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Cuisine: Chuar

Area: Gulou

Price: 25-50 RMB/person

The “Kuan” in Kuan Dian’s name translates to “wide” but also something like “relaxed and easygoing.” Kuan Dian, however, is not serene. The atmosphere is more like a bustling, grungy college bar, plus food. This is true Beijing-style relaxation: hot, noisy, full of people laughing, putting away beers like crazy and having a great time.

Kuan Dian is always worth a visit, but on weekends, there’s often a line out the door. Best to go on weeknights, or earlier in the evening if you want to get a seat. There’s no English on the menu, so if you can’t read Chinese, bring your dictionary or point-at-what-you-want skills.

My personal favourite dish is their chili mashed potatoes, 自制土豆泥. The idea is simple and perfect: a ball of mashed potato topped with fresh-made chili oil. The spice goes perfectly with the soft potatoes.

The star at Kuan Dian, though, is the chicken wings, 蜜汁鸡翅, glazed with honey and chili flakes. You can pick your spice level, from yuanwei, 原味 (plain) to biantaila,变态辣 (“perverted spicy”). Try that one if you have superhuman spice tolerance – I know if I ever did I would end up in the hospital.

My favourite is weila, 微辣, “tiny spice”. Less chili means the honey flavour has a chance to come out, along with a hit of Sichuan pepper. Delicious.

Chicken wings and roasted mantou slices

There’s much more than chicken wings, however. Also good here are the gurouxianglian, 骨肉相连, chicken skewers with barbeque sauce. The menu is long and everything’s good and cheap.

Top to bottom: BBQ chicken skewers, roasted corn with honey, mantou slices and chicken wings

My one problem with Kuan Dian is the wait times. We waited over 15 minutes for our first set of chuar to come, which doesn’t sound too bad, but it’s a lot longer than you expect to wait for chuar, especially if you’re hungry. The next helping came along in another 10 minutes.

By that time, we were ready to demolish everything…

And stepped outside to see this – the Bell Tower lit up for the night.

Kuan Dian/宽店
135 Jiugulou Dajie, Xicheng District, Gulou subway station exit B.
西城区旧鼓楼大街135号,鼓楼地铁站出口B。

Open every day until 11:30 PM
营业时间:到23:30