The World Cup kicks off tonight but many Beijing venues city that planned to screen matches are closed due to the COVID situation. Anyway, for those want a trip down memory lane, here are my list of places to catch the 2010 and 2006 World Cups, including The Den, Frank’s Place, Tun, Luga’s Villa, Paddy O’Shea’s, Obiwan, The Pomegranate, Souk, The Goose & Duck and dozens more. Plus some recaps of my experiences at them. Let’s get started with 2010, then cover 2006 in the second half]
WORLD CUP 2010
Venue list posted on June 11, 2010.
Good times in Beijing during the last World Cup [see below] as nearly every bar and its sibling had a TV screen to attract football fans. Here is an an updated list of spots to catch games this time around.
The Den: A veteran on the sports bar scene, it is open 24 hours and has five screens, good pub grub, a reasonably efficient staff, and an excellent happy hour (5 to 10 PM daily, with half-price drinks and pizzas), though you would require the Hand of God to finagle a free glass of water here. Look for Danish fans to hang out —The Den, The DenMark, get it?
The Pavillion: Among the busiest spots during the last World Cup, it has large screens on one of the better patios in town, as well as screens inside, though the latter are at an angle that can lead to sore necks.
Uama Teppanyaki: The Budweiser-sponsored beer patio outside includes two large screens. Bud draft is RMB20 and there are other beers and mixed drinks available.
Hooters: The only Beijing outlet of this U.S. franchise; expect pricey but passable food (try the chili dog), a handful of screens, and waitresses dancing and singing to songs such as “You Are My Sunshine.”
Danger Doyle’s: Formerly known as Stadium, this two-floor Irish bar, with back and rooftop decks, has screens upstairs and downstairs.
Drei Kronen 1308: Sibling establishment of Danger Doyle’s, this three-story German beer house offers three kinds of home brew.
Workers Stadium: Look for the Football City beer ‘garden’ with large screen. Guoan fans can catch the World Cup in the shade of their home stadium.
Tun: Buy a meter of drinks during the World Cup, get a half-meter for free. Tun will screen games on the deck outside and on the TVs and that huge surface behind the stage inside.
Beer Mania: Buy one, get one free deal on Beijing draft during the games as well as T-shirt and ball giveaways for Stella drinkers.
Blue Frog: Wear your team colors on game day and the first beer is free (with purchase). Look for lots of Dutch fans to hang out here.
Luga’s Villa: Free drink for those in uniform when their team is playing. Option of hanging in the villa, in the basement, or on the second floor or ground floor decks.
Saddle Cantina: Catch games on the first or second floors. Should be a wild night when the World Cup coincides with the Cinco de Drinko special.
Union Bar & Grille: One of the comfier bars in town, it has a handful of screens and will show games starting at 7:30 PM and 10:30 PM. All-day happy hour on Tuesdays.
Paddy O’Shea’s: Will show games downstairs and in Kamat’s upstair, have an outside bar and hot dog stand, and feature an Anyone But France campaign inspired by the Thierry Henri hand ball that dashed Ireland’s chances of making the World Cup.
Frank’s Place: The reincarnation of what is widely considered the first non-hotel bar to open in Beijing. Plenty of screens as well as a large party area out back.
Eudora Station: This place shows sports, has a vast menu, and includes a lounge area out back and a nice patio up front.
The Irish Volunteer: While not a sports bar, it has kept NHL fans happy and will also show World Cup matches.
Parkside Bar & Grill: Newcomer to the Lido scene with several 55-inch screens.
The Pomegranate: The Shunyi-based sibling of Paddy O’Shea’s.
The Goose and Duck Recently upgraded, this is a 24-hour sports bar with loads of paraphernalia and screen and a diverse menu.
Obiwan: Three-story Xihai area venue. More details on this spot soon.
Salud NLGX: Look for a good crowd to gather at this Nanluoguxiang bar, drink homemade rum shots, and cheer on their teams. Free draft for the first goal scored during the World Cup.
Ned’s: Aussies. Beer.
