Budget Dining in Shanghai

Shanghai has surprisingly inexpensive food for being such a pricey city. Yes, there are plenty of high-end places where you can pay hundreds or thousands of RMB per person, but there are so many great mills available for reasonable prices, defined here as 20 RMB to 150 RMB per person, that it’s a shame to waste your money on the real high-end when delicious and carefully prepared food is available in many genres for a lot less.

Below I arrange things geographically, which naturally will show a strong preference for the places where I live, work, and like visit.

East Nanjing Area Near the East Nanjing Road Subway Station (Lines 10 and 2)

The Hong Yi Mall above Exit 3 (corner of Henan Road and East Nanjing, across from the Apple store) is loaded with great options from top to bottom:

  • Bellagio’s: Sounds Italian, but this is actually a Cantonese/Taiwanese chain that has been one of our favorites for taking groups to. So many great dishes. We fed 10 people there for 600 RMB and left stuffed. I love the mango and strawberry ice desserts, and their soups, their sweet and sour whole fish, pineapple rice, shrimp dishes, etc.
  •  Classic Shanghai (老克勒): For classic Shanghai food in a classy setting, try Classic Shanghai (老克勒) on the 4th floor (or 5th?) next to the escalators coming up. White table cloths, not overcrowded, with prices a little higher than some of my other recommendations but still in the affordable range. Good dimsum and traditional Chinese dishes. Good service also. Phone: 021-6135-3877. One of five in the Shanghai area.
  • South Memory: Classic Hunan food with good ambiance and service. Bring two or three people for set menus costing around 100 to 150 RMB total for a fun dining experience (though the cheapest set menu was disappointing last time I had it — too spicy, with the main course being green hot peppers and some beef). Other dishes are pretty good.
  • Pudding Blossom: a new shop focused on high-end, healthy desserts and beverages like organic soymilk and mango pudding. In the basement food court accessible from Exit 3. I’m a big fan of fresh soymilk.

The Henderson Metropolitan Mall, the one above Exit 2 and the Henderson Mall exit, is the mall that houses the big Apple store on East Nanjing Street and Henan Road, across from the Hong Yi Plaza. It may have an even better selection of places, thanks to its much bigger food court spread across the lower two levels, and many great choices above. Favorites include:

  • Marissa Italian in the lowest level.
  • South Beauty at the top — a high-end place that may well cost around 150 RMB pers person for lunch or dinner, so be cautious and not too hungry. But great classic Chinese and excellent service.
  • Ice Season – 2nd floor gelato shop with some of the best flavors I’ve found in Shanghai. Very good chain making gelato that is relatively close to real gelato, maybe more like great ice cream. Worth a try, though.

Dagu Road Area, north of People’s Square

Dagu Road, north of People’s Square near North Chengdu Road is loaded with interesting restaurants and some questionable places–be careful. My top picks there are:

  • Masala Art: One of Shanghai’s best Indian restaurants in my opinion, and one of the prettiest places to enjoy a meal. Beautiful decor and friendly English-speaking service. Plenty of good choices that will fill you up for under 150 RMB per person, maybe more like 100 RMB, if you are careful. 397 Dagu Road. Phone: 021-6327-3571.
  • Taste of New Zealand: Fun place with real food from New Zealand, including imported New Zealand and Australian meats and even oysters. If you get a big steak you’ll be outside the range of 150 RMB, but there are sandwiches, soups, salads, etc. that keep it on the affordable side, but toward the higher end. Phone 021-5375-0600.