Maoming Lu now. To think how different it looked ten years ago. Photo by JustLikeEddie
In a city like Shanghai, new openings are aplenty and sudden closings even more so. It seems that the evanescent disposition of the city’s restaurants and bars make it so that when something stays open for over two years, it ought to be counted as an old stand by. We are, of course, talking about expat establishments – there are tons of old Chinese restaurants that have stood the test of time, probably because the Shanghainese Shanghai population is a little less transient.
And yet, somehow some of these places have managed to survive the volatility of the city. They may have changed their appearance, they may have moved, but all and all they’re still here, giving anybody who hasn’t been here since 2000 something at least somewhat familiar to cling to.
We tip our hat off to them – for better or worse, they haven’t quit for at least ten years. Listed in no particular order or importance, ten places that have been here since at least 1999.
The expat American sports bar of all expat American (or, we guess if we were to be specific, Canadian) sports bars, Malones has been here since 1994, serving all manner of hungry peoples in Jing’an their American-sized burgers since long before American-size caught on in Shanghai.
Recently, they celebrated selling their 750,000th burger. With the expat population not receding anytime soon in Shanghai, they’ll probably reach their one millionth before they hit Year 20. This prediction rings especially certain since they’ve now opened up shop in Pudong too, catering to the burgeoning expat population that’s sprung up there in the last five years.
Ah, Windows. Sure, there have always been places with much better clientele and music and drinks (though it’s tough to find them for any cheaper), but Windows was always where we took our friends to for that ultimate “Here’s Shanghai at its best and worst” welcome. Where else would you get to see Filipino trannie midgets grind to all the blockbuster hip hop hits of ten years ago? Where else could you pass around the most hangover inducing shots in the world (watch out, you’ll warn, it’s fake alcohol so it’ll get you drunk but you’ll feel like you were poisoned in the morning)? Where else would you get some Eurotrash guy to buy you those shots as a last ditch attempt to get some action (well okay, the list for this one could probably fill a phone book)?
Like Shanghai, Windows has grown up a bit and diversified. The Maoming Lu location disappeared with the rest of the street in 2005, and to our great disappointment, the seediest of what was left, Windows Too near Jing’An, was scrubbed out a couple months ago. But we’ve heard whispers that Too may have reopened in time for Christmas (fingers crossed), Windows Underground (formerly Windows Tembo) now hosts some hoppin’ cheap parties with so-terrible-it’s-fun music and Windows Scoreboard probably still reigns as the cheapest place to watch international sports in this city. We’ll keep it as a cautious staple in our roster of something wacky to show our friends into the 10s.
3. Judy’s Too
We don’t even know how long Judy Qiu has been here in Shanghai, catering to those sick, transient souls looking for a little quick lovin’ before they leave the city. An anchor of ol’ Maoming, it pulled up its britches when the authorities came and set up shop in another part of town, Tongren Lu, magically transforming that area into a decent imitation of its old digs. And despite recent efforts to scrub that one street sparkling clean, Judy’s isn’t going down. Like the mythical hydra, snapping off the head of Judy’s Too has only made it stronger – while everything else on Tongren Lu may have been whitewashed, Judy’s somehow just hopped a store over and took up City Diner’s spot. Yeah, Judy’s Too will open up in that two-story area where City Diner and M-Zone used to be.
She also opened the new Judy’s Lounge a week ago right behind the Portman on Nanyang Lu. Basically, it’s all the Judy’s Too clientele in slightly fancier digs – go there if you’ve always thought “Gee, these table dancing ladies [at Judy’s Too] are great, but I wish there was some way to watch them while lounging around like an ancient Roman at an orgy/banquet.”
4. Time Passage
Hidden in a little lane on Huashan Lu, Time Passage has been drawing expats and locals alike into its “unpretentiously” decor-ed room since the mid-90s. And while the French Concession has changed all around it, it seems this place has somehow managed to ignore “Zuotian, Jintian, Mingtian (昨天，今天，明天) by staying true to its now over a decade old offerings – cheap beer, a live music selection of either Beatles hits or other golden oldies, usually played by Filipinos. We hope Time Passage remains stuck in time for years to come.
5. Y.Ys (Yin Yang)
Like Time Passage, Y.Y’s has been around forever (well, since 1996) and yet seems to have remained one of the hidden gems of the city without going out of business. And to its credit, it’s barely changed over the last 14 years. The L-shaped bar is still there. The Chairman Mao posters are still there. The atmosphere still manages to retain its chillaxed vibe no matter how many people are crowded around. Oh, and nothing quite satisfies at 4am like the dumplings they offer all night long. Yum Yum.
