Category Archives: Rickshaw

Saturday night snapshots: Room 101, Maggie’s, Swing, Rickshaw

Saturday started with a wine lunch near the Summer Palace that lasted so long it matured into a wine dinner in Wudaokou. Even better, the random bottles brought covered six continents – South American (Chile), North American (United States), Asia (China), Africa (South Africa), Europe (France), and Australia. Plus, I had my first Lebanese wine. Good times! And more than enough reason to head out to celebrate. A brief wrap-up on the night that followed:

Room 101: Despite the rain, the closing party drew a sizable crowd, at least that’s the scene I found at 11 PM. The DJ dropped some funky tunes, the owners hustled behind the bar, and everyone raised a few final glasses. It is slated to be back in November with a new name, a restaurant upstairs, and a bar / café downstairs.

Maggie’s: Someone at Room 101 asked if this Ritan Park hot spot had reopened, so we scrounged up a copy of the Russian-language Yabao Ru magazine, found the Maggie’s listing, called the number, heard the guy who answered say “open”, and headed off. Alack and alas, we found the door shut tighter than a clam.

Swing: This is the only spot I visit on the Sanlitun North strip and things are touch and go at that. Even forgetting the incredibly annoying “lady bar” tout outside, the 40-kuai Gin Tonics lack punch and there is a lone toilet, a squatter, which means a constant lineup. Also, on this night I ended up losing an argument with the bartender about whether I had been shortchanged, though we later received free tequila shooters. Fair enough.

This place draws a big crowd, and numerous regulars, and a big reason is the house band in residence for more than a year. The two singers and guitarist do use preprogrammed music, notably drums, but also display personality and humor as they play sing-along standards – think John Cougar – that keep the vast majority of patrons happy. They did an interesting a capella version of Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Mind and covered a Korean and a Chinese song. (I learned that fellow beverage research scholar Ping Pong not only can sing, but also is willing to brave the limelight at Swing and jump on to the stage. Who knew!?)

The Rickshaw: We found ourselves on the street, in the chill and rain, seeking comfort food. Hello medium wings! The first to smart my tongue in months, they hit the spot before we hit the road.

The Sanlitun burger battle: The Rickshaw fights back

The Rickshaw has joined the Sanlitun burger battle in what is a shining example of how quickly the scene has changed this year. In the past three months, we have witnessed new places such as Blue Frog (RMB75), Union Bar & Grill (RMB86), and Let’s Burger (RMB68) push up burger and fries prices, other newcomers such as Luga’s Villa (RMB35) take the budget route, and longer-term spots such as The Den and The Rickshaw dig in as things suddenly became very competitive.

The Rickshaw, which annoyed some regulars during the Olympics with a 15-percent surcharge that has since been rescinded, is upping its game. It has introduced three burgers and a sandwich, all priced at RMB55 and including thick-cut fries. Nick Ma gave me a taste test of the quartet on Sunday.

The two beef burgers include The Americano, which Ma says is made with local organic meat and served on a poppy seed bun, and the Oz, a “classic Australian burger.” The latter includes a flame-broiled bun, cheddar cheese, and sliced canned beetroot topped with a hamburger patty topped with a pineapple ring cooked together with egg topped with bacon, lettuce and tomato. As the toppings indicate, the portion is substantial.

The Steak Rambo Sambo is a steak sandwich served with rocket lettuce on sour dough bread, while The China Special is chicken breast marinated in spices, and topped with sautéed onions, green peppers, and gong bao chicken sauce. Ma says crushed peanuts are embedded in the chicken before flame-broiling.

So, how do they taste? Here are my rankings:

  1. Oz burger: Besides including the “bacon factor”, the pineapple, egg, tomato et al make for an interesting blend of flavors and textures, though I found the bun too sweet (I suggest keeping the poppy seeds and reducing the sugar).
  2. China Special: The chicken is tender and juicy, and the spices leave a nice tingly aftertaste.
  3. Steak sandwich: Sour dough bread, mmm, though a bit higher meat-to-bun ration would be nice.
  4. Americano burger: For a stripped-down burger such as this, the bun is simply too sweet.

By the way, The Rickshaw has added new wing flavors, though the medium Buffalo style and others will remain. They include apple vinegar, cream cheese and tomato, maple syrup and chili, and Brandy Dijon.

Finally, here are a few pictures courtesy of my K-Touch, which is most excellent as a phone and most frustrating as a camera. Just imagine these burgers look about twice as good as the photos.

The Rickshaw Americano Burger
The Americano Burger
The Oz Burger
The Rickshaw Oz Burger

Top five watering holes: Badr Benjelloun

Part six of a series on where Beijing residents enjoy a beverage (or two). This round is with entrepreneur, IT specialist, and former full-time bartender Badr Benjelloun.

