Where to Find the Best Chuan’r in Beijing

Chuan'r
Chuan'r | © Alpha / Flickr
Photo of Fran Lu
21 May 2018

If you haven’t had a meal at one of Beijing’s chuan’r bars (skewer bars), you haven’t really experienced Beijing’s folk life. Skewers on the table, beers in hand, plus a few best buddies – these are all a Beijinger needs to get heated up and really, really talkative. Beijing locals love skewers so much that they’ve even invented a slang for the action of eating skewers: Lu Chuan’r. Take a look at the most visited chuan’r bars in Beijing.

Kuan Dian

Restaurant, Bar, Chinese, $$$
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The restaurant’s name means “Wide Shop,” but its flagship restaurant in the Gulou neighborhood is only of the size of a cozy family restaurant. You might want to try its signature skewer – the pig snout skewer (which is literally grilled pig snout) – or it’s fine just taking a photo of it. Smashed potatoes and iced green mango are also among customers’ favorites. The Gulou branch has a nice rooftop dining area, but you may want to make a reservation or arrive early, as it’s quite popular.

Yanjing Wangjing Xiaoyao

Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
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While there are chuan’r bars that are good at chicken wings, there are also chuan’r bars that specialize in pig kidneys, like the chain restaurant Yanjing Wangjing Xiaoyao. The restaurant is the inventor of the process that removes the stinky smells from kidneys, which attract male customers in particular who believe in “you are what you eat.” However, due to patent conflicts, two Wangjing Xiaoyao brands appeared on the market, so the original Wangjing Xiaoyao added “Yanjing” into its brand name. Meaning “glasses” in Chinese, Yanjing is a reference to the brand’s founding father Xu, who wears glasses.

Jiuju Diankao

Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
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Jiuju Diankao is a rather unconventional chuan’r bar: it is exceptionally clean and tidy, and it only provides environmentally-friendly electric ovens for the preparation of skewers. Jiuju Diankao is located outside the 5th Ring Road in east Beijing, which makes it especially noteworthy because most chuan’r bars are in the downtown area.

Fengmao Kaochuan

Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
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Fengmao skewers utpala ॐ Flickr
Fengmao skewers | Fengmao skewers

Fengmao Kaochuan is the best chuan’r bar in Beijing that prepares mutton skewers with fresh meat on site, instead of the already-skewered or even ready-cooked serving style in traditional Beijing chuan’r bars. To better bring out the meat’s flavor, the restaurant lets you DIY your own seasonings. While the bar is from Yanji City, a northeastern Chinese city that is famous for its bond with North Korean culture, it also features North Korean dishes like Korean cold noodles. It is also known for its clean environment, thanks to the use of electric ovens.

NOVA BBQ Bar

Bar, Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
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The NOVA BBQ Bar doesn’t look that different from an American sports bar: it has a variety of beers, a big screen that live broadcasts sporting events, and an industry-style interior. What makes the bar’s skewers original is the house-made sauce, and a separate dish they offer – Sichuan spicy chicken. Compared with other chuan’r bars, NOVA provides a richer selection of beers, shots, and cocktails.

Chaodou Hezuoshe

Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
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Chaodou is hidden in a hutong alley in Dongsi, and might take you some time to locate, but it’s totally worth the hard work. It has more flavors for grilled chicken wings than any other chuan’r bar in Beijing. No matter if you like things spicy or sour, you will find your peace in its signature spicy honey chicken wings or tomato chicken wings. What’s more, its two fruit dishes, iced green mango and red bayberry, are super delicious. The bar has a 2nd-floor rooftop dining area.

Brain Factory

Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
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You can pretty much tell from the restaurant’s name that it specializes in roasted pig brains, a speciality in southwest China. Other than the signature dish, the restaurant also tries to bring flavors from the world into one place, thus there are also Japanese-style grilled ox tongue, New Orlean chicken wings, and god-knows-where-it-comes-from grilled marshmallow. The restaurant is both innovative in its menu and in the look of its food, for example, the brain-shaped pudding. If you are a cult film lover, then you’ll probably love to order it for a photo.