My Place Ruin Bar
New owners Ryan and Josh inherited this unique space in a historic building on Xinzha Lu from popular dive bar I Love Shanghai (ILS). With some renovations, a loaded events calendar with poetry, open mics, and movie nights, and a reboot of the drinks menu (which now includes their powerfully potent signature, Weng Weng), they’ve breathed new life into an old space. Friendly and comfortable, My Place Ruin Bar is best suited for a laid-back night out with friends, drinking over darts and a game of pool. Best nights to stop by? There’s a 100 RMB ‘all you can drink’ deal on Sundays, while Wednesdays are Gentleman’s Night, where men drink for free. The city has enough Ladies’ Nights, so we give them bonus marks for innovation.
With two branches in Jing’an, you had best develop a taste for shochu to fully appreciate the niche concept that is Mokkos. Its specialty is shochu (like we mentioned) so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations if you’re not sure of what to try. It’s a rare thing when you can claim that grabbing a drink can also be an educational experience, so make the most of it and sound smart the next time you need to order with friends at a Japanese restaurant. Seating is limited, and it is ideal for a few casual drinks between friends in some seriously stylish surroundings.
This Shaanxi Bei Lu haunt is a first pick for spring and summertime drinks, which we can mainly attribute to its closure over winter. When it’s open, Dogtown is a city block party at its finest. What appears at first to be a makeshift shack being mobbed is actually ground zero for one of the city’s best weekend day-drinking hangouts. Cocktails are reliable, and the draft beer line-up is well-curated. Moreover, their tacos match the clientele: messy, loaded, and distinctively American. We jest, though, because while the tacos aren’t to be missed, the vibe is more casual sidewalk camaraderie rather than totally unhinged frat party. It’s fun and friendly, and you’ll enjoy it on a sunny weekend afternoon (especially if you get in on the free keg of beer event they hold every Saturday and Sunday). If you’re not a fan, grab a coffee next door at the highly-recommended Sumerian, or get your cream cheese on at nearby Egghead Bagels.
Buried inside the depths of the high-end Jing’an Shangri-La Hotel, 1515 West is decidedly a more upscale choice (with prices to match) than other recommendations on this list. Don’t let that deter you too much. The décor and menus have a charming ‘Old Shanghai’ film motif, and after only one perfectly nailed Manhattan here, you’ll feel like putting on the ritz. Perfect for dates, special occasions, and steak cooked just how you like it.
Attracting a great mix of locals and foreigners, there’s generally a solid atmosphere flooding the bar at this reliably laid-back pizza joint on Yuyuan Lu. Just a short meander from the Jing’an metro stop, this is a solid choice for after-work drinks during the week, particularly on Wednesdays when women receive free daiquiris and margaritas from 8PM until midnight, or Thursday when they have a special on pizzas. Simple and absolutely loveable.
Bull & Claw
A fairly recent addition to the growing number of Xikang Lu watering holes, Bull & Claw (which refers to their surf ‘n turf menu) has a beautifully designed dining room filled with refined leather chairs and stylish vertical gardens covering their walls. It comes as somewhat of a surprise, then, that it has one of the cheapest (and most generous) happy hours in the neighborhood. Hosting a daily ‘power hour’ from 10:30 to 11:30PM, anyone willing and able can enjoy free-flow pisco (a high-proof Peruvian brandy that’s shockingly good) cocktails, cider, or champagne for around 70 RMB. If you’re more of a craft beer person – and who isn’t these days – stop by anytime between 2 and 6PM, when they knock 20% off all their craft beers.
That One Place Bar
Not to be confused with our first entry on this list (though it’s close enough in both name and address, you’d be forgiven for getting them mixed up). The recently opened That One Place Bar down a tiny adjoining alley between Yanping and Jiaozhou Lu is the textbook definition of a hole-in-the-wall. This hidden-away watering hole is so discreet it almost feels like a speakeasy (although not in a gentrified, novelty entrance, guest-bartender from Ibiza sort of way). This place evokes a speakeasy in the way it was probably done in actual Prohibition days: when you shuttered the windows, didn’t advertise your business name, and made it about the moonshine, dammit. To that end they have, in fact, ‘Appalachian born & bred moonshine’ on offer, as well as a few coolers packed with popular craft beers. It’s cozy, smoky, and a nice secret spot in which to throw back a few. Shhhh, keep it to yourself.
Narrow, newly opened and highly talked about, District is one to seek out for crafty brews and American bites. They’ve got a good selection of beers and cider, and their draft lineup features Kansas City microbrewery ‘Boulevard’ pretty heavily, which we can’t complain about. Staff is friendly and accommodating, and the kitchen does an excellent job putting out American favorites like mac ’n cheese, and salted pork rinds. A worthwhile place to check out for dinner and drinks.
Sometimes you just want to drink rum straight up, right? No? Oh. Well, even if rum isn’t your favorite thing to drink, you’ll probably still be won over by this pirate-themed bar on Wuding Lu. We know, the pirate craze has come and gone, and we’re all the better for it being behind us. But it’s not the theme that’s great about Rhumerie, so much as the unusual flavors they infuse into their rums, like espresso, ginger, and vanilla-pear. Served with a pile of shaved ice and tiny glasses that are downright delicate to drink with, it’s a smooth tipple to be sure. Just leave the pirate talk at the door as you leave; no one outside of Bounty wants to hear that stuff.
First, a disclaimer: this isn’t a strictly Jing’an-based drinking spot. Element Fresh is becoming more ubiquitous in Shanghai than Starbucks or KFC, and the Kerry Centre branch located near Tongren Lu is in no way, shape, or form different from any of the other hundreds of locations out there. It is, however, well-located and, during its daily happy hour, extremely well-priced. Every weekday from 6-8PM, you can enjoy 2 for 1 cocktails and martinis, and we’ve heard it on good authority the martinis are some of the best in the city. Try it out and decide for yourself; at the very least, the patio affords some excellent people-watching.
By Carla Thomas