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A Beginner's Guide to Dining At Shanghai Restaurants

Food & Drink Guide for Shanghai Newbies

Planning a holiday, vacation or business trip to Shanghai? New to Shanghai? Long-time Shanghai expat looking for new restaurants to try? Chope is here to help!

Dining out in a foreign country can be intimidating, especially if your Chinese skills are limited or non-existent, or if you’re wary of trying unfamiliar cuisines and foods. If you’re unsure where to start, read on for everything you need to know about choosing the best restaurant in Shanghai for your next meal.

How do I find new restaurants in Shanghai?
Of course we all start our searches online with a quick Google search - or Bing search if you haven’t purchased a VPN (virtual private network).

If you’re staying in mainland China and you want to be able to access Google, Facebook and other Western websites, your best bet is to download a VPN such as Express, Astrill or PandaPow. You can also check your App Store for free VPNs.

A quick internet search will likely lead you to review sites like TripAdvisor, SmartShanghai or TimeOut - or perhaps right here to Chope, where we have a series of guides and blogs to also help you discover the best places to eat and drink in Shanghai.

What are the best dining apps in Shanghai?
Call us biased, but we’re big fans of the Chope mobile app (for Android, Xiaomi, Wandoujia and for Apple). Book any of hundreds of the best restaurants in the city, instantly. Organize your restaurant search alphabetically, by neighborhood and cuisine, choose your restaurant, date, time, party size and voila! - you’ve got a reservation at the restaurant of your choice.

WeChat is also a great resource, not just for finding restaurant recommendations and news, but also for keeping in touch with friends and business contacts while here in China. (If you’re not familiar with WeChat, think of it as Facebook, WhatsApp/Messenger and Vine all rolled into one.) Follow official accounts like Chope, CityWeekendShanghai and ThatsShanghai for all the dining and drinking news you need to have a great time out in Shanghai.

Bon App is another popular and useful tool for finding new and delicious places to eat in Shanghai. Find live, honest reviews from fellow diners out and about around Shanghai, check out their photos, dish recommendations and join diner meet-ups at restaurants with other Bon App users.

SmartShanghai and CityWeekend both have city guide apps to help you choose and find not just places to eat, but anything and everything happening around town like nightlife events, live music, art gallery openings, films and more. The CityWeekend app is free and available for both Android and iPhone while SmartShanghai’s costs a few dollars and is available for iPhone only.
Best neighborhoods for dining in Shanghai

Happily, wherever you stay in Shanghai, you’ll be able to find delicious restaurants to try. Expats have a few of their own favorite neighborhoods, but especially for the more adventurous eaters among you: don’t be afraid to branch out and try restaurants off the beaten path! You never know what deliciousness you may find in Shanghai’s hidden culinary corners.

The Bund is perhaps Shanghai’s most famous and iconic location for dining. It’s also the city’s most expensive - but you’re paying for quality of food and drink, service and incredible riverside views from historic buildings. You can find all sorts of international cuisines on the Bund, including everything from Spanish and Latin American (el Willy, Unico by Mauro Colagreco), Italian (Da Ivo, Goodfellas), Korean (CHI-Q), to European and American (Light & Salt, Kathleen’s, NAPA Wine Bar & Kitchen, M1NT) and of course, Chinese (Xindalu Chinese Kitchen).

The former French Concession is a historic section of downtown Shanghai in which many formerly colonial buildings have been preserved and transformed not just into residential spaces but also into beautiful bars and restaurants. Many expats, locals and tourists alike choose the French Concession for its wide variety of cuisines and prices. Whatever your budget and culinary prices, there’s something for everyone in Shanghai’s former French Concession.

Jing’an is the former French Concession’s quieter northern neighbor, but just as good for food and drink options. In fact, some of Shanghai’s most famous restaurants call Jing’an home. Find one of Shanghai’s best boozy-yet-classy brunches at MAYA (upscale Mexican fare), surf n’ turf n’ beer at The Bull & Claw, British classics at Mr. Harry and Glo London, craft Belgian beer and food at Kaiba, Italian food at Palatino Roman Cuisine, burgers and beers at Beef & Liberty, burgers and steaks at MUST Grill, vegetarian-friendly fare at Pure & Whole and mind-blowing Indonesian deliciousness at Bumbu.

Hongmei Lu, or Laowaijie, as it’s perhaps more commonly known, is located in the far west of the city, but is an area that many expats from all over the world call home. As such, you can find a variety of restaurant and bar options at the epicenter of western Shanghai, Hongmei Lu. Chow down at Shanghai Brewery, Fat Cow and Mamacita among many others.

How do I find dining deals and discounts in Shanghai?

Chope to the rescue! We’re constantly working with the best restaurants around Shanghai to bring you deals and discounts. When you book a table through Chope’s website or app, you can redeem 20% off at certain restaurants. To see which restaurants are currently offering dining deals, visit our Chope Exclusives page.