Souk: A Chaoyang Park West Gate venue that combines the feel of a lounge and some of the amenities of a sports bar.
Tim’s Texas BBQ: Home of a wide range of Tex-Mex food, including a decent “Mexican burger”, this place also shows sports.
All-Star: includes booth and table seating, solid pub grub, a four-sized bar, and dozens of flat screens in the Solana area.
Cafe Europa: Private areas for 20 to 40 people, with big screen and CCTV feed, three 11-litre kegs of Krombacher Pils, and appetizers. RMB3000 for 7:30 PM games. RMB3500 for 10 PM games.
Posted July 13, 2010
Some photos taken during a tour of Sanlitun and Workers Stadium during last night’s World Cup final. I intended to hit twice as many places but beverage stops at Uama and Union ate up most of the clock. In China View, Danger Doyle’s and Drei Kronen 1308 had modest crowds, while Vienna Coffee surprisingly had about 50 patrons. The Den, of course, had a bum in every seat. In Sanlitun, the shocker turned out to be Club Le, formerly known as Club Le Zazou, which had hundreds of Dutch fans.
Nearby, Union and Blue Frog had modest crowds, and I imagine — given the number of people outside after the game — that places such as Luga’s and 1F in the Tongli strip area had big turnouts. I had planned to go to Paddy O’Shea’s first but given the place was already packed some three hours before the game time, I instead headed there for a final post-game drink…
After the game, I joined the crowd, including a lot of Team Spain fans, in front of Tongli Studio, then made my way, at the crack of dawn, to Paddy O’Shea’s to find an exhausted Karl Long, who no doubt would be happy to never hear a vuvuzela again, although he did pour. Long and his friends also created T-shirts — called Gong-Tees: clever! — each with one of the World Cup team’s flags. I still have my Ghana shirt!]
Recaps of venues visited, matches watched in 2010, followed by 2006 World Cup coverage.
The World Cup started last night so I checked out a few spots screening the matches. Here is a wrap up, from the final stop to the first one.
Uama Teppanyaki: A beer garden in a box, with plastic tables and chairs, two big screens, and reasonably large crowd. There is a 158-kuai all-you-can-eat-and-drink deal and 20-kuai Budweiser draft. Wondering if you just spotted ex-Souk headman Robin Howlett working the garden? Yep, you did.
Danger Doyle’s / Drei Kronen 1308: Sibling establishments, one is a two-floor sports bar, the other a three-floor German brew house, and both have superb decks. Most first-floor seats were full at both, with 1308 having the busier second tier, no doubt due in part to that large projection. Big mugs of beer, big plates loaded with more sausage than a weekend at Destinations. Worth a stop especially if you are cheering for Germany… or like sausage.
Workers Stadium East Gate: A massive screen along with seats for more than a thousand people, most of them full on this first night. Enjoy Yanjing beer in a parking lot beside the home of the Beijing Guoan? If you are going to be out every night watching matches, I’d recommend a stop here.
Latte: Walked past the modest beer garden at the base of my favorite Gongti club. Good crowd. And you can later head upstairs for some Chivas and green tea.
Pavillion: Looked full but I decided not to patronize a place with a one-hundred kuai cover charge, even if it includes a drink. Yes, the patio is nice but not nice enough to inspire me to visit even a handful of times over the past year, so better to spend it at a place that has offered some fun. Like…
Paddy O’Shea’s: This place had the best vibe, though getting everyone in required a tight fit. No More Bunz grilled hot dogs, “Major” Tom sold Sol and Tsingtao was RMB20 from a makeshift stand, and a bagpiper played “The Cup of Life“. Best stop on the night.
Capital Club: Went for a wine tasting, stayed to watch part of the first half and enjoy that spectacular view from the fiftieth floor. A comfy if pricey place to watch matches if you are a member or can get one to sign you in.
A few notes from bars visited during night two of the World Cup…
Argentina 1, Nigeria 0
George’s: I helped test the projection screen and speaker system with former Q Bar co-owner George Zhou at his soon-to-open place in the base of Workers Stadium. All systems go as far as watching football is concerned. With the floor finished and furniture set up today, this place should be open within two weeks.
