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.