Dodgy pool dens, cheap beers and live bands -- Dingxi Lu is awesome!
More than four years ago when I first arrived in Shanghai, I was immediately shuttled from the airport to an apartment complex on Dingxi Lu called Jin Du Yuan. Then and there began a virulent love affair with the Dingxi Lu area.
With the likes of C's, the original Tang Hui (a now defunct live music spot), Miro Bar (free talking girls!), street food and 24-hour billiard halls, the neighborhood has been a refuge from the gentrified and overpriced haunts of the French Concession. But there have been many newcomers bringing change to the Dingxi over the years: a spate of brightly lit and tasty Chinese restaurants, the only Carrefour on a laowai-relevant subway line, Cotton's II, Sofa Bar, the newly opened Kaiba II, and so on and so forth have moved in.
In celebration of all that the Dingxi has been and will be, this is the "Dingxi Lu Ding Dong," a bar crawl you may or may not remember.
Dingxi Lu Ding Dong stop no. 1: 8 Ball Billiards
There’s no better way to pass a few hours than shooting pool with good friends and some cheap, self-brought booze. While they sell beers and the like at this place, you’re better off buying your own at the All Days across the street for half the price.
Coming around 3pm or 4pm gives you plenty of time to lounge around, play pool and chat with friends before more formal happy hours begin at proper bars. You’re unlike to see many -- or should we say any -- foreigners here, but that just makes 8 Ball Billiards an even truer Shanghai experience.
A patron named Winnie explained why she likes the place: “My friends and I always come here because it’s cheap and the staff pretty much let you do whatever you want.” She didn't quite somersault across a pool table while shotgunning a beer as she said this, but we could tell she was thinking about it.
On the third floor across the street from C’s at 685 Dingxi Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu 定西路685号, 近法华镇路. Look for the lit up billiards ball outside and take the elevator up.
Dingxi Lu Ding Dong stop no. 2: Kaiba II
Once you’re done shooting pool, saunter across the street for a drink or two at Kaiba II. While technically the second in this two-person family of beer bars, Kaiba II is no. 1 in my book, and an awesome place to unwind after a few rounds of competitive billiards across the street.
Elvis, the bartender, insists that “Belgian beer is the best of all beers, but we have lots of other beers, too, if you’re into different things.” With more than 50 different brewed offerings, he’s not joking. The food menu is pretty decent, and during happy hour you can get killer drafts for only RMB 35.
739 Dingxi Lu, Part of InShanghai Hub -- Creative Park, near Yan'An Xi Lu 定西路739号, 近延安西路, +86 21 6280 5688.
Dingxi Lu Ding Dong stop no. 3: Cotton’s Xinhua Lu
The second second in this bar crawl, Cotton’s Xinhua Lu (aka Cotton's II) is the second incarnation of the French Concession classic. It’s about a five minute walk from Dingxi Lu, but well worth the effort.
“This part of town is developing really quickly," says owner Cotton Ding, confirming my love of this area. "There are more and more good places on Dingxi Lu and that’s why I chose this part of town for my second bar."
With Thirty-Something Mondays and Shanghaiist’s monthly Scrabble happy hours, this spot is a place to be most nights of the week. Sit outside when the weather’s nice or curl up at a cozy indoor table during the winter.
294 Xinhua Lu, near Fanyu Lu 新华路294号, 近番禺路.
Dingxi Lu Ding Dong stop no. 4: Yuyintang
Since you're meandering off Dingxi Lu anyway, Yuyintang is the perennial home of indie rock in Shanghai, only a few minutes walk from the focal point of this bar crawl and worthy of your aural attention. After a few games of pool, a couple of high-alcohol-content Belgian beers, and a cocktail or two at Cotton’s, Yuyintang is the perfect place to shake your booty to the live sounds of Shanghai’s coolest bands.
Rachel, a young American expat, explained that "I go to [Yuyintang] probably a few times a month because there are always new and interesting acts -- I didn't say 'good,' but they're always interesting." With ticket prices in the manageable RMB 20-50 range, drink prices at or below RMB 40, and a giant park behind the venue for milling about, Yuyintang is a nice way to mix up your night and hear some good tunes.
1731 Yan'an Xi Lu, entrance at Kaixuan Lu, 延安西路1731号, 入口在凯旋路.
Dingxi Lu Ding Dong stop no. 5: C's
After a night of booze and rock, there’s only one place to go: C's. The anchor of the street and the dive bar of the century, C’s keeps it real seven nights a week.
It’s a bit hard to find, but just look for a guy grilling meat and vegetables in the street, then look into the lobby of a nondescript building, and if you see a Buddha statue in a glass box at the end of the hall, you’re in the right place -- just walk down the graffiti covered stairs toward the noise.
Your headache the next day will be massive, but your memories will last forever. Twenty kuai beers and surprisingly decent music will keep you going late into the night.
Jessie the bartender summed it all up when she said, "I think it’s time for you to go home." What's she talking about? I am home.
685 Dingxi Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu 定西路685号, 近法华镇路, +86 21 6294 0547.