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Where are the best local restaurants in Beijing, China?

Hi Everyone! I will be heading to Beijing again next week. I have tried many popular restaurants like the Courtyard or Quan Ju De for Peking duck. I prefer to try some local places this time. Moreover, please help me with some local places to visit for inexpensive artwork or shopping -- no more knockoffs. I am staying near Wangfujing area (East of Tiananmen Square) but I do not care for the tourist shops. One last question, how much should I tip in the restaurants? Thank you very much in advance for everyone's inputs. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!!!! :)

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  1. I can answer the last question: no tipping required.

    1. Don't ever tip, anything. By local, do you mean in the neighborhood of your hotel? What's more local than peking duck?

      1 Reply
      1. re: pepper_mil

        I think by local OP meant restaurants frequented not by tourists. We went to a "local" restaurant that's close to our hotel last year. They sold dumplings by the weight. Other than us there were no tourists there. But damned if I can tell you the name or where it was again.

      2. Over near Dongzhimen metro station, there is a famous street known as Gui Jie (Ghost Street). The exact street name is Gu Lou Dong Da Jie (it runs into Dongzhimen Nei Da Jie) and it is corner to corner restaurants. The street in lined with red lanterns and if it's great food you seek, this is the place to go. I personally wrote a solid story about restaurants in this area, and, if it's not a problem w/ the Chowhound nation (this seems like an appropriate situation to link), I'll direct you toward this link for more info. Happy eating . . .


        1. Three Guizhou Men is an excellent choice (there are four locations, including one across from the Silk Market on Dongdaqiao, and another in the multi-storey restaurant building on Worker's Stadium West Road behind Bellagio) if you like spicy food that you won't easily find outside of China. Not touristy at all. Also you might like Noodle Loft, which has two locations, one on Xidawang Lu south of Jian'guo lu, and the other on Andingmen south of the third ring road. Very authentic Shanxi style noodles and other dishes.

          For art, you might try the Liulichang art street, which is to the west of Qianmen, just south of Hepingmen subway station.

          1. I have friends in Beijing, they tell me that Da Dong is just about the best place for Beijing Duck (Quan Ju De and the others are mainly for tourists).
            They took me last time I was there, it was excellent, the presentation especially was outstanding, I'll definitely go again next time I'm in BJ.

            1 Reply
            1. re: E Woks

              I agree, Da Dong is totally better than Quan Ju De by a long shot.

            2. Just look for those concentrations of un-named small places filled with people where the big bottles of beer are cheaper than the bottled water you buy elsewhere and where the empties are in crates on the floor next to the diners.

              9 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                "Local" restaurants don't have English names, may not have names at all, don't have tourists, and probably don't have online recommendations.

                So, my best advice:
                Find a concentration of 6-storey and shorter Chinese apartments. Maybe ride a Very Full bus to get there. In Beijing, South of 2nd ring and NorthWest of 4th ring are less foreign/corporate/Western.. Since it's summer, look for cheap white plastic tables with [per Sam] cases of empty green beer bottles around. As for ordering, I'm not sure what to suggest... look around at the others' and point!

                Aside from Sam's visual cues, I don't know of a better way to find good places here. I'm still hunting for a restaurant marker like the one my dad used to use in The States-- for lunch, go to the places with all the semi-clean work trucks covered in equipment in the parking lot.

                1. re: Kris in Beijing

                  Eventually, you and I should collaborate on a list of visual cues.

                  Unfortunately (or not?) I also like seeing the chicken and fish bones piled with unconcern on the table, unlimited amounts of hot tea served in chipped pots, tables of that funny plastic (?) composite made in greenish marble designs, and maybe even toilet paper in neon pink plastic dispensers for use as napkins. Ironically, Hello Kitty posters are not necessarily a bad thing. And people finally using toothpicks looking like they're playing the harmonica (an image I'm long familiar with but a description I learned from a chowhound) and I could go on ...

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    LOVE the harmonica image.

                    For summer eating only:
                    How about "the more trash the better"?

                    Pink and garish blue "napkin" holders are a must.
                    Disposable chopsticks.
                    Men with their shirts and pants rolled up over bellies and knees?
                    The smell of a mixture of vinegar, burned chu'ar, 1000 year old tofu [or whatEVER that odd ranky smell is], and spices.

                    Funny plastic -- is that formica?

                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                      Gads! How can I forget those tee-shirts and singlets hiked over those pot bellies displayed with pride. And that is formica! Yes, that aroma!!! But such GOOOOOD FOOOD!!!

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Yes, good food -- it's the REAL Chinese food.