Danger Doyle’s, Drei Kronen 1308, Uama Teppanyaki: A walk-by found decent crowds at all three.
The Den: Both upstairs and downstairs, it was standing room only, and I hear the place remained packed right through the England-United States match. The Den could use a dumb waiter at such times in order to save the employees from weaving through patrons upstairs, squeezing down the stairs, and then weaving more to deliver the food. Look for plenty of Danish fans at “The DenMark” tonight for the game against The Netherlands. (I hear Dutch fans will gather at Blue Frog.) Love the fries with The Den burger.
United States 1, England 1
The general rule in Sanlitun — and I’m talking mainly about the Tongli area — is that the proportion of jackasses on the street steadily increases as the night wears on. Saturday night did not provide an exception. (That ‘s not to say a lot of people cause problems, only that a significant minority is affected by too much booze, ego, testosterone, or who knows what else.)
Union: About 30 people on hand at a place that gets high marks for comfort, with that three-sided bar among the better elbow rests in town. FYI: This place will only be open for post-midnight games after the knockout round starts. Best to call ahead. And best value is to go on Tuesday when happy hour prices are in affect all day.
Blue Frog: Already wrapped up for the night, though new manager Greg Dover says this place, too, will be open for late games as the tournament gets into the knockout round. You can catch earlier games inside or on the big screen on the deck.
Cheers: Only a handful deciding to stay inside and take advantage of the RMB5 drafts.
Aperitivo: Not sure if people were there to drink or to catch the match, but expect more of the latter for Italy matches.
1F: This place is usually pretty busy of late, so nothing new here. A fairly intense crew watching the game on the patio.
Red Club: That parking space out front had one of the biggest crowds of the night as it attracted people heading back and forth along the Tongli strip. Enjoy the unpredictably of highly boozed students in the red light district-like glow of the club’s signage. For those who want to enhance the experience from any “stuff” they might have taken, you might want to watch the warped image that comes through on the back of the projection screen
Poachers: Modest crowd watching the game on a big screen. Could be a decent option in rainy weather.
Saddle: I did a walk-by and found the deck closed with a modestly sized group of people inside.
Luga’s Villa: The patio, balcony, and street out front was full. Rowdy. But at least one patron was unhappy as she says the place did not, as advertised, give her a free drink for wearing team colors.
Overall, most places pulled good crowds. To experience the squeeze of humanity, try Luga’s Villa or The Den, for comfort, go with Union or Blue Frog, and for a combo of football, beer, and people watching, 1F works.
Catching up on my visits to spots showing the World Cup. Here’s a wrap for night three, which featured South Africa dribbles and Beijing drizzles…
Slovenia 1, Algeria o (Tomaz at Enoteca must be thrilled with this outcome)
Parkside Bar & Grill: Matches are shown on 55-inch screens at this Lido newcomer that offers seating in booths, at the three-sided bar, or on the patio (though the rain drove all but a few hardy patrons inside) and a somewhat intimate vibe due in part to the lighting. Re drinks prices, Carlsberg draft is RMB30, red and white wine starts at RMB38 per glass, and cocktails are ~RMB40 and up. (The best happy hour deal looks to be Samuel Adams at RMB20.) Beware the aggressive lady bar touts operating across the street in front of the Rosedale Hotel. One guy stuck his hand through the taxi window and it looked like his goal was to shove a card into my shirt pocket.
Frank’s Place: I just missed a big South Africa party but heard in person my first, and hopefully last, vuvuzela, those annoying horns that drone throughout the matches and rank right with nuclear waste, rabies, and ThunderStix as things we do not need on our planet. Anyway, lots of screens here on which to watch The World Cup, and the happy hour, from 3 PM to 8 PM, overlaps with the start of some matches, which means among other things RMB25 Stella and Kronenbourg pints, RMB20 Budweiser, Heineken, and Corona, RMB25 James Boag’s, King Fisher, and Newcastle Brown, and more.
