Despite the greatness of local Sichuan cuisine, a few popular Western restaurants have really built a strong foothold in the South of Chengdu. Led by Grandma’s Kitchen which has maintained presence in Chengdu for almost ten years, a number of Foreign restaurants have cropped up including Turkish, French, Italian, and American food. The majority are founded or run by foreigners and feature great quality authentic food at reasonable prices, although you’ll definitely be spending less money if you eat Chinese food all the time like locals. Still, it’s a craving most of us can’t deny.
locations: Ke Hua Bei Lu #117 and Tong Zi Lin Dong Lu #12
telephone: 85227965 & 85180903
Among all of the Western restaurants in Chengdu, Peter’s Tex-Mex is probably the leader of the pack with the loyal following it’s acquired over the years. Peter’s has effectively taken the place of Grandma’s Kitchen as the highest quality American-style restaurant in Chengdu which remains busy daily and attracts an ever-larger swath of Chinese locals. They serve hulking bacon cheeseburgers with fries for 30 yuan, make their own ice cream, and their salads and frosted cinnamon rolls are exceptionally tasty. They even have real milk shakes made with milk and ice cream (a rarity in China).
The service you receive from waitresses dressed in denim adorned with Texas’ Lone Star is excellent even on evenings when the restaurant is packed with dinner patrons. There’s a reason why it’s won the “Best Western Restaurant in Chengdu” award in Chengdoo Magazine: the food is well prepared and varied, the portions are enormous, and it’s not that expensive. Expect to pay about 100 yuan for a delicious and completely filling dinner for two including drinks and appetizers like nachos and Texas Toast-style garlic bread.
location: Ren Min Nan Lu #28, on cross street Yu Jie East #2-7
The Bookworm, with it’s thousands of books and library-like book checkout program, is like a chic book shop for wine sipping intellectuals snacking on sandwiches. Although portions are smaller and prices higher than flat-out restaurants like Peter’s, the food is tasty and they have great coffee and free Wi-fi. The Bookworm specializes in wine and features music and book events in the evening including guest speaker authors and live jazz concerts.
Above all, The Bookworm is really a classy joint. Step inside and you’ll notice the expansive and well organized book collection along with the modern furniture and decor, creating a really unique place in Chengdu. Honestly, The Bookworm wouldn’t feel out of place in Manhattan. If you’re absolutely starving you might do better to go somewhere else, but for a square meal with an option of reading a book or playing chess, The Bookworm is a great choice.
An annual membership to the book club which allows you to take two books for two weeks costs 300 yuan. The Bookworm also sells books but these tend to carry high prices – usually over 100 yuan.
location: Ren Min Nan Lu Section 2 #33
Specializing in home-style pizza, Dave’s has been a mainstay of Western food in Chengdu since it was first listed in Lonely Planet in 2001. With it’s convenient location on the river, Dave’s is like a graffiti-covered backpacker cafe which also arranges tours to local destinations. They offer a selection of food including burgers and fries along with a wide assortment of beer including fancy imports like Paulaner. If you aren’t looking for a formal sit-down affair and like shooting pool (and the breeze) with travelers and locals alike, Dave’s is a good option.
You’ll know you’ve found Dave’s when you see its glass doors adorned with graffiti including a life sized blue hippopotamus painted by a Norwegian graffiti artist who passed through Chengdu years ago. This location has changed ownership several times over previous years but it’s recently gone back under control of its namesake, Dave, a Chengdu local. Boasting a collection of over 4,000 CDs, you can take your pick of a veritable rainbow of Western and Chinese music as time lazily drifts by next to the Min River at Dave’s Oasis.