I attended a going-away party last Monday for two friends who have since made The Big Exit (goodbye Pam and Peter!). Any affair that involves pre-dinner libations, a five-course meal with individual menus, retirement to a lounge for post-dinner Whiskey and cigars, and endless hours of conversation is so civilized as to upset my natural balance and thus require a dose of Down and Dirty. But where does one go on a Monday night at 11 PM? Here are two options.
Rock n’ Roll
I last visited in November, so let me borrow from that post:
You get to Rock n’ Roll through an entrance that features a rippled cement wall traversed by water and illuminated with red light. If that doesn’t scare you off, enter the cargo elevator and exit to a dim lobby dominated by concrete, stainless steel, a turnstile, and more red light. (This seems like a perfect set for a movie about foreign bar-goers who head out in search of a night of fun but instead find themselves drugged and harvested of organs, but I digress.)
Things are more amenable inside and on this night the place both rocked and rolled. The lights, layout, and vibe make me think this place is out of some 1980s film like Short Circuit (I don’t mean that in a bad way – it just seems retro). The dance floor seethed with patrons, a quartet of young ladies zipped through cocktails at the bar, and we hovered between and downed beer at RMB25 per bottle. This is a local place, so expect to find only a handful of foreigners.
At one point, a guy jumped on the speakers and started to sing along to some hits, which raised the fervor in the room about five notches as the three-member team at the DJ booth worked the sound and lights (see video).
Two things to watch for at Rock n’ Roll:
1) The tops worn by the bartenders consist of a flimsy white leopard skin vest that ties at the back and is over a burgundy top that is essentially a polo shirt with a Chinese collar and military style buttons. So bad it’s (almost) good.
2) The food trolley features a smattering of foods – broad beans, steamed peanuts, tofu skin, sliced sausages, chicken feet, French fries – at 5 to 10 kuai per plate. During our two-hour-stay, I didn’t see one person buy anything from it – that should tell you all you need to know.
Again, my last visit came in November: The major change is the replacement of the elevator with stairs. The color scheme gives this place the feel of a more local and toned down China Doll, the music is lighter and catchier than at Rock n’ Roll, and the crowd here is prone to being “on the prowl.”
That’s no surprise since this is a well-known pickup bar. Patrons are free to write down their details (age, blood type, whatever) and the details of their ideal match, and post them on the board in the lobby. And of note for music fans out there, this is apparently a popular hangout for off-duty KTV hostesses. Beers are RMB35… or are they RMB40? I seemed to be paying a different amount every round.
Finally, at least on this night, a security troop – basically the same guys who walked around Sanlitun during the Olympics in their black caps and pants, mauve shirts, and white belts – was on hand. They seemed to chastise one guy for playing dice games, while another came to my table, tapped me on the shoulder, and told me to make sure to watch my friend’s bag while he was in the toilet. Thanks buddy, now how about fighting the crime that is known as the 40-kuai Tsingtao?