Ghana 1, Serbia 0
Eudora Station: The largest crowd of the night, though this is also the largest venue, with fans spread about the covered deck, first and second floors, and back room. I like the layout and seating options at this place. Apparently it has RMB30 Guinness pints during happy hour.
Irish Volunteer: Some of the regulars must be tuckered out from the NHL finals as only 10 people were on hand, and most of these looked only fleetingly interested in football / soccer.
Paddy O’Shea’s: That RMB20 Sol special (RMB90 for a bucket of six) is hard to resist. My second stop, my second good time. I like the fun touches, whether it is a bagpiper playing “The Cup of Life” or the No More Bunz hot dog guys or manager Karl Long matching music to the mood (how about downloading the theme song from Team America for the next match involving the United States?). Three days in, my favorite spot so far…
My fleeting interest in football / soccer was put to the test by the mind-numbing Japan-Cameroon match. I might even have to miss a day or two because of it. In any case, spots visited on night four…
Netherlands 2, Denmark 0
Beer Mania: About 20 people drinking and watching the match. This place has a buy-one get-one-free draft special. By the way, C’est La Vie next door and the snack shop across the street are also showing matches. A shocker that Lovely Nails has not also set up a screen.
Tun: About 100 people here, including 30 on the new deck. I have always liked the layout here and it is better with the pool table closer to the door. There are now two foosball tables as well as drink specials pretty much every night. Games are shown outside on a big screen or via that massive projection inside on the wall behind the stage. There are about half-dozen places on the patio for groups of six to ten people. Surprised more people weren’t here…
Rock n’ Roll: This place is advertising the World Cup, but I passed by because the last time I entered, on Halloween, the guards told me it was crowded when it really only had a handful of people, including two assertive ones “dressed up” as “ladies of the night.” Maybe I’ll stop in next time… if I’m with a half-dozen friends.
Japan 1, Algeria 0
Miss Saigon: Formerly Zhongyu Hanging Gardens, with its ponds, bridge, and grassy areas, it is a sedate — I’d say too sedate — spot to watch matches and shares the pricey menu with the lounge of the same name inside. I skipped through the menu to find beer, including Tsingtao, starting at RMB40 (they had a two-for-one deal a few weeks ago and I forgot to check if it is still in play), mixed drinks from RMB35, cocktails from RMB40, and a bottle of Moet Chandon at a prohibitive RMB980, though the wine and whiskey sections list some decent choices.
The Den: Packed again, including plenty of fans from the earlier Denmark game.
Uama Teppanyaki: Ended up parked in a plastic chair with a mug of draft again, feeling both transient and, given the sloppiness of the game, truculent. Arguably the best spot in town to hear Europeans make those always entertaining jokes about Budweiser — available at RMB20 per mug — and enjoy all-you-can-eat teppanyaki. A reliable spot since day of the tournament…
I gave the World Cup a red card after the Japan-Cameroon game for boring the life out of me. After a few days off, I got back to watching matches this weekend. Places visited…
Serbia 1, Germany 0
Kiosk: Standing-room only crowd that included citizens not only of Serbia, the homeland of gregarious owner Sasha, but also a half-dozen other nations. Watched most of the first half here while waving away cigar smoke, enjoying a “big bite” burger, and watching DJ Chunky scarf down a chicken sandwich. The food is excellent value.
3 2, Slovenia 2
George’s: Not a sports bar, but with a big screen, a cozy chair, some blues and jazz, and a well-made dirty martini, I was happy. The comeback by the United States rekindled my interest in the World Cup though that nonsensical decision to disallow the third American goal with five minutes left showed why I will probably never be a long-term fan of this sport. It’s nice to have such epiphanies while getting plastered on quality cocktails.
