of which, Trevor and Kenn from Alternate Paradigm will slip into aprons and host an end-of-summer BBQ on Q Bar’s rooftop (September 23, 2 PM-late). Twenty-five kuai gets you a cheeseburger, two hot dogs, grilled veggies or six wings, all of which come with a baked potato. / Skipping back to Phil’s, I visited several times recently and rediscovered the joys of cheap but decent cocktails, 30-kuai Erdinger, and a friendly neighborhood pub atmosphere. Moreover, after a long stint in Qingdao , owner Phil is back and teamed up with Sally. My only recommendation for this place: vaporize the PlayStation console, or at least anyone using it. / The new branch of Raj held a party last Saturday night with the expected buffet of Indian food and traditional dancing. The rooftop is ideal for enjoying a few brew (from 15 kuai for Qingdao to 25 kuai for Kingfisher) or some wine (though those puny glasses have to go), before heading to nearby Bed or Drum and Bell. / The Stone Boat has upgraded its wine and cocktail menu over the past year and credit goes to Amy and Jonathan. The Martini and Mojito are better, though the latter is still light on alcohol, and it is nice to enjoy wine in a proper glass in such a relaxing spot.

(From Beijing Boyce XXIV, first emailed on September 21, 2006)

Beijing Boyce XXIV: Mailbag!

Email: “Your beer gut must be even bigger than mine the amount of guzzling you must do in the interests of research. You should know that a hoary old favourite, John Bull Pub, will soon change its name and its style to Tim’s Texas Barbecue. [Owner] Frank [Siegel] is going to concentrate on his two (maybe more soon) Sequoia coffee houses. Sad, but inevitable.” - M.T.

BB: Frank, who opened Beijing’s first non-hotel bar 16 years ago, told me the new BBQ joint is slated for late October and that he’s been getting his smoker ready, so to speak. John Bull Pub holdovers will include the trivia contest on Tuesdays and the Mexican food cart on Fridays and Saturdays. The second Sequoia is open on Sanlitun North.

By the way M.T., “beer gut” is such a crude word for a distinguished part of our bodies that is years in the making. Why not something more dignified, such as, “the round mound where brew doth abound”, “tribute to barley-based beverages,” or, as M-Dawg suggests, “Belgian bulge.”

Email: “I wonder how I get on these email lists. Who are you? Want a suggestion? I read computer screens all day and there is NO WAY I want to read all this text, even if it has things in bold a la that’s Beijing style. Find a more effective way to communicate. No one likes to read. It’s a fact.” - C.N.

BB: Yo, C.N., my inbox shows that you subscribed to this newsletter. In other words, you pretty much begged like a randy font monkey for 3,000 words worth of Courier New biweekly. Could there be a link between your forgetfulness and aversion to reading? Just asking…

I realize this newsletter’s all-text look is very mid-1990s BBS but, a) I haven’t had many complaints about it, b) I don’t have time to add pictures or smiley faces, and c) those were fun years, when the Internet was more a novelty and less another way to keep us connected to work 24/7. And the rock band Veruca Salt was still together. Furthermore, some people can handle a long newsletter, as this next, uh, *eccentric* email shows, picking up on my comments last issue about Sanlitun lady bar touts and substance sellers:

Email: “It is currently 6:45 AM, Sunday morning… I got up around 5 AM due to being a bit parched, so I headed over to my kitchen for a cold drink. Oddly enough, I was asked if I wanted a lady bar a few times on the way there, and on my way back to my warm comfortable slumber I was accompanied by a young African man who wanted to discuss politics before the inevitable, ‘Want some stuff, man?’ I ditched him and turned down the first alley, which leads to my second bedroom/office. I figured: let me check my email. I am anxiously awaiting some important docs from the home office and couldn’t wait until a reasonable hour. I sealed my fate by hitting the send/receive button. There it was in plain sight, harmless in nature, yet powerful in its ability to lure me in for a closer look, YOUR EMAIL! … I read the whole thing and now my eyes are burning… I will attempt the impossible, the ole return to bed after getting a drink at 5 AM, then reading a 3,000-word email.”- J.C.

BB: See, C.N., some people do read. They might imagine lady bar touts and drug dealers loitering in their apartments, but they do read. By the way, like zebra mussels slowly spreading throughout a lake and disrupting otherwise decent habitat, the lady bar touts have now crept onto Sanlitun South and spread their annoyingness as far down as Gongti South. Six people accosted me as I walked from Pink Loft to Beer Mania at 7:30 PM. Can nothing stop them?

Email: “Maggie’s had better get back to 20 yuan on a bottle of beer or I am boycotting! Please note my displeasure if possible in your next column. We all have to do our bit to fight inflation and a 50 percent price increase is unreasonable in these hard times.”- E.O.

BB: Jacking up bottled beer prices by 10 kuai is annoying, but the bigger problem for Maggie’s is its declining relevance. On occasion, having a few Qingdao, listening to a song spectrum that spans My Humps to Paradise City, watching foreign man/Mongolian woman joint ventures unfold, and gorging on a hot dog out front might be fun, but the new Maggie’s is more sterile and, at least for me, there are simply too many other good nightlife options now.

(From Beijing Boyce XXIV, first emailed on September 21, 2006)

Flippant festival footnotes

 

 

I went to the Beijing Pop Festival in Chaoyang Park two weeks ago and happily found proletarian beer prices: 4 yuan for a can of Blue Diamond. As for the bands, CJ was OK, Supergrass was Supergood, and Sebastian Bach should not wear a bright yellow Mandarin robe as it makes him look like an over-rouged blond-maned tranny with a cultural identity crisis. Other observations: I bought my official ticket not from a booth, not from a table, but from a silver gray Elantra. The security included PLA-looking guards, bao-an in poorly fitting uniforms, and secret service guys in dark suits, and I wondered what they thought about Bach swearing, screaming, prancing about stage and throwing microphone stands into the wings. The fans drank responsibly and behaved, with the most blatant sign of alcohol being the very relaxed guy with a pup tent and a small table holding four glasses of tequila. The music is rock, not pop, and anyway, if the promoters want to get out the locals, why not splash out for some act that was popular in the eighties band and has plenty of KTV standards, such as Whitney Houston or Air Supply?  Pizza by the slice should be a given at these things. Discovery of the day: that my friend’s wife used to play in a Japanese band that did Skid Row covers! 

 

(From Beijing Boyce XXIV, first emailed on September 21, 2006)