Top five Beijing bars: Marc Wandschneider’s fave places to get a drink

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In this edition of “top five watering holes“, self-described “serial wanderer, computer geek, yoga nerd, and language nut” Marc Wandschneider lists his favorite places to have a drink in Beijing. Wandschneider, in the “53rd month of his ‘about 6 months’ stay in Beijing”, says he has developed an appreciation for well-made drinks. His top five….

Q Bar

“This bar remains my favorite place for mixed drinks in Beijing. The quality of the cocktails served is consistently the highest, and I have yet to find a better Caipirinha anywhere else I have been (I even unsuccessfully spent an evening jumping around Brazilian bars in New York looking for one as good). The outdoor patio area opened in 2009 is a wonderful place to hang out with friends and while away an evening; the interior decoration is modern and tasteful. Two-for-one martini Wednesday nights (now actually “roughly half-price martini” night) remain a favorite event on my schedule.

“My one complaint with Q Bar is that in colder seasons when the outdoor patio is closed, the music inside the bar is unbearably loud making it impossible to chat with friends. While this is good business –can’t talk? drink more–it’s annoying.

Fubar

Chad Lager’s new establishment in the Worker’s Stadium is just a fun bar to hang out in with friends. While the quality of drinks maybe isn’t as high as the level set by Q Bar, they are definitely solid, and this place might very well have Beijing’s most relaxed atmosphere. There are always plenty of fun events (such as 1 RMB vodka mojitos on the first of the month), and there is always somebody you know there. Consider it Beijing’s upscale “Cheers”.

“Having the bar hidden behind a hot dog stand window front makes it extremely convenient to get a snack if you suddenly develop a case of the munchies after a few drinks. Just be sure to check before visiting Fubar if there’s an event at Workers Stadium. Getting to the bar will suddenly get difficult.

Reef

“In the olden days (2007), Nanluoguxiang was a small hutong with a few cafés and bars and preciously few tourists. Sometime in 2008, some friends made me aware of Reef bar on the north end of the strip, and we would blow entire evenings there drinking 10 RMB beers and playing that dice-counting game. The owners will make other drinks (I had a sip of a mojito once and it was nice), but it’s easy to spend an evening downing Qingdao’s finest “bing huang cha“.

“The owners are always there, and happy to down a few drinks with you. Throw in the fact that you can order chuan’r from a few doors down, and you have the recipe for a perfect local evening. The expansion in 2009 that effectively doubled the space made for a welcome respite from the previously ridiculous overcrowding. Fortunately the hordes of tourists seem to stick to the venues further down the alley, leaving this place alone with that old Nanluoguxiang feel to it.

12SQM

“Run by an Aussie, I only started frequenting this place because of a Kiwi friend of mine who visits the bar regularly. Actually starting out with a space of twelve square metres, I never went because it was too small. Now that it has nearly tripled in size, I find myself liking the place much more, and the interior decoration is warm. Throw in a friendly owner and his firecracker of a wife who both mix good drinks, a good beer selection, and great location, and you can’t go wrong with this place.

Bridge

“While not quite a bar, the always-open Bridge Café up in Wudaokou (literally 250 meters away from the subway station) is one of my favorite places in Beijing to pass any amount of time. The cocktails and beers here are reasonably priced and of decent quality, but the real reason to come is for the (post-drinking?) coffee.

“With plenty of space and tables spread over three floors (one of which is nonsmoking), good Internet connectivity, and tons of options for snacking or even full-on dining, you it’s a good place for either business or pleasure. A people-watching paradise.

Honourable mentions

Salud in Nanluoguxiang has brilliant spiced rums for 20 RMB that are both tasty and a good deal. The environment is pleasant and the atmosphere is vibrant.

Le Petit Gourmand in Tongli Studios again doesn’t quite qualify as a bar, but has great wine, coffees, and food, and is just a nice place to relax and chat while sipping a drink.

Dishonourable mention

“I can’t finish this off without a big “bite me” to D-Lounge, which started out with so much potential, but has since brought all the worst aspects of New York- or LA-style “Sorry, private party tonight” queuing to Beijing. This city doesn’t need that kind of crap.

2 thoughts on “Top five Beijing bars: Marc Wandschneider’s fave places to get a drink”

  1. Nice list.

    But regarding your dishonorable mention, I think business owners have the right to be discriminatory. Sure, the imported Botox-pumped-air-kissy-velvet-rope culture merits a few groans, but with progress comes exclusivity.

    Don’t people have a right to private parties that are impenetrable to the Great Unwashed Masses? I don’t know about you, but if I just put in a long day doing Important Stuff with Important People, I’d probably want to kick back in an Important Place.

    Clubs should be entitled to cater to said demographic should they find it in their best interest. I’d understand the hostility if the venue said one thing and did another, but as far as I can tell, D Lounge has never indicated that they aim to attract all demographics.

    And I’m saying this as a guy who enjoys drinking beer on the street with old Beijingers and other interesting folk — not as an Important Person.

  2. Agree that Fubar is without a doubt the most relaxing place for a drink in Beijing, good drinks, good atmosphere but most of all the people-the customers that Chad attracts make it what is… a great little gem of bar! and Hendrick’s & Tonic is my addiction for life thanks to Fubar!

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