Ghana 1, Australia 1
Ned’s: In the annals of Australian history, I am sure numerous citizens of that country have at one time said “I probably shouldn’t have another beer” and am sure few have decided to follow through on the sentiment. Certainly no one appeared to do so at Ned’s last night. No doubt due in part to an earlier rugby game that saw England edge Australia by a point, many Aussies here were nine sheets to the wind and I half-expected a VB bottle to be hurled through the screen during tenser moments. On the other hand, this is the type of camaraderie that sees people hold up a mate so he can funnel that ‘another’ beer down his throat. Summary: Rowdy crowd packed into a hot bar and armed with ice-cold beer.
12SQM: What would have been a rather sedate post-game experience at this Aussie-managed bar became entertaining when the guy sitting – wedged? – in the window frame decided to share his views on The French, Beijing restaurants, and other topics. Much more entertaining than debating whether or not the dingo stole the gravy.
Denmark 2, Cameroon 1
1F: Busy as usual even at 2:30 AM though the furniture arrangement makes it difficult to get to the toilets. Wouldn’t some kind of waist-high room divider(s) help funnel people? (More peeing equals more drinking equals more earnings.) Anyway, screens inside and outside, a very good beer selection, and a couple sloppily making out on the patio. (If you ever read of two people dying from swallowing one another’s tongues, it will likely be them.)
Aperitivo: Cute Italian girls drinking Aperol cocktails and kind of watching the World Cup. This should be a fun spot to watch the Italy-New Zealand game tonight. By the way, that replica of the World Cup that owner Stefano mounted on the wall after Italy won in 2006 is missing. Is it in storage? Is it hidden behind the bar? Was it stolen? (In that case, my guess would be the Slovenians took it.) A mystery in Sanlitun…
Yeah, these updates come from Sunday, but if the French team can skip practice and mope on a bus, then I can take some time off, no? Places visited…
Souk: What do you want first, the bad news or the good news? Let’s go with the bad news. It looks like more than two-thirds of the dozens of bottled beers listed on the menu are no longer available. There was no Yanjing dark draft. And Corona has been replaced by Sol at five kuai more per bottle – doesn’t it usually work the other way around? The menus themselves are beat up, with running text, and the sofa we used sagged and creaked as if it were on the point of collapse.
The good news: The patio near the door looks like a good spot to catch a match or two, though if you want to save the frustration of hearing “we don’t have that” you best stick to common brew such as Heineken and Tiger or to Tsingtao pints at RMB20. And the place does have two large screens and several smaller ones inside, a certain rough charm, and a staff that seems nice enough if not particularly efficient.
Paraguay 2, Slovakia 0
Parkside Bar & Grill: A light crowd inside, a heavier one outside. Matches come with English-language commentary that, similar to other places, was about a half-dozen seconds behind the video. There are several large screens inside and an even bigger one on the deck.
I caught the tail end of happy hour: Samual Adams is RMB20 per bottle. And I tried the club sandwich (RMB48): Tasty, though it looked diminutive on that big plate (maybe a garnish would help). I found the fries too heavy and that tiny bowl of ketchup far from enough. And the ghost of poor service seems to be following chef Zach Lewison, who recently came from Union, where the staff have long seemed averse to providing silverware. The Parkside staff forgot it, too.
Pine Hill: Next door to Parkside, it has Korean-language commentary for the World Cup games, just in case you like Hangul with your bibimbap.
Rosedale Hotel: The beer garden has brew from RMB13, plus chuar and other typical drinking fare.
Frank’s Place: About a dozen people on hand, though it was between games. Manager Vish said a large group of Brazilians were booked for the late game.
Lido Hotel: What distinguishes this beer garden from the one at Rosedale Hotel? For one thing, the fruit plates on display are much fancier.
New Zealand 1, Italy 1
Eudora Station: Again, the biggest draw in Lido with 100-plus people on the patio watching the matches (Chinese-language commentary), more than all of the other none beer-garden spots I visited put together. About 20 to 30 people camped inside to take advantage of the air-con.
Irish Volunteer: About a dozen people on hand, meaning it was almost half-full.
Café Del Mar: The Tsingtao is RMB15, apparently the Filipino band is good, the food passing by looked OK, there were three screens showing the World Cup, and, this may be a downside or an upside depending on how you view such things, a couple of women seemed intent that I would “spend some time” with them.
