One night in Nanluoguxiang: 12SQM, Reef, Boheme, Ten-kuai Bar, and more

Earlier today I explained why Nanluoguxiang is earning a bigger chunk of my nightlife budget. That spend trend continued yesterday as BeijingDaze and I headed there for a few drinks.

12SQM: We started at the self-proclaimed smallest bar in the city and found it – with eight people inside – fairly busy. I ordered a Black Russian while BD went for a White Russian (RMB30 each). He prefers to have the Kahlua poured in first so it can settle at the bottom, while bartender Joseph says his regulars like to have it mixed. (Frankly, I prefer Coopers Pale Ale to both.) By the way, for a bar of its size, 12SQM offers a big selection of single malts.

Passby Bar: We passed by this landmark but it deserves a shout for its house pies, especially the Hutong pizza, which comes with roast lamb on top.

Utopia: Another pass by, but its worth mentioning that though one of the decor highlights is ballpoint pen graffiti on white brick walls, this place often draws a crowd and offers an excellent beer selection.

Sandglass: Yet another pass by, though I stopped here last week with fellow bloggers and ended up drinking German Lowenbrau and Spanish Mahou, both at RMB35 per bottle. We managed to amass a bill of over RMB1000 – its always those flaming shooters for the birthday boy or girl that do it. This is a place to drink and chat, so much so said one in our group that bringing a laptop and surfing the Web is Verboten.

Fish Nation: “They have the cheapest cider in Beijing,” said BD, but then we had to shift to past tense as we found the place sold out of Woodpecker (RMB20), though it had Strongbow (RMB35). Our White Russians were tiny, about one-third normal size, and around RMB30 at that. We would have been better off ordering the Brooklyn, Rogue, Kona, or other craft beers for the same price. The fish and chips (RMB49) were fine, coming with a lone piece of battered fish, while BD found the onion “marmalade” pizza (RMB38), topped with caramelized onions, OK (I thought it too sweet). He reminisced about watching the Olympics opening ceremony fireworks from Fish Nation’s rooftop while I marveled that not even two months have passed since that day – it seems so much longer.

Treehouse: We found this bar down an alley from July’s (keep going past Super Box). Many NLGX places are hard to distinguish from each other on initial glance, since they tend to have similar facades, the wooden furniture, the shelf of entry-level brand-name booze behind the bar, and so on, but for those looking to get away from the bar street proper, this place at least offers isolation.

Reef Bar: Ever since The Rickshaw Rally last October, I have liked this place. It has a decent number of Whiskies, starting with Grant’s (RMB15 per shot) and Jameson (RMB25 per shot), and beers that range from Tsingtao (RMB10) to more than a dozen Belgian and German selections (RMB30 and up). There is also an extensive cocktail and shooter menu.

The bar proper takes up about a quarter of the place, with the remaining space dedicated to five bar stools and five pairs of facing sofas. The crowd is local, and seems like a regular one at that, and the bar staff is attentive. BD stuck to his White Russion regimen and found this one pretty good.

Guitar Bar: A good crowd on hand to watch a pair of guitarists play. With few seats available and a bit too much noise to make conversation possible, we continued on.

“Ten kuai” bar: This long, narrow, and grungy place felt somewhat like an abandoned house converted into a bar and evoked the spirit of the original Nanjie and Kai Club. The main feature is a long bar faced by about 20 stools and, behind these, small high tables and chairs. People played dice games in a room in the back. The white walls are dotted with enlarged photos, music and movie posters, and the graffiti of a thousand patrons. The bar had a fair-sized crowd and kudos to the lone bartender who zipped about and made sure everyone had drinks.

Speaking of drinks, the menu lists about 20 cocktails, 15 shooters, and Tsingtao at 10 kuai, with another 15 choices at 20 kuai. I had a Black Dog (tequila, Coke, and lemon) while Badr stuck with the White Russians, finding this one a bit too milky.

Boheme: Save for the wood floor, this place looks like a big garage or storage room converted to a bar, with sofas covered with red drop cloths and walls bare save for a few decorations – sketches, a Dogs Playing Poker poster, and a Chinese flag with dozens of Mao pins. The most spacious place of the night, I nevertheless found it a bit grungy. The White Russian research continued, with BD finding this one (RMB25) better than Ten’s but worse than Reef’s. (We are going to need a scorecard here.)

Salud: We immediately indulged in the homemade rums – mango and anise, banana and honey, ginger, and (a freebie!) the special spicy blend (which includes Tabasco). This place consistently offers good times with its generally laid-back patrons, friendly staff, rums, and ample seating options (bar, table, and loft). I’ll write a more detailed post about Salud soon, but on this night, it took top spot as our favorite stop, with the runners up being Reef Bar and the “Ten Kuai” bar.

2 thoughts on “One night in Nanluoguxiang: 12SQM, Reef, Boheme, Ten-kuai Bar, and more”

  1. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for the write up as this area definitely deserves some attention.

    Went down there myself this week for the first time since I arrived in Beijing which I should be ashamed off as it is around the corner.

    Liked the atmosphere, it’s relaxed and has cozy little bars with absolutely decent prices compared to the commercial bar strips and clubs here in town.

    Great to go and hang out for a late afternoon or early evening drink on a lazy weekend day!

    Cheers, Jeroen Jolij

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