                        I can never describe it well -- say to my mother, who is an immunologist!-- without making it sound completely without hygiene or taste or safety.

                        I also can't describe it to the "what's Chinese food like there" people either because it's "umm.. vegetables, sauce, a little bit of meat; really good!"

                        Of course, frankly, I don't think that the preparer could do much better!
                        So many people -- particularly foodies here on Chow---- have a definition of the food that they want to experience: "Authentic Beijing." "Real Chinese Food." "eat LOCAL food."
                        They do appropriate research -- research that works even in many Asian cities -- and find that there are 100's of ethnicities and variations of Chinese food.
                        They go for Peking Duck as authentic-- who ever ate that but the royalty and the elite?
                        They go for Sichuan as ethnic for the fire and reputation.
                        They go to Cantonese for the "local" as it is the most familiar to them.

                        But rarely do they stop and ask -- what has the average Chinese family of 5 [his wife, his child, his parents] been eating for the past year?

                        Would they accept "very little"?
                        Lots of rice,
                        a fragment of meat, well chopped and sliced and divided,
                        fresh vegetables cooked beyond belief [the American equivalent, I think, is broccoli that has been boiled until bitter and a military olive drab green],
                        heavy sauces that are primarily oil,
                        lots of spice bits that you Don't Eat,
                        soupy type things
                        no breakfast,

                        "Local" and "authentic" here still mean "eating on less than a $1 a day" for the average working family, because 2463.75rmb is more than the annual income of most here.
                        And yet the food I can buy "out" is great, wonderful, phenomenal, comforting, and still slightly exotic, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. [although there are the days when I'd trade it for a pound of cheesepuffs!!]

                        1. re: Kris in Beijing

                          between you and sam, now I'm all excited about our upcoming voyage back to Beijing. Can't imagine why I wasn't all excited before......

                          I would add pick the places that get a deer in headlights look when a white person darkens the door and which have no menu or which call an english speaking friend on the cell phone to try to help you order..........

                          1. re: jenn

                            so is it ok to go into a place like this and just point at plates? I really don't want someone that speaks English on staff or there is an English menu as the criteria for picking a place!

                            1. re: lyn

                              Don't know if its "okay" but we've done it and no one seems to get upset. We've had people point to their particular dish and give us a thumbs up and a big smile of encouragement. You can make it a little easier on yourself by learning a couple of basic words in Chinese like noodles or chicken or whatever but I've done pointing ordering in Mexico, in China, in Greece, in Spain and never had any issues.

                              Now on occassion, you will find yourself sitting down to a big bowl of chittlins but in all the years we've been guessing, we've only really had that happen once. . . . it probably would have been okay if it wasn't about 7am and breakfast but in the end it didn't matter because elder pup--at that point about 8 or 9--- ate all of it anyway.

                              1. re: jenn

                                So many places in Beijing nowadays have photomenus that you should be able to make out what something is made of before ordering (and usually there is writing in English letters under the photos, though they often cannot charitably be called "English" words...).

              2. Hi Everyone, Thank you so very much for all your suggestions. I enjoyed my dinner at South Beauty and many local Chinese restaurants. My only regret going to Beijing is dining at The Courtyard. Three of us, without drinks, the bill came to around 2,500RMB which includes the mandatory 15% gratuity. I feel sick to my stomach knowing that our dinner cost more than a one month salary for most people in China. I will definitely stick with the local restaurants on my next trip to Beijing and use the extra money to help out the needy...I hope everyone will do the same :)

                3 Replies
                1. re: keithlca

                  If you ever return to Beijing, you gotta try the street food! 3 quai chuan-er, jian bing, and ma la tang all paired with beer are the most local, and definitely the cheapest food you can get in the city. Just don't let the sketchiness sway you. Look for the christmas lights that form this letter 串. They're all over the city.

                  1. re: keithlca

                    you unfortunately passed one of the best spots for local food on your way to the Courtyard. It's on the same street (Donghuamen Dajie), across from the Kapok Hotel. The Chinese name is Er Jie Men Ding Rou Bing (二姐门钉肉饼), a great little spot filled with regulars from the neighborhood serving traditional Beijing foods like rou bing, ma doufu, baodu, and zhajiang mian. They also have the traditional "jiachangcai" dishes like mapo doufu, kungpao chicken, ganbian sijidou, etc. Also, there is one of the cities best chuanr stands a few doors down and the guy will deliver to the restaurant.

                    1. re: modernleifeng

                      We went to Donghuamen Dajie looking for Er Jie Men Ding Rou Bing (二姐门钉肉饼) the other night. One of the staff of the first restaurant on your right (If Hotel Kapok is on your left) said that the place is now closed down.