Update: Here are the three photos I got after the game (unfortunately, my camera battery died).
Security around Workers Stadium for today’s Beijing Guo’an football finale is heavier today than I remember it being even during The Olympics. I popped out of my apartment building across from the southeast corner of the stadium, quite far from the main entrances, to find four policemen at the gate, and then walked along the eastern side of the stadium where I passed more than a dozen police cars, vans, and buses as well as more than a hundred officers in uniform. Either the Beijing Guo’an, who are playing for the title right now, have a lot of fans among the police or the fans they do have the potential for a bit of misbehavior. I’m betting on the latter. A few shots from the walk…
Spotted these signs about 20 minutes ago attached to Cosmo Lounge, just in front of Cosmo Hot Dog, outside Tongli Studio. The one on the right basically has “give our hard-earned money back!” in Chinese. I asked The Village Grouch for a translation of the other. Here is his take:
Tong Li, give back our sweat blood [hard-earned] money / Who will uphold justice? / Give back the peasants’ and workers’ hard-earned money
Jackson Bai is one of the coolest guys in the local bar scene. He is personable, he keeps the homemade rum flowing at Sanlitun Salud (map) and… he always wears a white T-shirt. We all need a little diversity in our lives, thus, with his permission, I am launching a T-shirts for Jackson Campaign.
Participation is easy: Simply give Jackson a new T-shirt, take a photo of him with it, email that photo to me at beijingboyce (at) yahoo.com, and you will be entered into a draw for a slew of stuff, including a bottle of seven-year-old rum, a bottle of sparkling rose, and a bunch of other booze that I will list after I raid my liquor cabinet this weekend.
Note: Jackson reserves the right to refuse any T-shirt, so don’t try giving him one that is used or that has holes, stains, or the aroma of a night spent in the gutter.
Also of note, Nick Lara will be guest bartending at Sanlitun Salud this Saturday as the bar celebrates its 100-day anniversary. Expect him to wear his custom-made red devil suit.
Nearly fifty moons waxed and waned between my last descent to the Bomb Shelter Bar (map) and one earlier this week as part of planning a long-promised visit for some readers. (By the way, this place is ideal for a “tweet-up” since the odds of getting a signal and using Twitter are low, thus people would have to go old school and talkto each other.)
Accessed via a hole in the courtyard of the Red Capital Residence, getting down requires flexibility given the steep stairs and low ceiling. After scooting through a tunnel, you emerge into a three-room bar decorated with Cultural Revolution kitsch, old communications equipment, and roughly hewn furniture. A screening of a propagandist opera is optional. (See photos below)
Fancy an eve of claustrophobic fun? The bomb shelter bar below Red Capital Residence might be your glass of maotai. It’s definitely one of the more interesting drinking holes (in the ground). Getting there is half the adventure as you climb into a manhole-sized opening and down steep stairs under a low ceiling: awkward for all but the most nimble. (Note: The toilet is upstairs, so go before starting your journey to the center of the earth.)
The house drinks are, uh, revolutionary. I tried the “Lin Biao Crash” (88 kuai), which includes vodka, apricot and lemon juice, and peppermint white and blue caracao. It’s topped off with maotai and lit afire: thus, the “crash.” (I took mine “un-crashed.”) When my friend M-Dawg returned from the bathroom (again, go BEFORE you descend), he asked, “What stinks?” That would be the maotai, although the drink was surprisingly good. Other house cocktails include “The Long March” (”for fierce steadfast drinkers”), “Dream of Red Capital” (”in the morning you will feel as if the market has undergone a correction”) and “Black Cat / White Cat” (”excessive intake may inhibit one’s ability to catch mice”). Five-star Beer is 30 kuai.”
Given this space is sometimes booked for events, you are best making a reservation by calling 8403-5308 or emailing Rola Suzanne Heng at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Radio show host and voice-over master Trevor Metz is known to enjoy a pint or four. He set aside his smooth-as-Manuka-honey-vodka voice earlier this week and put fingers to keyboard to list his five favorite bars in Beijing. He has excluded his local, Fubar, as his brother-in-law is a co-owner, though you can catch Metz there from 8 PM this Sunday when he does a stint as guest bartender. In any case, his top five emphasizes his preference for beer: “Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a nice snifter of port at Christmas time as much as the next person but I am Canadian and beer is in my blood… as it were.”
