A new monstrously-sized coffee shop has opened up on Dingxi Lu this week, offering up gargantuan-portioned food selections fit for an American appetite, deliciously creamy gelato, and piping hot coffee to customers. And the Shanghainese are responding well to Zoo Coffee’s current buy-one-get-one-free deals as the lines are weaving through the store to buy this spot’s goods.
Decor and service
The giant zebra bottom painted on the outside of the store does the trick in terms of piquing the customer’s interest to go inside the Zoo Coffee store. What makes diners stay in the cafe is the entertaining animal zoo motifs, giant stuffed animals, massive indoor space, and pleasant outdoor seating area. This cavernous cafe has a nice entrance with foods on display, a well lit menu that presents options for food and drink in brightly colored English and Chinese signage. The line can snake around the front of the store a bit, but the massive three-store deep seating area allows customers to sit down and not be distracted or bothered by the line of people waiting to get their hands on some Zoo espresso.
The service is like that of a fast food/coffee shop chain store. Zoo Coffee has stores operating all around China, and this new Dingxi location is no different than the others. You buy your coffee and food at the counter and the staff stays out of your hair until you have finished. Maybe they fear the animals might bite if they are bothered when eating. For those looking for a casual place for a meeting, the front part of the coffee shop is good with sharp wooden decor and polished appeal. For those seeking a more homey vibe, head to the back of the store where stuffed panda bears, white tigers, and a local Shanghainese hang out next to the bookshelves and lounge on the zebra-pattered chairs next to you. This place would be a haven for families as small children can stand next to a 20-foot-tall giraffe or a life-size zebra while the parents down a croque-monsieur (35RMB) and a single shot espresso.
Food and drink
The portions at Zoo Coffee are reminiscent of sizes of food in America – almost offensive in how much food they assume you will want to eat for a snack. Their “breads” are huge bricks heaped with whipped cream and other yummy goodness. The strawberry (35RMB) and blueberry bread (38RMB) options look to-die for. The 42RMB Berry Berry Waffle – a four piece master creation of waffles, with a healthy portion of whipped cream – and the slightly more pricey 55RMB Ice Cream Waffle – a two-scoop ice cream gem perfectly partnered with four hunks of waffle covered in chocolate drizzle and whipped cream – are perfect options for breakfast goers who are “hungry hippos.” For lunch, the chicken and ham teriyaki sandwich seemed like a good option at 35RMB, but the plain sandwich was so incredibly dull looking that it doesn’t even seem worth considering the price tag. Those with a sweet tooth should hit up the mango gelato for 17RMB.
For coffee addicts, have no fear, you can get your caffeine bean fix for the day at Zoo Coffee. Drinks came in two sizes – regular and large – and the prices are not that different from China Starbucks or Costa Coffee. A caffè Americano(24/27RMB), caffè mocha (32/35RMB), and espresso single shots (20RMB) seem like good options for “back to basics” coffee. For those looking for something a bit more fun, the cookie and cream frappe (33/36RMB) and white vanilla frappe (32/35RMB) seemed like popular choices. And naturally at the zoo, one must consume some tropical juice. Banana and blueberry, kiwi, mango, and papaya and milk flavors are available for 35RMB. The most confusing category on the menu, though, had to be the “I’m Asian” drinks section. Options include the steamed red Ginseng honey tea for 32RMB a pop.
This place is great for children, study-goers, business men, tai tais – the list goes on. And because of the enormity of the space, each group can find their hub and leave the others in peace. While the lines are a bit bonkers at the moment – most likely from their current buy-one-get-one free deal to promote the store opening – the place has a local vibe with mostly Shanghainese, and those “lao wais” fortunate enough to know how to read their BOGO promotion written in traditional characters, flooding the entrance. A strong recommend for those looking for a quaint coffee shop and a good place to hang out outside of the Former French Concession, head over to Zoo Coffee and enjoy the massive stuffed animals with your cup of joe.
Zoo Coffee, 1100 Dingxi Road, near Zhaohua Road. (长宁区定西路1100号, 靠近昭化路). Hours: 8:00-23:00. Closest metro stop: Zhongshan Park, line 2.
See a complete list of our food reviews here.
By Charlotte Evans.
Charlotte Evans is a food contributor for Shanghaiist’s Food Section.
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