Top five Beijing bars: Tuesday night brain teaser Julian Fisher

The Tuesday night brain teaser of Beijing, Julian Fisher has presided over the longest running weekly quiz in the city, first at Schindler’s and now at Tim’s Texas BBQ. It turns out he also likes a drink of two. Here are his top five watering holes in Beijing.

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“Since I’m British and my formative years were spent in five-hundred year old pubs in Devon my list is full of fairly well-known drinkeries that make me feel at home:

Schillers aka The German Office. Beijing is a city of 13 million people with less than thirteen pubs. In fact it is probably only has three. Pubs in northern Europe are always dark, wooden and warm, lending themselves to drinking long into rainy winter nights. Schillers has plenty of wood, gas-leaking furnaces for heat and dim lights that fry mosquitoes. It also has Germans and African embassy staff who have frequented the place every day since it opened, a great happy hour (buy one get one free until eight), excellent bangers and mash and mid-nineties house music. I once met a North Korean electrician there. From Germany .

White Nights aka The Russian Office. OK, this place is not strictly a bar, but it does have beer for 5RMB a pint which certainly makes it a drinking spot. The food is cheap and hearty but they cook mayonnaise with cheese which tastes revolting. The service is also very authentic, meaning no one ever smiles. It’s great to sit out on the quiet tree-lined street in the summer (opposite is a little Russian grocery called ‘The One’ which stocks some interesting food) but it isn’t near any other places, and closes early, which can either send you to bed or on to late-night Rasputian mischief.

Ichikura. This place is simply one of the best places to drink in Beijing. It might not appear to have much in common with medieval British taverns but there are similarities. Firstly, the dark lighting lends itself to late nights and contemplation. Secondly, you can happily sit at the bar and watch someone take deserved pride in their work. Finally, and maybe most importantly, no one bats an eyelid when you are drinking alone in a place which is designed for nothing else but drinking.

Tori Tei. This place is also not strictly a bar but I always end up drinking more in there then anywhere else in Beijing . It has benches that you can share with friends or strangers, hot sake for 25RMB a bottle and an open fire. Ok, it’s a BBQ. Which is better than a log fire because it can supply you with the best chuan’r in Beijing. Like Ichikura, you can also keep a bottle behind the bar. This is always useful when you run out of money and need to drink somewhere for free.

“I am going to cheat a little now because I have run out of numbers without reaching my two most visited watering holes (both within walking distance of my home as all good locals should be). Number 4.5 is The Den. Little more can be said about this place than when nuclear Armageddon strikes, all that will remain will be cockroaches, communism and The Den. Number 5 is The Tree. Sitting in the philosophers corner (as my recently departed friend Steve always called it) opposite the bar on high stools under the framed image of an unknown man is a great place to peruse their extensive beer list before buying a 15RMB Tsingdao. Newly born 1F is also looking good but now I’m just pushing it…



Where to watch the World Cup in Beijing: A work in progress…

Watch out for the Black Stars.

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Good times in Beijing during the last World Cup given that nearly every bar and its sibling had a TV screen to attract football fans (see All About Placement: World Cup Venues). Some spots are gone–Browns (home of raucous parties during and after games), W, John Bull Pub, Red Ball, and more–but plenty have opened, so there will be no shortage of options.

I will turn this post into a permanent page to list spots to see games, maps (more are coming), and the official / unofficial bars for fans of certain nations. If anyone has any info to add, please let me know at beijingboyce (at) yahoo.com.

Before I get started, if you are looking for country flags, SLS Flags is hard to beat. I also noticed a flag shop just north of The Place, but have not yet had a chance to check it out. And for more on the last World Cup, see these ten observations I made as a viewer in Beijing.

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First, some spots that have opened since the last World Cup and that will show or likely show games. There are numerous other places that might show it–Salud? 1F? Aperitivo?–and I will add them if I get confirmation. It would also be cool if games were shown on the giant screens at Sanlitun Village, The Place, and elsewhere. We’ll see.

I’ve put a black star–OK, it’s an asterisk–beside some places I plan to see Ghana play on its way to World Cup victory…

* Paddy O’Shea’s (map) A two-floor Irish bar near the Sanlitun North embassy district that draws an after-work drain-a-pint crowd as well as a loyal local following, and will have specials during games involving France. In addition to the pub grub, patrons can order from Indian restaurant Kamat’s upstairs.

* Blue Frog Look for this place to beam games onto that massive wall facing its spacious deck. Blue Frog also has several screens inside. Best bet is to catch a game during that two-for-one Monday burger deal.

* Tun This place is capable of doing a huge projection on the wall behind the bar. Given its large size and decent beer prices, it could pick up where Browns left off last time.

* The Stumble Inn: Look for the second version of this place to open on the third floor of Sanlitun Village in time for the World Cup.

Saddle Cantina Another spot that could be a hit, especially on the deck, if games can be projected on the white sides of Nali Studio.

Luga’s Basement One floor below Luga’s Villa, it has five screens, though they are a bit small. There is also a deck out front where patrons can kick back and relax.

The Irish Volunteer (map) While not a sports bar, it has excelled at showing sports on demand–from the NHL playoffs to the NCAA men’s basketball final. Has a small but good selection of beers as well as burgers and other pub grub.

Stadium Dog Box off part of the parking lot, stick up a screen or two, and fans would be enjoying a beer and a dog all in the shade of a stadium.

Danger Doyle’s Formerly known as Stadium, this two-floor bar offers plenty of screens, a spacious rooftop, and a wide selection of beers.

