Solo Dining in Beijing
I went to Beijing with my wife last June and really enjoyed the food:
Now I'm going back alone for business, for 3 weeks spanning November and December.
Here's my dilemma: I always feel really self conscious when eating alone, but I can't do room service for 3 weeks, and I *love* Chinese food :}
I'll be staying at the Park Plaza Beijing Science Park, but I guess anything near a metro station would OK. My Chinese is pretty basic, so I'm afraid English on the menus is a must (it doesn't matter if the staff speak English tho).
I'm only interested in Chinese food (I get plenty western fare back in th UK), with particular favourites being Hunan and Sichuan, tho I'm open to most things.
Does anyone have any recommendations for solo dining?
We are going to be in Beijing for about 2 weeks and here is our list of restaurants and street food picks. I can't comment on suitability for single dining, but I think this is a good start. I listed the metro station that they are near and phone number (have the hotel concierge call). Some might be a few block hike. Also included is what type of food.
Taxi's are going to be our alternative too. I would not worry too much about the lone dining, I have done that a lot and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
There are also many 'food courts' in the big department stores that eating alone at are ok. Although you may draw some onlookers. Bon appetite.
Beijing Da Dong Peking Duck Dongsishitiao Nan Xingcang 5169 0328/29
Kao Ya Dian Int’l Plaza
BianYiFang Peking Duck ChongWenMen 3rd flr China 6712 0505
Mall (2 blks south of Novotel)
KongYiJi Zhejiang ZhongZizHong 322 Dongsi 6404 0507
(dongpo Lu Dong Si BeiDaJie
Rou, drunken (2 blks south)
BaGuoBuyi Sichuan ZhangzizHong 89-3 Di’anmen 6400 8888
Lu (west) Dong DaJie
Crescent Moon XinJiang Dongsishitiao 16 Donsi 6400 5281
Muslim Rest. (dapanji) Liutiao hutong
Niuge Jiaozi dumplings Tiananmen 85 Nanheyan 6525 7472
Jin Ding Xuan Cantonese YongHeGong 77 HePingLi 6429 6888
Dim sum Lama Temple Xi Jie
South gate of Ditan Park
DongHuaMen Night Mkt WangFuJing Dong’anmen
Night Mkt North Da Jie
WangFuJing mixed snacks WangFuJing Just north of subway
DuYiChu dumplings Qianmen 38 Qianmen 67021671
Shangdong dishes Da jie
Delicate shao mai
Three Guizhou Guizhou Chaoyangmen GongRenTi 65518517
Men fried pork ribs XiLu
Stir fried grassroots w/Guizhou Bacon
Guizhou smashed potato
MakYe Ame yy Tibetan YongAnLi/ 11 a Xiushui 6506 9616
Yak meat Behind Friendship Store Nan Jie
Xiao Wangs Home Beijing Food Guoman/ 2 GuangHua 6591 3255
Rest. Home style YongAnLi Dong Li
HuaJian Yi Yuan Peking Duck BeiXinQiao 235 Dongzhimen 6405 1908
Mixed Chinese Nei Da Jie
BaiHe Veg. Rest. Vegetarian BeiXinQiao/ A23 CaoYuan
Dongzhimen Hutong @ end of Ghost St
North on Dongzhimen beixiajie
From junction of ghost st. for 100m
Turn left into 1st Hutong, rest. On right
If you like Beijing Duck, i would recommend the first rec in the list above (Da Dong). I ate their alone last year and it was great - they serve a half duck which is good for one person and leaves room for another dish.
I used to feel uncomfortable dining alone until I read (I think on CH) how much chefs appreciate solo diners because they are clearly there for the food, and will spread the word if the food is good).
I'm spending a few days in Beijing next month and I'll probably try a few places on the list, so I'll post what its like as a solo diner in those places as well.
Aack, no, not room service, what a waste of a trip to China!
Forgive me, but I don't understand the 'metro' limitation - what happened to taxis?
And I know that everyone would love to eliminate the language barrier, but almost every Chowhound has done the "I'll have what they're having" so I'm not even sure why English is a prerequisite. Moreover, you could 'cheat' and write down some basic dishes in advance. Let's say for example you wanted lamb and bread stir fry 囊炒肉 at a Xinjiang restaurant. Or let's say you want a shuizhuyu 水煮鱼 (fish boiled in chili oil) at a Sichuan restuarant, just write it out. I do not know any Chinese; it's all cut and paste.
