Shenyang is home to many bars and restaurants, from German-themed chains to Chinese music bars, but knowing the best places to go when you’ve just arrived in a new city can be tricky. Many local bars are geared towards their usual patrons, with loud Chinese karaoke drowning out any chance for conversation. Other bars are eerily quiet and feel lifeless, reminding you that bar-style drinking is a Western innovation that hasn’t quite conquered the Shenyang nightlife scene yet. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great bars in the downtown area… you just need to know where to go. Here are four of the best Western-style bars in the city to get you started.
1) Heidi’s If you're walking down Nansanjing Jie, it's impossible not to notice this Swiss-themed bar and restaurant. The building itself was designed to look like a Swiss chalet (with neon lighting everywhere), so you can imagine that it stands out a bit from the normalcy of the modern Chinese urban environment. Heidi's has a lot going for it. The bar boasts one of the few beer gardens in Shenyang, and though it's on a rather busy street, being west-facing, it's still a great place to catch the last of the evening sunshine with a cold beer while watching the world go by. But Heidi's isn’t just a summer bar spot. The wood-panelled interior is warm and cosy and has an alpine feel. It’s a great place for dinner with friends or a drink on a cold winter's day. Continuing the Swiss theme, the waitresses are dressed in white pinafores with red aprons tied over the top, their English is excellent and they are always cheerful. The menu offers a variety of Western dishes, from pizzas, pastas and burgers to cheese fondue and fillet steak. The bar serves various Western beers and wines, with selected drinks half price during happy hour (17:30-21:00, Mon-Thu). And thanks to their generous lunchtime offer—three courses for only 49 RMB—this is a great place to go for a midday meal.
Add: 37 Nansanjing Jie, Shenhe District, Shenyang 地址: 沈阳市沈河区南三经街37号 Tel: 242 289 4666 Opening hours: 11:00-24:00 Price: Beer starts at 18 RMB; the lunchtime deal is 49 RMB for three courses. Website:http://www.heidi-China.ch
2) Lenores Tucked right around the corner from Heidi’s, Lenores is a small, Chinese-run bar popular with foreign workers and students. Everything about it has a distinctly indie feel, including the staff. The décor is original, with walls covered in graffiti, paintings and photographs. At one end of the bar, two car doors hang near the ceiling, one emblazoned with white wings, the other with black. At the opposite end of the room hangs a painting of a man mooning the viewer. This picture was donated by one of the regulars, an art student. If you spend a fair amount of time in Lenores, not only will the staff recognise you and your usual order, but you will begin to recognise the regulars who smile at you from paintings and photographs on the walls and ceiling. The waitresses keep the tables stocked with as many sunflower seeds and peanuts as you can munch your way through, but Lenores doesn’t serve food. This doesn’t matter though, it isn’t the sort of place you go to for food anyway. It’s a bar for beer, tequila slammers, random conversations with people you’ve just met and drinking into the wee hours of the morning.
Add: 37 Nansanjing Street, Shenhe District, Shenyang 地址: 沈阳市沈河区南三经街37号 Tel: 151 0403 6489 Opening hours: 17:00- late Price: beer from 10 RMB, spirits from 20 RMB
3) Strollers Strollers has been open so long that it’s become something of a Shenyang institution. The bar is busy most nights, mainly with foreign workers, but it also has some Chinese regulars as well. The décor is distinctly American; the walls are covered with a host of strange and interesting objects, from steel water canteens to road signs, saws, hammers and classic advertisements. All of this gives the bar a comfortable, worn-in feeling, and though it’s a little gloomy for daytime drinking, it’s a great bar for the evening. The Strollers menu is expansive, serving everything from burgers and fries, to pasta, chilli con carne, moussaka and a selection of steaks. Some of the portions can be a little small for the price, but the burger is a safe bet. One of the great things about Strollers is the wide variety of spirits on the drinks menu. This bar has more whiskies and bourbons than any other bar in downtown Shenyang and is one of the few places in the city to stock Tanqueray gin—a definite plus point for all gin lovers.
Add: 36 Wujingbei Jie, near Shiwei Lu, Heping District, Shenyang 地址: 沈阳市和平区五经北街36号 Opening hours: Bar 11:30-14:00, kitchen 11:30-00:00 Price: beer from 18 RMB, food from 36 RMB
4) Green Mile Technically Green Mile is not in downtown Shenyang, rather it’s a little north of the centre, but it’s one of the best Western bars in the city and so it deserves a mention here. The bar itself has something of a New York loft feel about it. It’s not a large bar, but the ceilings are very high giving the space a roomy feel. The staff speaks excellent English and the bar offers a good selection of cocktails. During happy hour, beers and cocktails are two for one, making it the perfect place to go for after work mojitos. Green Mile also serves what is undoubtedly the best pizza in Shenyang. One pizza could set you back anything between 60-170 RMB depending on size and topping. Though this might seem expensive compared to the typical meal in China, you get what you pay for, and these pizzas are well worth it. Also, if you ask at the bar, you can get a VIP card, which will give you 20% off your meal and entitle you to the current house drinks promotions.
Add: Yiwei Lu, near Beisanjing Jie, Shenhe District, Shenyang 地址: 沈阳市沈河区一纬路北三经街 Tel: 138 9814 0138 Price: cocktails 30 RMB, beers from 10RMB, pizzas from 60-170 RMB. Happy hour: 17:30-21:30