A few of our top picks of the last year:2016 was an exciting year for Chengdu Food Tours – we met hundreds of amazing people from all over the world, our team grew, and we did as many laps around the city as we could. But straight talkin’, what’s really important here is THE FOOD. We looked back on all the meals we had this year, in and around Chengdu, and did our best to make a list of some of our favorites. There are some places that will be favorites forever but we decided not to include any from last year’s list so you got all fresh ideas here. Without any further rambling, here it is: our yearly round-up of our favorite places in Chengdu, as picked by our team.
Fly Restaurant: Huang Cheng Lao Niu Rou Guan 皇城老牛肉馆
Where’s the beef? It’s right here! Just outside the west gate of People’s Park on BaoJia Alley, sits our favorite oldschool, busy, raucous, and just simply-delicious spot in the city. Run by the Zhang brothers since 1984, it is the oldest place we know in the city center, still running the same way it did 30 years ago. Despite its humble setting, crammed between a construction site and a 90s apartment complex, it draws the crowds from across the city everyday at lunch and dinner. And don’t worry about ordering – the only thing on the menu is beef and the charismatic brothers don’t let you order, they tell you what you want and yell across the crowd back to the kitchen based on cooking style: “one fried, one mixed, one steamed and a soup!” Soak up that real-deal Chendgu fly restaurant atmosphere and classic Sichuan flavor.
Noodles: Chun Yang Guang Noodles 纯阳馆鱼香排骨面
Our favorite noodle shop in the city, and hands-down the best bowl of Chao Shou around, this neighborhood noodle joint feeds the locals a few blocks from the Wide and Narrow Alleys. Everything comes in tiny bowls so you can try a half a dozen different things if you like, but it doesn’t feel like a ‘sample the snacks’ tourist shop. It’s also one of the last few places in the city where you can get a decent bowl of Dan Dan noodles. Don’t miss the homemade pickles either, and seriously, get the ChaoShou in Chili oil.
Chuan Chuan: Gang Guan Chang Jiezi Chuan Chuan (结子串串香特色小郡肝）
We love hot pot, but nothing says Chengdu like Chuan Chuan – in my mind it’s the definitive Chengdu meal and when I crave Chaun Chaun I go to Jiezi Xiao Jun Gan Chuan Chuan at Gang Guang Chang （钢管厂）. Don’t be confused by the recent proliferation of the name ‘Xiao Jun Gan” Chuan Chuan. This place is the original and the best. Located inside an apartment complex which used to be the living quarter for the families of the factory workers in the area, the whole street sprawls with tables and chairs from dinner until midnight every day, every season. Served in the classic ‘hot-pot’ style (热锅）with the broth boiling at each table, the specialty here is chicken gizzards – but really it is the contagious celebratory atmosphere.
Snacks: Wang Ji Guo Kui 王记特色锅盔
Located just inside the 1st Ring Road North, Wang Ji makes the tastiest and meatiest spicy fried bread in town. Made fresh in front of you the dough is rolled out and double stuff with beef or pork like a sort of savory cinnamon roll, then fried and finally baked to crisp it up. Flakey, bready and wonderfully numbing it’s simply TOO delicious and easy to eat. Traditionally it’s eaten with pig intestine noodles, but no one will judge you for just ordering stacks of fried bread for yourself. You will notice this place due to the never ending line out front, but it moves quick, and it’s precisely because it’s so busy that it’s so good – every single guo kui is served fresh and hot, straight off the press. Wang Ji now has a few locations around the city but this is the original and the place where the boss (his face is on the sign) hangs out.
Late Night: Zeng Ge Shao Kao 曾哥烧烤
Shao Kao is the essential late night Chengdu snack and it is famous for both starting and ending boozey nights across the city. Every neighborhood has BBQ carts and stalls, but not all are good – there’s a lot of bad Shao Kao out there. Zhen Ge, located near Huang Wa Si and just a couple minutes walk from the Jiu Yan Qiao bar street is GOOD shao kao, and the people of the city know it. With only a small shop front they occupy the neighboring restaurant once the sun goes down and tables and stools line both sides of the street. It’s cooked on coal (not propane), it’s spicy, crispy and delicious and everything shao kao should be. Get the wuhuarou (五花肉), you won’t be disappointed.
Upscale: Ying Garden 屋顶上的樱园
Ying Garden hides on the 3rd and a half floor of a seemingly sanitized boring, officey building. You feel like you’re going to work, but once your up there the huge outdoor garden area makes it one of the best outdoor dining places in the city. With a careful attention to sourcing and making, fermenting and even growing as many of their own sauces and ingredients as possible, it becomes clear this place is about more than just the setting. They care about ingredients, flavor, presentation and atmosphere, and execute exceptionally on all fronts.
Outside the City: Brother Pao’s Re Braised Duck 袍哥秘制红烧鸭
In Baisha Zhen, on the road between Longquan and Huayang lies a restaurant that you would never go to by mistake – one that seems like it’s not that close to anything, which prompts the question: why would someone choose to eat there? Because every once in a while you just have a meal that comes out of nowhere and makes you say “DAMN THAT WAS GOOOOOD” and that’s what happens Pao Ge’s place. It’s a simple duck, red braised and served covered in a portion of its own intestines or gizzards, but everything about the flavor is just so on point it makes you question all the other ducks you ever ate.
Interesting in hitting up any of these places? Just let us know and we will be more than happy to oblige, because seriously, they’re good. We want to go there too.