In the latest installment of the watering holes series, Alex Lopez gives his top five places to grab a drink in Beijing. Lopez is a self-described local music lover, hutong runner, and dive bar connoisseur. He works in brand licensing, is a student of Chinese, and moonlights as “religious adviser” to the infamous Beijing Full Moon Hash. Here, in no particular order, are his top five bars…
Lydia’s Manor Café (map): My favorite hole-in-the-wall. Lydia, the very friendly (and funny) manager, runs a nice little Italian joint south of Lama Temple. The pizza isn’t the most authentic in Beijing, but it’s flavorful and goes well with the… here it comes… micro-brewed light and dark beers. The micro brews are tasty (I like the dark) and go for 10 kuai per pint. You really can’t beat that.
Kokomo (map): Best open air dancing in Beijing, period. No cover, unpretentious, and casual enough to really let it all out and have fun. I especially recommend Friday nights with DJ Andrés. These can go quite late.
Reef Bar (map): Best beer bar on Nanluoguxiang. There’s a big fridge full of imported brews, and the Tsingtao is still only 10 kuai for after your taste buds are too drunk to know the difference. Very popular with young locals, and a great place to meet non-expat friends.
The Smugglers (map): I maintain that Yanjing in stubby bottles is the best tasting domestic beer. Smugglers sells these for 15 kuai per pair. Not only the best value in Sanlitun, but also the only dive with the balls to break the Tsingtao stranglehold on the Beijing bar scene. Usually my first or last bar of the night.
Jiangjinjiu Live (map): Beijing lacks a truly stellar live music venue, but Jiangjinjiu is just about as good as it gets. Live folk acts Thursday through Sunday, usually without a cover. If it gets too hot inside, you can relax outside in the shadow of the Drum Tower and Bell Tower.
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