It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you come to Beijing, you will accidentally eat until you are sick. At every meal. Accept it. Love it. It just might be my favorite part of living here. I thought I would do a rundown of all the food places that both go to regularly and take guests to.
Chopstick Difficulty: high- dumplings are slippery little buggers.
My favorite eatery in Beijing. It is a hole in the wall kind of place, but the food cannot be beaten. It is the perfect mix of a local Chinese restaurant and with a menu that you can understand. Whenever we have guests, this is the first place that we take them. It helps to get you over the initial chopstick shyness and the because it is awesome first food impression. Order the purple dumplings. There is crunchy rice in them and some kind of magic in them. I also, HIGHLY recommend the dry fried green beans. Which sounds boring but is anything but. What the Chinese can do to vegetables... Bliss.
Chopstick Difficulty: medium- you get the hang of it.
I am a huge fan of walking food tours. I don't know if there is any better way to see a city that through its food. A year ago we went on a food tour in Shanghai with Untours and then beta tested with them when they expanded to Beijing. I took my dad when he visited last week. It is a great overview of street eating in Beijing. The chicken wings at the end of the night are a highlight and Carsten, and I have gone there on our own sometimes since the tour introduced it to us. Bring wet wipes.
Chopstick Difficulty: high- accept that you are going to be a mess- there is a reason they gave you an apron.
Who doesn't want to spend three hours fishing for their food in a hellbroth of fiery chilly oil? HaiDiLao is the classic. 24 hours a day, five stories, multiple locations. It is, however, kind of overpriced and insanely crowded ALL THE TIME. We discovered Jungle & Skewers last year, and we haven't looked back. It is two minutes walk from our apartment, skewers instead of loose making it much easier, so cheap, and superb. You also get to make your own dipping sauce. #alltheseasamepasteplease
Jingzun Beijing Duck Restaurant
Chopstick Difficulty: Medium
I have been to Da Dong the highly hyped up duck restaurant, but I actually prefer the one right across from the Holiday Inn Express Sanlitun. Honestly, I didn't even know it's name until I looked it up on a map just now. We have been referring to it as the "red lantern duck place" for the last three years. All the food is good, but the duck is truly impressive. Have your camera ready because the carving presentation is nothing less than art.
Chopstick Difficulty: super easy with chopsticks or with fingers.
It might interest you to know that in the north of China, where Beijing is, the staple grain is wheat, not rice. Boucha is steamed buns. The bread part is incredibly soft and slightly sweet. In Bejing, they are usually stuffed with barbecued pork. It is a little like a sandwich. Keep an eye out for large bamboo steamers to buy them at. Cheap as chips and highly addictive.
Chopstick Difficulty: low- fork and knives and fingers
I am smooshing all four main craft beer pubs into one here. Whichever one that you are closest to will do. I happen to live almost on top of Great Leap Brewery, so I end up there most often. I like the burgers best at Slowboat, the brunch options best at Jing A, and the rooftop seating at Arrow Factory. All the food is Western which might be tempting if you need a change from all Chinese food all the time.
Chopstick Difficulty: high
Dim Sum is basically Cantonese brunch. Tea and small snacks. My favorite one in Beijing is in the basement of the opposite house. I went there with my father recently and ordered everything on the menu so he could try it. Everything is delicious. The steamed shrimp dumplings are something that I never get tired of. It is not cheap, but it is a flat rate. I recommend skipping breakfast and going at noon.
In & Out
Chopstick Difficulty: high
Another restaurant that is practically on my doorstep. This is a Yunan restaurant. Their specialty of over the bridge soup which is put together right in front of you. Favorites include the fried goat cheese and pineapple rice.
Chopstick Difficulty: low- you eat with your fingers
There is something balletic and hypnotizing about watching this being made. Each one takes about two minutes, and I can never look away.Our Jian Bing lady was gone for like three months for Chinese New Year, and we were afraid that she wasn't coming back. But return she did to again make us this crepe/omelet hybrid. There is a crunchy fried wonton in the middle, spring onions, and sauces of various origin. There is a spicy paste involved so if that isn't your thing remember to ask for it not spicy (terrible Chinese pronunciation: BOO-la)
TBR Forbidden City
Chopstick Difficulty: low- knives and forks
This is not a cheap option. It is, however, inexpensive when it comes to fine dining. The restaurant literally looks over the moat of the Forbidden City. It fills sp so make sure that you make a reservation (super easy from their website). The service is unrivaled in Beijing, and the food is excellent. It is a great ending to a day touring the Forbidden City although you will have to wander for about an hour between the city closing and the restaurant opening at 5:30.