First, let me set up some basics for fooding here in Shanghai.
- Most decent restaurants are in a mall. The fast food styled stalls are in the lowest floor (B1 or B2) and restaurant-styled are on the top floors. Not like in America where mall food is not preferable. Here, malls are filled with fancy restaurants and cafe and a good place for fooding adventures to begin.
- Lunch is big here. The best bang for the buck is lunch set which is widely available in most restaurants. You can probably get a more than enough meal at a fraction of the cost with some of these lunch sets. I haven’t seen an emphasis on breakfast, but it seems like everyone goes out for a nice, long lunch. I think the the it’s time we do the same in the US
- Chinese people order a lot of food, especially girls. A sight you may see here and not likely in the US is girls ordering a massive amount of food. In many instance, I have sat next to two girls who ordered at least 6 dishes at once and they keep on eating and eating with no shame ( try to do that in the US and you will hear the word “weight” come up right away). Even then, when I go out with a group, they always order more than necessary … and not to mention, it’s 99.9% family style here, no single order of food per person (unless you are in a Western-styled restaurant). On average, each person should order 2- 4 dishes.
- On that note, everybody double dips, too bad if you don’t like it.
- Water is not served until you ask, even then they give you hot water (in the hot weather). But in general, drinks are disproportionate to the food prices here. A drink here can cost more than a plate of food. For instance, I have been addicted to this kumquat ice tea here (since I can’t find decent lemonade anywhere). This tea in a decent restaurant can cost up to 38 RMB ($6.00 USD) while my lunch set only costs 48 RMB ($8.00 USD). Forget about Evian or Perrier, or even a can of Sprite. I once had to pay 30 RMB for a can of Sprite, yep, that’s 5 USD. So bring your own water if you want to lower your bill!
But in Shanghai, when you are bored of Chinese-style food and is too lazy to head to a sit down restaurant in town, you can always get simple old American fast food as every franchise has a location here, a few I have seen:
1. Burger King
7. Ajisen Ramen
9. Beard’s Papa
10. Papa John’s
11. Cold Stones
12. Haagen Daaz
Starbucks, Coffee Bean, 85C … and probably way more than you can even imagine
However, the experience is unlike that of America. For instance, here, PizzaHut is a full service restaurant with forks, knives, and an expansive menu beyond pasta and pizza. There seems to always be a line at the local Pizza Hut restaurant near where I live. Some times you have to pay before you get your food like Ajisen Ramen. And even the typical self order and sit down joint like KFC and Burger King taste better than it’s American recipes. Plus, they always have specials such us 15 RMB ($2.00) a meal during lunch time or free frozen yogurt or chicken wings with an order of a meal. Plus, everything can be delivered right to your door for $1 or so. Burger King, McDonald’s and KFC even have an English ordering hotline that you can call in.
On the other hand a few things are different here. Haagen Daaz costs an arm and a leg, 2 scoops costs $10. It’s a luxury here despite the fact that you can probably only find Haagen Daaz in supermarkets in the US. And don’t mention the Pho here. Even though it’s popular here in Shanghai, it’s not a decent bowl of Pho as the condiments like beansprouts is often absent and the noodles are thick and the soup tastes nothing like Pho.