Regular Chope users also earn as they eat with our Chope Dollars program. Create a Chope account (easy and free!) and every time you book using Chope’s app or website, you earn Chope Dollars. You earn 100 Chope Dollars just for signing up! Then, every reservation you book (and attend) earns you 200 Chope Dollars. 1000 Chope Dollars is the equivalent of 150 RMB, which you can then redeem at any participating restaurant. Visit our FAQ for more details.

Chope also regularly gives away vouchers for Shanghai’s best restaurants on Bon App. Visit Bon App’s Dine page every Thursday beginning at 12:30 pm to win a 100 RMB voucher, and follow Chope on WeChat (WeChat ID: Chope) to find out which restaurant will be giving away vouchers each week.

You can also use Bon App to find daily happy hours, set lunches and any other deals at restaurants around Shanghai.

Shanghai’s media platforms like Time Out Shanghai and SmartShanghai also routinely list dining deals around town or hold contest and giveaways for dining vouchers.

Play your cards right and you can always eat on the cheap in Shanghai!

How do you book a table if you don’t speak Chinese?

That’s what Chope is here for! Even if you’ve been practicing your Chinese, booking over the phone can be intimidating and a hassle. Open up the Chope app, pick your restaurant, date and number of people - as well as enter any special requests you may have - and you’ve got instant confirmation of your restaurant reservation.

How to speak restaurant Chinese vocabulary

Dining at a local Chinese restaurant in Shanghai can be a fun and easy way to practice your Chinese. When in a foreign country, what’s more important and useful than a few food-related phrases?


This is the most basic term you’ll need. It means “waiter”, and unlike in the West, where we might gingerly raise a hand to wave a waiter down or at most raise our voices slightly to get their attention with a polite, “Hello!”, fúwùyuán is shouted liberally in local restaurants across China. In many Chinese restaurants, customer service is still a relatively new concept, so when in Rome, do as the Romans do - don’t be afraid to shout “fúwùyuán!” across a crowded and noisy restaurant, or stand up and flag someone down as you do.


If you walk into a restaurant without a reservation, you’ll be greeted with this question. It means “How many people?” If you haven’t learned your Chinese numbers yet, simply answer with your hand by using your fingers to communicate the number of people in your group. If you’ve already booked with Chope, whip out your cell phone and show them your reservation on the app.

Zhèi ge

This simple phrase is pronounced “jay-geh”, and it means “this”. The phrase comes in handy when ordering and pointing to what you want on the menu. (Don’t worry, many local Chinese restaurants have picture menus.)

Mĭfàn Vs. Miàn

Most Chinese meals are accompanied with a small bowl of rice or noodles, so feel free to order according to your preference. Mĭfàn means rice (pronounced “me-fan”) and miàn means noodles (pronounced “me-an”). (Pro-tip: Noodles are traditionally ordered on birthdays to symbolize a long life, so next time you’re out for Chinese for a birthday party, be sure to order noodles!)

Xiè xiè

This Chinese phrase is useful not only when dining, but also wherever you go and whatever you do in China. It means “thank you”, and can a tough one for Westerners used to Latin languages to pronounce correctly, but phonetically it’s close to “syay syay”. If you’re struggling, ask your fúwùyuán to help correct your pronunciation!


If your hosts order and then offer you báijiŭ, proceed with extreme caution. This traditional and extremely potent Chinese rice-based liquor can be lethal even in small doses. Your fellow diners might announce “Gānbēi!” which is what people say to introduce a toast. Gānbēi literally means “empty cup”, but especially if it’s your first night trying out báijiŭ, do not empty your cup. Take a sip, try not to contort your face into an expression of extreme discomfort, nod politely and soldier on - just be careful not to drink more than a shot or two if you can help it!

Màn zǒu

You’ll hear this phrase as you’re leaving the restaurant. Literally, it means something along the lines of: “Don’t go! Please stay a while longer!” It’s a traditional polite phrase that’s said when guests leave. The rough English equivalent might be something like, “Y’all come back now!” You may also hear the slightly more complicated phrase: “Xiè xiè guāng lín” which means “Thanks for coming!”

Regardless of where you choose to eat in Shanghai, you’ll likely get by with little or no Chinese language skills. But don’t be afraid to use the opportunity to practice! Most restaurants that serve more international cuisine will employ staff that speak at least a little, if not excellent English. That’s one of the big benefits of dining in city like Shanghai - with so many people from all over the world, you can easily book a table and sample your favorite food and drink from all over the world.

Looking for more Shanghai dining wisdom?

Satisfy your sweet tooth with our Shanghai Dessert Guide

Dine al fresco with our Shanghai Outdoor Dining Guide

Find Chope exclusive food and drink deals at your favorite restaurants around Shanghai

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