Here is his top five, in no particular order:
“Kiosk (map): I love Kiosk. I guess it is more of a restaurant than a bar but they serve ice-cold bottles of Tsingtao. You might say to yourself, “Everybody sells Tsingtao”. But you would be surprised at how hard it is to find beer that is the right temperature in this city. Let’s face it, Tsingtao is not a great beer at the best of times but if you try swilling it warm then you will appreciate the temperature they serve it at at Kiosk. I think it is safe to say I have an almost pornographic love affair with the Big Bite sandwich and the chivapchichi. Chivapchichi are Serbian meat fingers. They don’t sound so appetizing, but they are, and there is a great recipe for them at www.smoked-meat.com. And that is not a porno site! Kiosk owner Sasha is a heck of a nice guy. He always brings me that homemade Serbian brandy for free. That stuff will suck the paint off your house and give your family a permanent orange Afro but it sure gets you where you want to be. Pound for pound one of my faves in Beijing.
“The Tree (map) : Yeah yeah, I know, it is cliche but The Tree stands the test of time. I have been around long enough to remember The Hidden Tree as it was the first bar I went to when I arrived in Beijing, so I have a special place in my heart for The Tree. A pint of pissy beer is the same price as when I first arrived in Beijing, 15 kuai. They still have a two-for-one happy hour and the pizza is consistent. You know exactly what you are getting when you hit The Tree, and there is something to be said for that in a city where whole blocks are here one week and gone the next. The wait staff will politely sit there til 6 AM if you are still drinking beer. They may put their heads down for a nap between rounds but they never complain. The Tree is dark and dirty and I love it. Never change!
“Stone Boat (map): Yeah, I know there has been some drama with the ownership and I haven’t gone back since but I miss it. It is possibly the best place in all of Beijing to waste a day drinking beer. I hear the food sucks but I am not so drunk as to order food there. I like to watch old farts catch fish in the petrie dish they call a pond and bring them home to eat. It makes me feel superior. The cool thing about the Stone Boat is that you can bring your folks there for a drink or you can sit with buddies and talk about girls. Obviously this is a fair weather bar but it is pretty cool to hide inside the boat during a storm. That happened to me once and I still remember how much I enjoyed waiting out a storm in the picturesque setting of Ritan Park while drinking pints. Good times.
“Danger Doyle’s (map), or Danger Doilies as my wife calls it: Now, I only like Doyle’s on cheap pizza Wednesdays. I think the bar itself is too big and the manager Glenn once called me a punter (even though he doesn’t remember). But on Wednesdays, Doyle’s can’t be beat. That pizza is such a good deal at 10 kuai and if you go at happy hour then you can have two pints of beer and a pizza for 25 kuai! Good pizza, too! That is probably the best bargain in town. I am probably starting to sound cheap as I am always looking for bargains but whatever. I am not one of these corporate poofs that thinks it’s cool to pay 12 dollars for a cocktail that is probably made with fake booze. I just want value for my middle income dollars and I appreciate it when a bar can make a schlepp like me welcome. I like a glass of single malt as much as the next man but 10 dollars for an ounce of Scotch is just too much.
“The Irish Volunteer (map): Now, I don’t get out to the Lido area often, too many nose pickers and finger lickers. But when there is an important hockey game, the Irish Volunteer has it covered. I watched my pathetic Canucks get clobbered by the Chicago Blackhawks there and I even got to see Grapes dress and act like a fool. They have a fantastic breakfast for those early morning games and they generally don’t care if you pour your own beer! How many bars do that? The owner will come in and open the doors at any time if you want to watch a game, even if it starts at 3 AM. That, my friends, is commitment to customers.
“Honorable mention: The OLD Goose & Duck. Why John why? Why hast thou forsaken us? The old Goose was dark and stinky but that is what made it so great. It was the best late-night bar ever and also perfect if you wanted to hide from the sun and play darts all day. I once pushed a 6’5″ Englishman over a table and drinks went flying everywhere and I didn’t even get kicked out. In fact, John gave me 24 bottles of VB for free not long after that because they were “samples” and he didn’t want to sell them. Those were the days. Sadly, bars like this are almost no more.
A Somewhat Steady China Hand on the Local Bar Scene