Aperitivo: As expected, the Italians were out in force to watch their team manage a draw against New Zealand, a disappointment especially since the team laundry bill will be massive given how much time the players spent rolling about. This place has a decent Sicilian red (Nero D’Avola) at RMB38 per glass, though it looked like most people were content with the Aperol-based cocktails.
WORLD CUP 2006
From the Beijing Boyce newsletter of June 21, 2006.
In my daydreams, the World Cup is a colossal chalice from which the peoples of the globe take healthy draughts in the name of peace. In reality, it is a bunch of football matches during which players run back and forth like caffeinated gazelles, flop on the grass like gored bulls and periodically direct a ball toward, and more rarely into, a net–then blow kisses and pile on one another. Some day, I may fully understand these phenomena. Until then, here are first ten World Cup observations from a soccer / football novice, then notes on ten Beijing venues visited to watch World Cup matches.
A cup-le of observations, followed by a list of venues showing matches:
Did anyone NOT make the link between the U.S. fielding a player named Pope and earning a tie against Italy? “Italy tackles Pope” — that phrase alone inhibited the boys from Rome.
Why not give the referees more options than a yellow card (caution) or red card (ejection)? Possible additions:
– Black card: For a foul deserving more than a red card; the suspension equals in games the number of times the referee thrusts the card skyward.
– Black Card, with Jolly Roger: For an exceptionally egregious foul; offending player is executed on-field; final meal is allowed and counts toward injury time.
– Green Card: For convincing an opposing player to defect to your country, thereby reducing his team’s strength.
– Smiley-face Card: For helping up three fallen opponents during a game.
– Plaid Card: For fouls committed by Scottish players.
– Origami Card: For fouls committed by Japanese players.
– Jean-Luc Pi-Card: For fouls committed by players who are bald, eloquent, and/or Star Trek fans.
The Sombrero is an unfortunate national symbol for Mexico, as is obvious to any fan sitting behind someone who is wearing or waving one.
Isn’t it a bit unfair to have two teams against one, such as in the England versus Trinidad and Tobago match?
One word, five letters: Ghana. That’s my team. I called the country’s embassy in Beijing last week and had the following conversation (abbreviated for readability):
Me: I’m a fan of the Ghana team and want to get a jersey. Does the embassy have any for sale?
Ghana Guy: No.
Me: Do you know where I can get one?
GG: My guess would be Ghana.
Me: It wouldn’t arrive in time for Sunday’s game [it was Thursday]. Doesn’t any place sell them in Beijing?
Me: How about flags? Do you have any Ghana flags?
GG: Yes, we have one.
Me: Can I buy it?
GG: I don’t think so. It’s flying above our embassy.
Me: Can I rent it instead?
Lucky for me, M-Dawg pointed me to slsflag.com.cn, where they have plenty of Ghana flags and in plenty of sizes. Incidentally, I didn’t have a favorite soccer team, so I adopted Ghana’s a month ago because in college I had two housemates, Thomas and Edward, from there. Plus, it’s Ghana’s first World Cup, they are underdogs, and the players are creative and happy-go-lucky. What else can you ask for, except that they pull off a major upset? Oh, wait. They did. Against Czech! Go Ghana!
Perhaps the most memorable comment from the English broadcasts came after an Italian player bloodied an American one with an elbow (and no, it wasn’t Pope): “Of course, nobody’s allowed to stay on the field with blood escaping from their bodies [short and thoughtful pause] these days.”
Second place? The following inconsistent statements, barely a minute apart: “It’s that sort of game, very even” and “Ghana could easily be up three or four.”
Why does the average American find soccer/football boring but people everywhere else find it exciting? Does this gap in views explain U.S. foreign policy? Could it be reduced if players wore helmets, chewed tobacco and called a dozen timeouts per game? Discuss.
I find it amusing that players sometimes writhe on the ground due to the slightest contact with an opposing player but seem able to withstand, and even enjoy, being blindsided and knocked to the ground by their entire team after scoring a goal.
