Since China opened its borders to tourism within the last 50 years, it is still a mystery to many travelers. But for those who travel to the mainland will find Shanghai is a modern city with a generous mix of eastern and western culture. As an expat living in Shanghai, I can tell you first hand that the food scene is pretty on point. While the city offers amazing Chinese food, there is plenty of international fare to stave off homesickness.
Homesickness is not uncommon among expats in China with Chinese internet restrictions blocking access to websites from home and what’s better than authentic western cuisine to cure your longing? So, while most tourists flock to the regular touristy haunts, you can dine like an expat in Shanghai at these foreigner-approved locales. Read on for some expat restaurants in Shanghai that can’t be missed.
1) CO. CHEESE MELT
Co. Cheese Melt is a small, hip restaurant located in the Jing’an area. The small barstool tables create an intimate atmosphere, while the open storefront provides views of passers-by. This expat-owned restaurant has a fresh take on a nostalgic classic. The entire menu is comprised of specialty grilled cheese sandwiches served on toasty sourdough bread, buttered to perfection. If you prefer to build your own grilled creation, you can choose from a variety of cheeses including mozzarella, cheddar, feta, gouda, or the old standby—processed Kraft Singles like your mom used to make. As the perfect compliment, order a bowl of tomato soup straight out of a Campbell’s can.
Try the Pepperoni, sun dried tomato pesto, parmesan, feta, and mozzarella.
2) CAPTAIN’S BAR
Are you looking for dinner with great views of the Bund, but without astronomical prices? Then check out The Captain’s Bar, a hidden rooftop restaurant above an unassuming hostel. Here, you will find a small group of expats enjoying unimpeded views of the Bund while sipping cocktails. Go for the views, but the pizza is also surprisingly good.
In case you didn’t know, Margaritas are my cocktail of choice, so forgive me for the plethora of Mexican restaurants on my list. Maya (and it’s newest little sister Mayita) both offer a fantastic happy hour on margaritas and sangria. While the menu is a little pricey, the tapas and drinks are a perfect way to start your evening!
4) BEEF & LIBERTY
Beef and Liberty is an American-style restaurant that has two convenient locations; one near Jing’an and the other just outside the South Shaanxi metro stop. The delicious burgers and gelato-milkshakes are a given, but don’t overlook the cauliflower cheese bites. These little bites of heaven may be the best part of your meal! .
5) EL SANTO TACOS AND TEQUILA
Ok, you already know I have a soft spot for margaritas, and El Santo Tacos and Tequila has a fantastic selection and happy hour. What’s more, they also have the best churros I have tried in the city so far. Crispy and light on the outside, soft and warm on the inside – perfection! Plus, I think Found 158 is a pretty sweet spot to bring out-of-towners to shatter their pre-conceived notions of China. It’s modern and features an array of food and drink from around the world.
6) LIQUID LAUNDRY
An expat staple, Liquid Laundry boasts an impressive drink menu-including home brewed beers, imported favorites, and some seriously good cocktails. The food menu is even better featuring burgers, wood fired pizzas, salads, steaks, and sides. During the weekends, they have an amazing brunch, where you might dine with your friends on comfy couches, or meet new friends while sharing a high top table. Great for after work drinks, brunch, or one of their sponsored events, Liquid Laundry is definitely a place to visit often.
7) AL’S DINER
Since we are on the topic of brunch, let’s talk about Al’s Diner where they serve breakfast all day. Raise your hand if you love places that serve breakfast all day-everybody? That’s what I thought. Al’s Diner has a BANGIN’ breakfast menu including the FLUFFIEST pancakes I have ever seen! You seriously have to try the Blueberry Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes (with blueberry compote and candied lemon-is anyone else hungry?).
8) FAT COW
If you are near the Jing’an area, Fat Cow is the place to be on Monday nights! Mondays features BOGO (buy one, get one FREE) burgers and some pretty awesome drink specials. Vegetarians, rejoice! The restaurant has multiple vegetarian options—including an awesome falafel burger. A great place to meet up with friends after work, Fat Cow has become an instant favorite with many expats. Make sure to arrive early to get a table!
Eating local cuisine is one benefit of traveling or living abroad, but sometimes you might just want something familiar. Find comfort in the fact that Shanghai is home to some of the best local and foreign cuisine in the world. Oh yeah, and you may want to ditch your scales.
Have you ever been to Shanghai? We’d love to hear your stories, tips or questions in the comment section below!
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