Beijing: Food Guide - Dining Out

The Forbidden City

Beijing Food Guide - Dining Out

The best way to eat well in Beijing is to dip into one of the many restaurants where the locals are eating and try a few dishes from the menu. The price of eating out in Beijing is low compared to Western standards and tipping is not expected.

Street food in Beijing is the cheapest and quickest way to dine. And is usually delicious. Savoury pancakes are the most popular dish eaten from morning until late at night with most carts serving the morning commuters and the after club crowds. This delicious pancake is cooked with an egg on a griddle, a fried dough crisp is added, and the whole thing is drizzled in scallions and a savoury sauce. Hot sauce is optional. Diehard fans often go on a quest for the best cart in the city. This treat should only cost ¥2, with an extra egg ¥2.50.

Lamb and other kebabs are grilled on makeshift stands all around Beijing, from the late afternoon to late at night. Wangfujing has a "snack street" selling such mundane fare like lamb, chicken, and beef as well as multiple styles of noodle dishes, such as Sichuan style rice noodles, but the brave can also sample silkworm, scorpion, and various organs all skewered on a stick and grilled to order.

A winter specialty, candied haw berries are dipped in sugar and sold on a stick. You can also find variations with oranges, grapes, strawberries, and bananas, or dipped in crumbled peanuts as well as sugar. This sweet snack can also sometimes be found in the spring and the summer, but the haw berries are often from last season's crop.

Peking Duck is a famous Beijing (formally known in the West as Peking) specialty served at many restaurants, but there are quite a few restaurants dedicated to the art of roasting the perfect duck. Expect to pay around ¥40 per whole duck at budget-range establishments, and ¥160-¥190 at high-end restaurants. Beijing duck is served with thin pancakes, plum sauce and slivers of scallions and cucumbers.

Guolin Home-style Restaurant is a well-kept secret among Chinese people and has some of the tastiest and most inexpensive ducks in all of Beijing. Half a duck is just ¥28. And all its other delicious, innovative dishes keep customers coming back: be prepared for a bustling, noisy atmosphere, though the interior is often quite nice. It has locations all over Beijing—look for a sign with two little pigs.
Beijing is also known for its lamb hotpot, which originally came from the Manchu people and emphasizes lamb over other meats. Like variations of hotpot from elsewhere in China and Japan, lamb hotpot is a cook-it-yourself affair in a steaming pot in the centre of the table. Raw ingredients are purchased by the plate. In addition to lamb, beef, and seafood, this also includes a wide variety of vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, and tofu, so it's also perfectly possible to have vegetarian hotpot. In the city centre, hotpot can run as much as ¥40-¥50 per person, but on the outskirts it can be found for as little as ¥10-¥25.

McDonald's has over 100 restaurants in Beijing, followed closely by KFC. As a rule of thumb, whenever there is a McDonalds, a KFC is no further than 100m away. There are also a fair number of Pizza Huts. However, visitors to Pizza Hut should be prepared to take a number and wait in line if they dine around 12PM-1: 30PM and again from 6:30-7:30PM (peak hours), as the restaurant is very popular with young Chinese. You will pay on average ¥60-¥120. Origus has numerous locations throughout Beijing, and offers an all-you-can-eat pizza/pasta buffet for ¥39, including soft drinks and dessert bar. If you're in the mood for Texan fare, head for the Tim's Texas BBQ near the Jianguomen subway station. They'll happily provide you with your favourite American food and drink. Tony Roma's has a location in Wangfujing (in the Oriental Plaza). Korean restaurants are also very common in Beijing.

All luxury hotels have at least one restaurant, which can be of any cuisine they believe their guests will enjoy. You will find French, Italian, American, and Chinese restaurants in most hotels. Restaurants that serve abalone/shark fin are considered the most expensive restaurants in the city. Expect to pay upwards of ¥800 for an average meal at one of these restaurants.