Food streets fast becoming a socialite’s paradise

NIGHT falls and neon lights flicker into life. Under stars and in the summer night breeze, people wearing flip flops arrive on food streets. They gobble meat on kebabs, gulp beer from draught, chitchatting and joking with each other.

For foodies, the night snack is part of life. For Hangzhou, food streets providing night snacks are a part of its leisure lifestyle. Today Shanghai Daily lists three popular areas frequented by citizens as a food paradise on a typical sociable evening.

Dadou Road, Xinyifang Street, Shengli River Food Street and Xiawan Lane

For people living in the north, the four streets that are close to each other are a food mecca.

Shengli River Food Street and Xiawan Lane host almost 100 affordable restaurants. Dadou Road boasts fancy restaurants that provide fusion dishes, Japanese cuisines and local delicacies. And the Xinyifang Street is a place of night snack booths and bars.

The Shengli River Food Street features everything from mutton hotpot and beef offal dishes to spicy Sichuan food and lots of crayfish. The street has a charming watertown feel as the Shengli River belongs to the Grand Canal of China.

The old ones that have survived for five years on the street include:

Kitchen under Camphor Tree (No. 7, Shengli River Food Street), which features rustic Jiande’s countryside food, made with simple ingredients.

Qingjing Seafood Restaurant (284 Xiawan Lane) that offers authentic seafood from Xiangshan, a Zhejiang coastal city known for seafood. It not only purchases seafood exclusively from Xiangshan but also employs cooks from that city.

And Xinlong Chicken Feet King (C Zone-31 Shengli River Food Street) is recommended if you want to have a try of special Chinese foods. Methods of cooking chicken feet vary, and the longer they are stewed, the more tender they become. And Xinlong is renowned among aficionados as “Hangzhou’s king of chicken feet.”

It offers the likes of marinated chicken feet, spicy chicken feet, chicken feet marinated in mature vinegar and spicy steamed chicken feet.

While historic Hefang Street has long been a must-visit spot in Hangzhou, neighboring Gaoyin Street, just 20 meters away, is probably better known as a food street. So is the Southern Song Imperial Street which is another food mecca housing numerous restaurants and booths.

When dusk falls, the three streets become a night snack heaven for foodies, with visitors wandering around, sampling their fare.

The Gaoyin Street, which is only 500 meters long, includes more than 40 restaurants — most offering local dishes.

Among local cuisine restaurants Huang Fan Er (53 Gaoyin St) and Zhi Wei Guan (71 Gaoyin St) are recommended. Also a “mini street” between Gaoyin Street and Hefang Street is a place to go for under-20-yuan (US$2.9) snacks.

Dong Yi Shun (99 Gaoyin St) receives many expat customers, as it is one of the city’s most popular Muslim restaurants. Its tasty, reasonably priced naan is a favorite with locals and foreigners happy to wait in line for the hot flat bread. Like many Uygur restaurants the portions are huge. Its menu is based on mutton, beef and chicken with a few vegetables. Pasta dishes are also available. The homemade yogurt is famous too.

And Southern Song Imperial Street provides Chinese cuisines, including spicy dishes from the southwest, seafood from the southeast and barbecue items from the northwest.

In front of the restaurants, two lines of barbecue and teppanyaki entice customers with mouth-watering aromas.

But before tucking into the delicious food, visitors will enjoy the distinct street style that unifies the two-story restaurants. Windows are decorated with wooden lattice. Roads between the buildings are joined by a gently flowing creek.

Hedong Road 河东路

Night snacks are a big attraction on Hedong Road, a 1.4-kilometer street that contains over 30 restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, milk and tea booths.

Yet 20 years ago, it was relatively distant, far away from main thoroughfares. It was only in the 1990s that locals started running eateries, offering cheap barbecue food, noodles and local dishes. Gradually foodies in the city caught a whiff of the appetizing aromas and explored the new food area. This led to more restaurants opening, serving mouth-watering food from breakfast to late-night snacks.

Today, from northeastern Chinese and Sichuan cuisine, to seafood and local dishes, everything is on offer. And a majority of the restaurants on the street have survived for over 10 years, winning loyal customers from all over the city.

Ding’s Beef with Salt Restaurant (202 Hedong Rd), opened in 2003, is one of the earliest night snack eateries. The fact that the owner opened another outlet a stone’s throw away from his first shows how popular the brand is. Its specialty is, of course, beef with salt — boiled and sliced beef served with a pinch of salt. Beef soup with rice noodles, beef tendon with salt, are also favorites at the restaurant.

Excellent Oyster Restaurant (48 Hedong Rd) is another old brand. Its staples are scallops and oysters. The large number of customers ensures staff members sit from late afternoon to midnight every day, opening oysters.

A new place, Ye Zan (221 Hedong Rd), has won lots of applause for its iPhone-6-plus-size crayfish as well as 20-plus kinds of craft brew, priced from 15 to 25 yuan only.

It takes 20 minutes to walk along the road. But it may take one an entire summer to try all restaurants there.