I asked Pete Demola, best known as a weliveinbeijing.com dude and a dedicated follower of the live music scene, for his top five watering holes in our fair city. Says Pete: “For the most part, I’m a minimalist when it comes to drinking—usually only whiskey or beer—so I tend to drink in locales based on the venue’s cost, character, and crowd.” Here is his top five.
D-22: I like my whiskey with heaping sides of The Stooges and 1970s-era punk. This Wudaokou venue is the epicenter of the city’s independent music scene, so it’s the premier spot for me to drop in to glean info about what’s going on in the community. The crowd ranges from local musicians tossing back drinks from the no-frills menu on weekdays, to larger, mixed groups when bigger acts pack the house on the weekends.
Er: A relaxing and womb-like Japanese whiskey bar with tasty eats (recommendation: 8-inch sausage and herb pizza), a laid-back feel, detail-oriented mixologists (they’ll whip up a tailored concoction based on what flavors you’re in the mood for) and a pleasant crowd (primarily beaming groups of Japanese white-collar workers). I’m sold on their cucumber gin and tonics and ginger-infused vodka—and hot grog in the wintertime.
Red House: My office is located in Wudaokou, so this relatively new pub offers a welcome alternative to the more established smarmy student locales. A carbon copy of The Tree with its brick walls, wood-fired pizza oven and Belgian brews (thank God for the first Wudaokou venue where one can enjoy a Duvel or Chimay), it’s a comfortable place to have a quick drink before I catch the subway home. Beyond that, it’s hard to ignore the 5 RMB Tsingdao drafts and soundtrack, which ranges from 1980s thrash metal to downtempo. And the douchebag factor is surprisingly-low for the area, with a nice blend of cheerful Korean students and the occasional well-mannered older gent coexisting amicably.
Stone Age: Unassuming Shuangjing restaurant with a prehistoric motif, replete with tacky murals of cavemen, swinging wicker chairs and a menu selection with a heavy emphasis on eating meat from sticks. I go for the 10 RMB homebrew drafts (both black and yellow), fried jiaozi with tangy hot sauce, and impressive selection of skewered snacks, which range from hot wax peppers to silkworms. Crowd consists of a blend of native hipsters and working-class folks.
Tun: There’s not much to say much about Tun that hasn’t already been said. You can’t beat the fantastic value, and I always run into a friendly face—or a dozen—whenever I drop by for one of their massive 40 RMB cocktails. Forget about finding your pals on a Friday night—you’ll have better odds finding Chinese Waldo on Tiananmen Square during Golden Week.