Dive In: Shanghai's Dodgiest Bars

Dive In: Shanghai's Dodgiest Bars
By Susie Gordon , eChinacities.com

On a night out in Shanghai, you don’t always feel like blowing a crisp red hundred on a single cocktail. Sure, extravagance has its place, but sometimes it’s nice to leave the bar with enough change to pay for McDonalds delivery when you get home. So we figured that you might like to know where to go to drink cheaply, in your jeans, all night long.

The Windows triumvirate used to rule the Shanghai dive scene. Sadly, it’s now a duo instead of a trio, as the Jing’an branch closed down after a drugs bust in June. However, Windows Underground (698 Nanjing West Lu, near Wujiang Lu 南京西路698号 近吴江路) and Windows Scoreboard (3F, 681 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Sinan Lu卢湾区淮海中路681号3楼 近四南路) live on. Underground is more of a club than a bar, but still divey enough to warrant a mention. At both you can hone your pool skills while watching the professionals do it better on the big screens, and drink cheap beers, spirits and cocktails. Their selection of ¥20 cocktails looks impressive at first, but be warned – the quality really is reflected in the price… Be warned also of the escort girls who swarm like bees.

Then there’s Tongren Lu. On this infamous strip you’ll find such reputable establishments as  Manhattan’s and Judy’s Too, along with the 24-hour magic of City Diner for pre- or post-drinking nourishment. Tongren also has Big Bamboo, Blue Frog and Spot, but we mustn’t confuse sports bar with dive bar.

Another must-see is C’s (685 Dingxi Lu, near Yan'an Xi Lu定西路685号 近延安西路). This is a French stronghold, so polish your “bonjour” along with your elbows as you wrestle your way through the crowds towards the bar. Drinks are criminally cheap, and the bar is in the basement of an apartment block. Result.

The deepest, darkest French Concession has its share of down-and-dirty bars, as well as the posh ones. Y.Y.’s (125 Nanchang Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu南昌路125号,近茂名南路) is an old favourite, with its wood panelled walls, propaganda art and hearty snack food. Y.Y.’s is really a faux-dive; the beers start at ¥40 and the atmosphere is more mellow than mad. Still, it’s very Bohemian and very avant-garde – a dive for the grown-ups, as it were.

The Bulldog is the sort of place you could go to every evening of the week and not get bored. They have a quiz, a taco night, ladies’ night, pasta night, sports screenings, sandwich night… and drinks are two-for-one all the time. The manager is a friendly German, and the fuwuyuan are some of the sweetest in town. Down the road is the similarly bestially-named Beaver (28 Yueyang Lu, near Dongping Lu岳阳路28号近东平路) which has one of the most comprehensive selections of bottled beers in Shanghai. They have foosball too.

These things tend to come in groups, and the Xingfu Lu/Fahuazhen Lu strip of bars is worth a look. Heading down Xingfu from Fahuazhen, the first bar you come to is LOgO at number 13. A wistfully nostalgic sign at the door declares “No more drugs”, as if harking back to the halcyon days of herb. There’s a manky foosball table on your left as you go in, but it’s usually hogged by a group of moody Russian students, so take our advice and head straight for the main bar. Here you’ll find graffiti-ed walls, TV sets showing silent movies, cheap drinks, and sometimes a DJ. They have jam nights on Sundays which are usually well attended, and reggae on Fridays.

Further down Xingfu Lu is the newly opened DaDa (115 Xingfu Lu, between Fahuazhen Lu and Pingwu Lu幸福路115号, 法华镇路和平武路之间). This has dive potential written all over it, from the loiter-able front courtyard/passage, to the inexplicable music choices and wall art. Last but not least is Anar (129 Xingfu Lu), whose Sunday improv session rivals LOgO’s. Take your pick – they’re both good, and both divey.

So when you need a break from the wallet-busting glitz of Shanghai’s bar scene, head to one of these beauties. You (probably) won’t be sorry.

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