Line 'em Up: Top 5 Bars in Tianjin

Line 'em Up: Top 5 Bars in Tianjin
By Paul Bacon ,

In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the volume and variety of bars is such that it is easy to divide them into endless sub-categories. 'Bars to eat', 'bars for live music', 'bars to hook-up', the list can go on and on. In Tianjin, the lack of choice ensures we can manage just one comprehensive list, 'Bars in Tianjin'. However, despite the paucity of hostelries in the Pearl of the Bohai, there is still plenty of variety in our list.

Ali Baba’s 阿里巴巴 View In Map

Almost impossible to find without the help of a regular customer, this Tianjin favourite is located on a dark alley that adjoins a small leafy side-street in the middle of the university district. If this were not hard enough, the owner – David – has not seen fit to put up any form of sign. Instead, it still boasts the shutters and old hoarding used by the previous occupants, a long defunct hot-pot restaurant. However, despite its impractical location, Baba's is Tianjin's busiest bar and, at weekends, can be full to bursting point.

The décor and style inside are very much in the 'college dive' school. The roof is a murky and slightly depressing shade of brown caused by the accumulation of years of nicotine. The walls are similarly gloomy, but this is because they are covered not just in nicotine, but also in graffiti daubed on by regulars and by countless flags, scarves and t-shirts left by former regulars who have since departed for home. Yet, despite the rustic interior the clientele is surprisingly varied.

It would be easy to argue that the diversity within Ali Baba's is caused by the lack of other viable options. However, even though there may be a certain degree of truth in this, it certainly does not tell the whole story. A giant fridge stocked full of 8 RMB Tsingtao definitely helps to attract customers, as does the big screen TV that shows all manner of sports – things can get pretty crowded on a Saturday evening for major football matches or for any big sporting events.

Add: Inside Weihuali Resident Community, Tong’andao, Heping District, Tianjin (Near Nanjing University)天津市和平区同安道卫华里小区内
Tel: 022 - 2351 3976

The Hamber Bar and Restaurant 汉马堡餐吧View In Map

Part of the newly redeveloped Xiao Bai Lou CBD area, the Hamber is one of a number of small highly interchangeable bars tucked away in the shadow of the Renaissance Hotel. However, despite its relative anonymity, Hamber makes the list thanks to its spacious veranda and cheap beer. Whilst many of the other bars on the strip indulge in charging high prices simply because of their location, Hamber foregoes this temptation to offer good cold beer at reasonable prices – a small Tsingtao is 12 RMB and a nice, large chilled Tiger is just 15 RMB.

Hamber certainly isn't the type of bar in which to enjoy a raucous Saturday evening or to chase members of the opposite sex. However, it is the perfect place to enjoy a lazy drink and to watch the world go by. In the summer, this can be done from the comfort of the slightly elevated wooden deck, which comes covered with parasols and soft chairs. In the winter, thankfully, there are soft couch's inside next to a large window to allow patrons to relax watch the world go by.

Add: 20 Kaifeng Dao, Xiao Bai Lou area, Heping District, Tianjin 天津和平区小白楼欧式风情街开封道20号
Tel: 022-2311228 

Broadie’s  部落地西餐厅酒吧View In Map

Even a second-tier city with a limited supply of bar action can boast its one 'Irish' bar. Although, in truth, Broadies is Irish in name more than nature. It does have an Irish flag, a few specks of green on the menu, and Guinness on tap, but there the likeness stops : Chinese singers knocking out jazz numbers on a weekend evening isn’t what you’d most readily associate with an Irish bar, but it’s enjoyable all the same.

It’s especially good in the summer when drinks are served outside in the beer garden, to the accompaniment of live music. The Carlsberg comes in frosted glasses, which is a great way to keep cool on a hot summer evening. The food is also fantastic. The Broadies Burger comes backed with two patties, bacon and a healthy serving of melted cheese. The pizzas and appetizers are also great.

Add: 5 Bar Street on Youyi Lu, Hexi District, Tianjin 河西区友谊路酒吧街 5 号
Tel: 022 - 8837 0933

Hank’s 汉克斯View In Map

The current version in the Shanggu restaurant complex is actually the second generation of Hank's. The original incarnation, known as the Upper Deck, closed in 2006. Anyone who can remember that locale will be pleased to know that Hank's maintains the authentic American atmosphere, but dispenses with the vast cavernous open spaces that managed to categorise the old version. Hank's is certainly small, but this works to ensure that it feels cosy and atmospheric, and also helps to create a definite sense of community.

Hanks is bedecked with a clear American theme. The walls are covered in sports memorabilia and jerseys, and the actual bar has a traditional small town feel. This atmosphere continues with the food and drinks on offer as well as with the entertainment. The beer is made up of local brews such as Tsingtao, but also features plenty of imported favourites either on tap or in bottles. The food is some of the best American cuisine on offer in Tianjin – or any other city in China for that matter. Many of the appetisers, such as the nachos, are fantastic and there is also a great array of burgers and steaks. Hanks is also keen to mark any special American holiday or occasion. There are 4th of July parties, Thanksgiving dinners and even Super Bowl Sunday – although that one is always tough going because of the time difference.

Location: Room 56, Building B of Shanggu Shangye Cheng , Tianta Dao, Nankai District, Tianjin 天津市南开区天塔道上谷商业城B座56门
Tel: 022- 2341 7997

Bar Pepper 辣椒酒吧View In Map

If you are looking for low-priced beers, or a home-town bar feel, Bar Pepper certainly isn't the place. It is, though, the closest Tianjin comes to sleek and sophisticated. It is located on the top floor of the Shanggu restaurant complex – which certainly makes it a great spot for after-dinner drinks – and is a sea of neon, sleek surfaces and sharp décor. The exterior is black faux marble and inside everything shimmers like crystal.

The downside to Pepper is that it is not cheap. With the style and the décor, it is closer to the type of up-scale joint you will see much more in larger cities like Shanghai or Beijing, and, because of this, the prices follow suit. Beers can stretch up to 20/30 RMB and cocktails and spirits reach 40/50 RMB. That said, the menu boasts a wide variety of cocktails – which you can watch being extravagantly mixed behind the bar – and an impressive selection of spirits.

Add: 3F, Nankai District, Building B of Shanggu Shangye Cheng , Tianta Dao, Nankai District, Tianjin 天津市南开区水上公园上谷商业城B座3层
Tel: 022 - 2341 5238

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