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“Beijing has changed a lot over the past few months and the Olympics have left a scar on the face of the city’s drinking establishments. However, some bars / restaurants have managed to consistently get my patronage.

1. Salud: I’ve been going there over the past few months quite consistently. I love the atmosphere, the homemade rum, and the mix of locals and expats. It’s a bit of a pain to get there from my area but completely worth it. Add the great environment in Nanluoguxiang, with the hutongs and the locals, and you get a great experience!

2. The Rickshaw: Yes, they have a few service problems but overall that’s been the place that got most of my drinking moolah the past few years. I know almost everyone in there and it makes it comfortable. It’s my local basically! The grub is nice and they still make great quesadillas and serve one hell of a stiff drink. The owner, Kris, has been around for a while in the Beijing scene and deserves a lot of credit. The current manager, Andy, bends backwards to make sure everyone is happy.

3. Peter’s Tex Mex: A bit weird to include this one in my list of watering holes, but when I want good value, this is where I go. Best Tex-Mex in Beijing bar none and they have a great selection of wines at prices slightly above supermarket rates. The staff is friendly, the place is clean, and it’s a nice quiet hideaway.

4. Wain Wain: One of the city’s best-kept secrets. Hard to beat for a little mid-week beverage overlooking the city lights in a cosy environment. They have practically doubled their prices for the Olympics but still run some pretty good specials.

5. Kokomo and Q Bar: These two are tied because they are the only two places to make a decent Mai Tai which is one of my two favorite drinks. Kokomo even offers two varieties, an authentic one and a Hawaii Mai Tai. Q makes a hybrid Mai Tai that just rocks and had they managed to keep their patio opened longer, they would be in sole possession.

Posthumous mention: Maggie’s. Spare me the jokes here! Despite the shady nature of the establishment, they offered a great mix of atmosphere and DJing night in and night out! The cocktails were solid and affordable when compared to some of these new places opening left and right.

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Previously:
Elisabeth Tchoudjinoff & Katrina Arndt, designers
Paul Adkins, entrepreneur
Chandler Jurinka, Local Noodles
Kevin Shen
, T3 Terminal
Steven Schwankert, SinoScuba

Top five watering holes: Scuba diving instructor Steven Schwankert

This kicks off a series of posts about where Beijing residents enjoy a beverage or two.

Steven Schwankert is founder of Beijing-based diving school SinoScuba. Last year he led an Explorers Club team on a two-week diving expedition of Lake Khovsgol in Mongolia. Next week he will lead a dive on the underwater parts of the Great Wall. Long story short: He is familiar with liquid. Here are his bar picks:

Drinking and diving don’t mix, but kept separate they are fine. Overall, I try to patronize bars that are owned and/or run by divers.

Steven Schwankert Beijing Bar Picks

The Rickshaw
They offer the thing that is most important to me at a bar – a stable Internet connection. The service and food is just OK, but they have sports and news on big TVs, the location is convenient, and there’s a regular crowd that’s usually annoyance-free until 6 pm. Kris, one of the owners, is a diver.

Tim’s Texas BBQ
Great bottomless iced tea, a very refreshing drink after a dive except if it was an ice dive! Good Internet for afternoon use. The owner Tim dives – we had SinoScuba’s fifth anniversary party here.

Face
Nothing to do with diving, but visitors love it, they make a decent malarial cure (gin and tonic), and the crowd is tolerable.

The Press Club Bar
I’m looking forward to this place re-opening when the St. Regis finishes its renovation. They make the best Tanqueray and tonic I’ve ever had.

Maggie’s (R.I.P.)
Spare me the crass comments, it was the one bar that, regardless of its patrons, was open late, had great bartenders, great rock music, and just a bit of an edge.

Grab a java II: Pacific Coffee

Hot on the heels of an executive decision to expand my “hood” - hey, if Champagne producers can do it, why can’t I? – I’m revising my recent list of coffee stop suggestions. I’ve traditionally defined said hood as the Gongti-Sanlitun corridor, but I’m tacking on The Place since it is but a brisk ten-minute walk from my pad near Workers’ Stadium.

That brings into the fold Pacific Coffee, which I visited thrice last week. A friendly and competent staff, strong wireless signal, cozy chairs inside and adequate seating outside, and reasonably priced coffee (RMB19 for a large brew) and food (RMB22 for a toasted Panini with chicken and avocado) make Boyce a happy blogger. The only drawback: going to the toilet requires an elevator trip to the floor above.

Note: The multi-floor Pacific Coffee in Jianwai Soho is also a good wireless option.

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