Hooters The only Beijing outlet of this U.S. franchise: expect pricey but passable food (try the chili dog), a handful of screens, and waitresses dancing and singing to songs such as “You Are My Sunshine.”

Tim’s Texas BBQ Home of a wide range of Tex-Mex food, including a decent “Mexican burger”, this place also shows sports.

All-Star (map) This place includes booth and table seating, solid pub grub, a four-sized bar, and dozens of flat screens in the Solana area.

Union Bar & Grille: With one of the best designed bars in town, a comfy place at which to sip a pint or two.

Parkside Bar & Grill: Slated to open in Lido in early to mid May with a three-side bar and several 55-inch screens. The plan is to show games in HD.

Now for places that were around for the last World Cup and will or likely will show games…

* The Den (map) Open 24 hours, the place has five screens, good pub grub (four-cheese pizza, deep-fried combo, nasi goreng, and bangers and mash), a reasonably efficient staff, and an excellent happy hour (5 to 10 PM daily, with half-price drinks and pizzas). Downsides: there is no free water and the place is a bit dingy. The Den attracts a diverse clientele, particularly after midnight.

* Ritan Park Compound Former site of sacrifices to the Sun God, this walled circular area in Ritan Park played host to hundreds of football fans in 2006. The organizers erected two massive screens–one with English commentary, one with Chinese commentary–and the time delay between the two created lots of anticipation for half the fans. Entry was RMB30, and included a beer, with Tsingtao available at RMB15 per bottle. Hopefully, there is a similar setup this year.

The Pavillion (map) Among the busiest spots during the last World Cup due to its excellent deck. It also includes numerous screens inside, though some of them are at an angle that can lead to sore necks.

The Goose and Duck (map) Recently upgraded, this is a 24-hour sports bar with loads of paraphernalia and screen and a diverse menu (the steak breakfast special is tasty). Host of the biggest Super Bowl party each year. The location is an issue for many people as is the at-times lackluster service.

Frank’s Place (map) The Lido reincarnation of what is widely considered the first non-hotel bar to open in Beijing. Again, plenty of screens as well as a large party area out back.

Beer Mania With an excellent lineup of Belgian beers, this place showed games last time around and is a strong draw with the Belgian crowd.

The Pomegranate (map) The Shunyi-based sibling of Paddy O’Shea’s.

Eudora Station (map) Located in the Lido area, this place shows sports, has a vast menu, and includes a lounge area out back and a nice patio up front.

The Irish Volunteer (map) While not a sports bar, during the NHL playoffs this year it became the unofficial home of Vancouver Canucks fans. A small but good selection of beers are paired with RMB30 breakfasts and other pub grub. See posts about The Irish Volunteer.

Danger Doyle’s (map) Formerly known as Stadium, this two-floor Irish bar, with back and rooftop decks, offers plenty of screens for sports fans. The idea is to reserve the upstairs for games shown with commentary. A wide selection of beers are available, as is pizza from a wood-fired oven, though the staff is struggles to fill orders. See posts about Danger Doyle’s.

A new look in Lido: Parkside Bar & Grill slated to open in two weeks

The space formerly known as the Pili Pili African bar and restaurant in Lido is about two weeks from opening as a family friendly eatery called Parkside Bar & Grill, says a consultant on the project. Expect a three-sided bar, several large TV screens (the plan is to show World Cup games in HD), booth and table seating, and a deck that can seat about 50 people. The food will include burgers, steaks, ribs, and the like. There will also be some computers on which kids can play games.

Exposed at last: The walls are coming down at Sanlitun Soho

Tough times: Looks like they could only afford to paint one building.

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People always talk about the speed of change in Beijing. Tis true it’s fast, though there are exceptions. For example, it has been more than five freaking years between Sanlitun South Bar Street biting the dust and its replacement Sanlitun Soho being revealed to passerbys. Yes, after five freaking years, the billboards around the complex are coming down.

As I passed today, finishing touches were being done on the buildings and landscaping. The complex should look pretty good in partnership with Sanlitun Village though given general building trends in Beijing it will probably look five freaking years old by late August.

(Another example of quick change: That building at the far left of the photo below took something like 11 years to complete. Of course, these are exceptions to the rule of speedy change, but I don’t care.)

Old farts will recall a giant beer mug stood near that building at left.
Great point from which to see welding arcs with your naked eye.
Hundreds of tenants will soon learn there is no free water at The Den.

A new bar at A Hotel: Bye Cafe Igosso, hello Box Lounge

The former Cafe Igosso in A Hotel has reopened as The Box Lounge.  The decor was done on a budget by Sky–his projects include D Lounge–and include a mix of new elements (plush chairs in burgundy, cranberry, and burnt orange; wall units adorned with candles; an exposed ceiling) and old ones (the opaque red plastic wall, the earthy checkerboard floor). Mixed drinks are RMB40, cocktails are RMB50, though I have yet to try them.

Victor Chuan Muh of Ad Valorem Productions gave me a tour, including a stop on the second floor, which includes a conference room as well as a lounge area facing the east gate, where he says patrons will be able to watch concerts and other events.

A number of clubs, such as Latte and Hei Hei, and numerous restaurants have opened in or near the base of the Stadium over the past year. It now looks like we are going to get a small gathering of drinking holes in the southeast section, including The Box Lounge, Fubar, and a cocktail bar planned by ex-Q Bar co-owner George Zhou.