I have two suggestions for you for places with an English menu:
3 Guizhou Men, Guizhou ciusine, which is difficult to find outside of China. Spicy, so fits your profile well. Get the fried ribs for sure. Plenty of other good things to order.
I also think you should get the zha jiang mian (noodles in bean paste sauce) 炸酱面 at Noodle Loft. This is such a classic Beijinger dish. Even if you don't take my suggestion on Noodle Loft, get it somewhere else. Other good dishes at Noodle Loft are the lotus root salad, and a stir-fry with walnuts.
I also have walked into no-name hole-in-the wall places with no English and have eaten spectacularly. You can do it!
The metro constraint is based on ease of use. I just remember it being a cheap, easy way to get round. I also recall that at times it could take a while to flag down a taxi, and when I go this time it's going to be rather cold (though in fairness, probably no colder than my native Scotland :)
But I think you are probably right about the language side of things, and I may need to relax that constraint a bit :)
I've seen the Noodle Loft mentioned here and other places a lot, and it seems to really polarise opinions; some say it's bland, while others say it's great. 3 Guizhou Men sounds really interesting though - and they have branches really close to metro stations :)
It s very simple, sliced (maybe shaved) real thin. I was wowed by all the food I had, including the flicked noodles in a vinegary sauce, and the 'honeycomb' noodles in "fatty meat sauce." The wok skills on the stir fry were excellent.
3 weeks! I think the OP really should stumble into a Xinjiang restaurant. I read somewhere on the internet that
1) the smaller the better
2) go to places with skewers for 1 yuan. They are tiny, but so much better than the 5 yuan skewers. Less is more in this case, and I have to agree. Plus it's probably something you don't have in Scotland!
In fact, if I were you, my priorities would be: Dongbei cuisine - famous foods are baozi and braised meat dishes (especially good for winter), Xinjiang food, zha jiang mian (Noodle Loft or other), and Guizhou cuisine. Also consider Hakka, Tibetan, Macau, Fujianese, and Hubei-based restaurants.
Here is a good blog about Noodle Loft with pictures. Pictured are the honeycomb noodles, and the walnut stir fry.
I have to say, one of the best things about being a real Chowhound in Beijing is getting to see other neighborhoods and places you wouldn't normally go to. I could do some pretty serious damage in three weeks.
Here is a webpage that could get you started:
Well, I was kind of hoping that they would take it upon themselves to show pity and take me out a few times :)
But I'll be there for just over 3 weeks, so I guess I can't expect that every night... and there are limits to how much room service I can take ;)
Since I'm rather self-conscious about eating alone (I can't help it!), any suggestions where I'm not likely to be the only one all on his lonesome would be great
as modernleifeng says, it's true that there aren't many places where solo dining is common...but try not to feel self-conscious: just go and order several dishes and take the leftovers home to your hotel refridge to eat as a late-night snack...(Chinese restaurants will always pack up your leftovers for you no-problem)...
for Sichuan, try to get to Chuan Ban, in the Sichuan govt building...large restaurant and i've actually seen solo Chinese there (businessmen going there after work)...great rabbit, mapo tofu, veggies, etc...
you could also go to some of the places near Houhei lake...i like Kaorouji...and there is also a new-ish Yunnan place just one or two doors to the left of Kaorouji that is quite good (and i've eaten solo there)...
And if you go to Nanluoguxiang walking street (near Drum&Bell Towers), there are lots of cafes/bars where it's fun to sit solo and people-watch or make new friends...while most of them aren't especially chowish, i rather like the Tibetan cafe on Nanluoxiang which serves some tasty dumplings and a veggie curry, has wifi, good beer, and is a nice place to camp out for a while solo...
Sorry to say but you're in a tough situation. Chinese food isn't designed to be eaten alone and at most restaurants and at most places you'll be the only person eating alone. Smaller spots for noodles or dishes over rice are often better for solo diners, but these kind of spots will rarely have English menus and it will get boring after awhile.