6. Yellow Submarine
China Jim has been here longer than anyone else we know, and his original sandwich/pizza shop, Yellow Submarine, has somehow managed to survive the times and tides here. While we’ve been iffy on the actual sandwiches and pizzas that come out of the shop, the place deserves recognition for being around even before Pizza Hut came to town, for goodness sake!
7. M on the Bund
Before Jean Georges sat up and took notice, before the Laris empire planted its seed… Heck, before buildings on the Bund began to be oh-so-stylishly known by their Zhongshan Lu numbers (Three! Nine! Eighteen!), there was M.
Started in January of 1999 by Australian chef Michelle Garnaut (and friends), it was one of the first fine dining locations to hit Shanghai. Over the last decade, it’s stayed at its original location, the old Nissin Building (or Bund 5, if you’re nasty), opened up Glamour Bar on top, and been visited by basically everyone. Plus, it also kick-started the Shanghai International Literary Festival – of which we will forever be thankful.
While Sasha’s may be known more for the history of its location – a Soong family mansion that’s been around since before the founding of New China (well yeah, it was the birthplace of many of New China’s most important women), its history as a bar/restaurant in Shanghai ought to get some recognition as well.
Back in 1998, The Theme Pub Company came on over, bought the mansion from a music school and spruced it up to become Sasha’s (named after a former Soong mistress). We’re not sure which came first, the name or the expected clientele, but for the longest time Sasha’s was kind of known as Hengshan Lu’s high priced hooker bar. After a renovation in the mid-2000s, it scrubbed itself of that image and came to be the classy establishment we know now (we guess most of its seedier aspects relocated to its sister next door – Zapata’s).
9. The Long Bar
The Portman (Shanghai Center) may be one of the oldest five-star residences here, but there’s something about it that keeps it as the hotel of Shanghai. For instance, when U.S. President Barack Obama came this year, he didn’t go to the SWFC or the Jinmao – newer, fancier and now arguably more representative of Shanghai’s skyline – he cozied up at the Ritz. Same for Canada PM Stephen Harper. And the hotel of Shanghai, we guess, has had some of its magic rub off on its main drinking hole – The Long Bar.
Yeah, the Long Bar is positively a relic and not particularly exciting for anyone who doesn’t like hanging out with melancholy businessmen. But it’s been here forever and looks like it’s going to stay here forever. And long, long before Chinatown ever opened its doors, Thursday night was the night for Shanghai’s own burlesque-ish model show.
10. Tony Romas
We’ve got to admit, we never expected Tony Romas to survive this long, or to be one of the few things in Shanghai Center that hasn’t changed. That Portman location used to take up almost the entire left wing, back in the days when Hard Rock Cafe (R.I.P.) occupied the floor below and those two restaurants were basically some of the few Western options you and the kiddies wanted some place non-Chinese to eat.
Then over the Aughts, we watched Tony Romas cling tenaciously to its spot, shrinking year by year but never quite disappearing. It’s door is almost hidden behind the massive California Pizza Kitchen that took up most of its former space. We have no idea how much longer it’ll be there (especially considering how empty it looked the last time we stopped by), but we applaud it for being able to make it this far.
Honorable Mention: Kathleen’s
Okay, so maybe this is stretching Longevitist’s meaning it a bit, but we think Kathleen’s and the empire that sprung from it is worth a mention. Kathleen’s was a partnership between Kathleen Lau (who also started the magazine now known as That’s Shanghai) and Bob Boyce, was another staple of Maoming Lu (see a trend here? God, we miss that place) and kicked off the area’s rise when it opened in 1999. All through the first part of the decade, even when it changed its name to KABB Cafe, it stayed a great place to go – good food, decent music, seedy but not too seedy… and then, like everything there, it shut down…
… only to be turned into Blue Frog. Different name, same owner and same-ish feel. And look at how big Blue Frog has become. Besides seven stores in Shanghai (and counting), they’ve also opened up shop in Beijing and Macao. Related, KABB – one of the first places to occupy a spot in Xintiandi – is still going strong and Kathleen’s name can now be found at the top of the Shanghai Art Museum on People’s Square. It’s nice to see a Shanghai-bred success story, especially one that’s lasted the decade.