Coming to Shanghai, I remember how daunting of a task it was to find a good restaurant. Especially if your Chinese skills are limited, the first search results for “Best restaurants in Shanghai,” are generally advertisements on trip advisors recommending overpriced food on the Bund. Having spent last semester and the summer in China, I have been to my fair share of restaurants in Shanghai. I am here to share the best of the best and give you a head start on your next weekend outing. So, without further ado, here are my current top five restaurants in Shanghai.

Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包)

https://www.dianping.com/

Address: 

New Store in Century Link Mall:

世纪大道1192号世纪汇广场LG2层A46

(Century Link Mall LG2; go down to LG2 to the H&M, walk past the H&M into the large hallway, turn left and the restaurant will be on your left)

Original Store:

黄河路127号 (right by People’s Square)

Price: 

RMB 28-35 / 12 dumplings (12-18 dumplings fills me up)

Menu Recommendations: 

Half shrimp half pork soup dumplings (鲜肉拼虾仁;Xiān ròu pīn xiārén)

Truffle soup dumplings (黑松露汤包;Hēi sōnglù tāng bāo)

Scallion oil noodles (葱油拌面; Cōng yóu bàn miàn; the only vegetarian item)

Dianping: https://www.dianping.com/shop/G19lF69TVYo0i7jZ

My first experience with 佳家汤包 was when I was 12 traveling abroad for the first time. After my first dumpling, I was hooked and it remains my favorite restaurant in Shanghai. Their signature food is authentic, Shanghai style soup dumplings (小笼包; Xiǎo lóng bāo), my favorites being the half shrimp half pork (鲜肉拼虾仁;Xiān ròu pīn xiārén) and the truffle (黑松露汤包;Hēi sōnglù tāng bāo) dumplings. The correct way to eat soup dumplings, which is stenciled onto the wall of the restaurant, is to bite off the top, suck the soup out, then eat the rest of the dumpling. The flavor blast of the soup paired with the thin, delicate dumpling wrapper is what makes Jia Jia Tang Bao so unique. The dumplings, while being the most flavorful, are not heavy, oily, or fatty like other soup dumplings you would find. Being right next to school also makes it a convenient and tasty lunch outing on any day.

Al’s Diner & Gracie’s Ice Cream

https://www.dianping.com/

Address: 湖南街道新乐路204号底层 (Jing’an)

Price: RMB 70-150 / person

Menu Recommendations:

Triple Cheese Mac

Beautiful Surrender’ Fried Chicken and Pancakes (enough to share)

Blueberry Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes

Half Baked Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Dianping: https://www.dianping.com/shop/k3tEmDSkNCHQxRdu

Do you ever miss home and just want some good old American diner comfort food? Well this is the best place I have found in Shanghai to satisfy that craving. With authentic pancakes, juicy and crispy fried chicken, and the best Mac’n Cheese in Shanghai, Al’s diner is an expat staple. They also have “the pancake challenge,” where you have to eat five pancakes and a milkshake in 10 minutes and it is free but if you fail it will cost you RMB120. Joseph Hauser can proudly say that he completed it while I am embarrassed to admit that I failed. This is a great spot for brunch or lunch whenever you feel homesick. While you are there, you might as well pick up the best ice cream in Shanghai for dessert from Gracie’s Ice Cream. They offer samples so you can try their unique and classic flavors to see which one you like best.

Singapore Kitchen (芽笼芽笼新加坡餐厅)

https://www.dianping.com/

Address: 世纪大道1192号 世纪汇广场LG1层A区13号 (Century Link Mall)

(Find the Starbucks, go down one floor, turn right and it will be right there.)

Price: RMB88 / person

Menu Recommendations:

Hainan chicken (招牌海南鸡饭;Zhāopái hǎinán jī fàn)

Truffle Fried Rice (黑松露炒饭;Hēi sōnglù chǎofàn)

Mushroom Chicken Green Curry (蘑菇鸡肉青咖喱; Mógū jīròu qīng gālí)

Dianping: https://www.dianping.com/shop/k6ZzqvcUIiSvvpTH

Singaporean food is always interesting because of how many cuisines it combines. From Chinese to Malaysian to Indian, Singaporean food has it all. The menu at this restaurant is diverse and there is something for everyone, but the Hainan chicken is a must try. Be prepared, it is served cold and the skin has an interesting texture. However, the flavor is distinct, especially when paired with the included dipping sauces. The truffle fried rice has to be some of the best fried rice I have ever had, and the chicken broth that comes along with it is over the top flavorful. I think you are supposed to pour it over the rice but I enjoy just drinking it straight. 

North Western Specialty Restaurant (西北特色面馆)

Sam Kominowski’s Photography

Better know by NYU students as “Halal”

Address: 枣庄路604号 (Across the street from the east (far) gate of Jinqiao.)

Price: RMB 18-50 / person

Menu Recommendations:

Lamb Fried Rice (羊肉炒饭; Yángròu chǎofàn)

Seasoned Cucumbers (凉拌黄瓜; liáng bàn huángguā)

Lanzhou Ramen (兰州拉面; lánzhōu lāmiàn)

Lamb Skewers (羊肉串儿; yángròu chuàner)

Mushroom Skewers (蘑菇串儿; Mógū chuàn er)

Dianping: https://www.dianping.com/shop/G2UgsmLnB7h71HQm

This restaurant goes by many names, Halal, NYUShanghai’s real cafeteria, but I have never once heard it be called by its real name. At any time of the day you can go in and see a group of NYU students eating there. You order outside for skewers and inside for everything else. Being right next to the dorms makes it a convenient lunch or dinner, and with fried rice coming in at RMB18, it is easy on the wallet. The food is great, prices are low, and location is convenient. What else could you ask for? 

Cantina Agave

https://www.dianping.com/

Address: 富民路291号 (Jing’an)

Price:RMB 90-150 / person

Menu Recommendations:

Nachos with steak

Carnitas burrito

Baja Shrimp Taco

Fried Avocado Taco

Dianping: https://www.dianping.com/shop/iHPGqvtBTVPKyzJX

Good Mexican food can be hard to find in China. While more and more spots have been popping up, it is still rare. Cantina Agave really nailed it with the standard burrito, taco, and nacho staples but they also have some very creative tacos. The fried avocado taco is a vegan’s dream that a meat eater like me can also enjoy. The Baja shrimp taco had to be my favorite though, with the crispy shrimp and flavorful baja sauce. The margaritas and piña coladas are also great and not too expensive at RMB50 during happy hour (until 8pm). They also have all you can eat Taco Tuesday for RMB100 as well as four hour free flow brunch for RMB150. But be prepared for a long wait on weekends, because this place is always packed!