Nestled along the banks of the Yangtze River in China’s Southwestern region, Chongqing is a bustling mega-city renowned for its scorching temperatures and legendary spicy cuisine. With a culinary scene that packs a fiery punch, Chongqing offers a multitude of dining options to satisfy every palate. We’ve curated a fresh list of the top spots to eat in this vibrant city, where you can experience the mouthwatering flavors that Chongqing is famous for.
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Wai Po Qiao
For a bite of traditional Chongqing cuisine, follow the locals to Wai Po Qiao. With a name that translates to ‘Grandma’s Bridge,’ this spot is well-known for its spicy dishes. The restaurant is divided into two sections, with one specializing in Sichuan food and the other serving hot pot. Diners who choose the hot pot route can select their own ingredients, including a variety of meat and vegetables, from the convenient buffet provided. The restaurant is affordable and a great option for spicy food lovers.
Xiao Tian E
A visit to Chongqing isn’t complete without experiencing the region’s famous hot pot, a cooking style where diners gather around a simmering pot typically filled with broth, vegetables and meat. Ask the locals for the city’s best hot pot, and they’ll probably recommend Xiao Tian E. Known as Little Swan Hot Pot in English, the restaurant serves high quality food. It is a great option for travelers seeking an introduction to Chongqing cuisine. If the numerous peppercorns floating in the spicy hot pot broth prove too much of a challenge, diners can opt for a plain broth that is still tasty but far less fiery.
Nova Venezia Pasta and Pizza
Nova Venezia Pasta and Pizza offers a slice of Italy in the heart of the city. This quaint little pizzeria is a haven for expats in search of a reprieve from Chongqing’s fiery options. Hungry diners will be pleased with the variety of tasty dishes, from eggplant parmesan and calzones to pizza and tiramisu. When it comes to pizza toppings, guests can choose from an array of options, including carbonara, smoked salmon, and black olives. The restaurant even offers a ‘Pizza Americana’ topped with hot dogs and French fries.
Zeng Lao Yao Yu Zhuang
Travelers seeking an interesting dining experience should check out Zeng Lao Yao Yu Zhuang. This restaurant, known for its fish specialities, is housed in an old bomb shelter from the WWII era. Located a short cab ride from Jiefangbei Square, this well-known restaurant is often crowded. Diners seek its famous carp fish dish, as well as its tender spare ribs. The menu lacks English, so guests may wish to bring a Chinese-speaking friend or point at what they want. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, so travelers can seek it out at all hours.
Thai Rice House
Located on the sixth floor of the Metropolitan Plaza, Thai Rice House is the best place to find authentic Thai food in the center of Chongqing. The popular restaurant is located near the Liberation Monument. It offers an alternative for expats seeking a break from hot pot and spicy noodles. Diners can enjoy a variety of flavorful Thai specialties, such as spring rolls, shrimp cakes and curry dishes. Although staff members don’t speak English, diners can order based on helpful photographs accompanying each menu item.
Tao Ran Ju Flavor Restaurant
Head over to Tao Ran Ju Flavor Restaurant for a spicy sampling of Chinese cooking. This restaurant is known for serving a mix of Sichuan and Cantonese dishes, giving diners a variety to choose from. Located in Chongqing’s Yuzhong District, the city’s entertainment and commercial center, this venue is an ideal place to meet up with friends after shopping or before a show. After dining, travelers can wander through a neighboring shopping mall or visit one of the nearby attractions, such as the Liberation Monument or Jiefangbei Square.
Yefu Huoguo is an ideal stop for travelers touring the various hot pot restaurants around Chongqing. This restaurant may not be as fancy as some of its competitors, but its lip-tingling soup more than makes up for its humble appearances. With a dozen or so tables crammed into its small interior, the restaurant’s atmosphere is cozy, homey and a little rowdy. Diners can order a variety of ingredients for their hot pot, including thinly sliced meat, vegetables, and eggs. If the soup proves too fiery, cold beers can be had for cheap to help quench the fire.
Pu Ti Su
Among the meat-filled dishes of Chongqing’s cuisine, it can be difficult to find vegetarian options in this vast city. This is why Pu Ti Su, also known as Vegetarian Life, is such an important asset to Chongqing’s dining scene. At this vegan-friendly spot, diners can order Chinese dishes such as dumplings, mushroom soup, and potato satay. With artsy, modern decor, Pu Ti Su makes for a cool hangout to meet up with co-workers or friends. Though the restaurant is positioned far from the downtown area, its menu options make it worth the trip.
At the heart of downtown Chongqing is the famous 18 Steps Tunnel, a site used as an air raid shelter during WWII. While most of old Chongqing has been replaced by more modern architecture, this area has remained relatively untouched. As such, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. The 18 Steps Tunnel is named after a staircase leading down from Jiefangbei Square, and perched at the top of these steps is 18 Steps Teahouse. Decorated with WWII memorabilia, woodcarvings, this place has a small river cutting through its lowest floor. This off-the-beaten-track spot is a relaxing hideout to enjoy a quiet dinner or a pot of tea.
Mountain City Mutton Restaurant
This often-crowded restaurant is a top pick for Chinese food in Chongqing. Mountain City Mutton Restaurant has been around for decades, serving dishes like mutton rice noodles, braised lamb chops, and haggis soup to great acclaim. Located in the downtown Yuzhong District, the restaurant is beloved by its return customers who enjoy its consistently tasty dishes. During meal times, the place can be quite crowded and diners should be prepared to wait a short time before being seated. However, the wait will be worth it once the yummy food is served.
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