Why do the English fans sing “God Save the Queen”? Freddie Mercury has been dead for more than a decade.
Finally, as someone who has never been keen on football, the World Cup has been an eye-opener. Many games have been superb, the play has been fast and aggressive (yes, I realize that most of the time the players are not acting when they go down), and… wait… there was something else I wanted to mention… wait… what was it? Oh, yes… Ghana won!
Here are (mostly) brief write-ups on the various venues at which I’ve watched World Cup games.
Germany vs Costa Rica: This place was wild during the game and the party rocked on afterwards as the (mostly German) fans made ample use of the beer taps and bar top. The usually empty back room was packed with chairs, tables and patrons.
Browns has three huge screens and plenty of small ones, recently added Beck’s and Stella Artois to its draft beer selection, and gives out handy World Cup schedules. I’ve generally heard good reports from readers about this place.
Serbia & Montenegro vs Netherlands: The front end of what is arguably the best patio in town was fairly full, with a handful of people inside. The food was limited to a BBQ buffet, disappointing as I had craved nachos on the way over. Qingdao was on special. The Pavillion has two big projection screens outside and ample smaller screens inside. One of the more relaxing places in town, although I’ve heard mixed reviews about the service.
Iran vs Mexico: The tasty four-cheese pizza and cold Qingdao was offset by loud dance music — Ace of Base anyone? Which meant no commentary. Which helps explain why the place was nearly empty. Which was unfortunate as this was a great game. The service was good.
JOHN BULL PUB
Australia vs Japan: As a small group watched the game on the small TV upstairs, a handful of us waited by the big screen downstairs while two employees futilely tried to get the projector working. I spent 15 minutes watching as they flicked buttons, a waitress shrugged her shoulders and a rough-looking patron yelled about “Dongbei ren” at his acquaintance, then gave myself a red card and left.
England vs Paraguay: A bit smaller and more subdued than the average venue but a cozy place to watch games while quaffing Delirium Tremors (both blond and dark). Beer Mania recently installed a decent-sized projection screen, although I unfortunately caught what was arguably the most boring game so far on it.
W SPORTS BAR
Australia vs Japan: About 50 boisterous Australian fans were enjoying — on two big screens — a late rally and win by their team (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oy, oy, oy!). The staff here can handle a bottle opener, but don’t think of asking anything as complicated as, “Is there a World Cup special?” As the only Swedish bar in town, W sends emails calling those from the land of ABBA for their home games.
South Korea vs Togo: The number of teams playing, two, was equal to the number of patrons at the bar. It was me and M-Dawg: his presence had less to do with watching football (Chinese commentary) than with Phil’s letting us to order yangrou chuar from next door.
That didn’t stop M-Dawg, who has a friend from Togo, from positing football as the primitive forerunner of basketball. “At one point, thousands of years ago, a player decided to pick up the ball and throw it into the net, but they found that was too easy, so they made the net smaller and put it into the air, and that’s how we got basketball.”
Spain vs Ukraine: I went there for work-related reasons and stuck around for the game. The patio was half-full, with seats at the picnic tables available, and the barbecue sizzling away. Pavillion has set up a temporary bar outside, with a handful of draft taps.
Ecuador vs Costa Rica: A friend and I popped into the reincarnation of Beijing’s oldest non-hotel bar. He was impressed with the live guitarist before the game (tunes ranging from Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” to John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”), the screen on the sparsely populated deck out back (“If you could accuse that screen of anything, you could say you’ve never seen such a clear projection”) and the deck itself (“awesome”). And rather than whisking away my glass and its last swig, as is so common, the waiter asked if I had finished it. Nice.
Unfortunately, this was the exception rather than the rule. The staff didn’t know the price of the special (BBQ plus one Carlsberg for 60 kuai) and first forgot our beer, then our food, then our utensils. They took my after-dinner drink order but not my friend’s, charged us for a Guinness we didn’t drink, wrongly recalculated our bill, and forgot my receipt. As for the drinks, my friend’s two Whisky Sodas looked and tasted completely different, and my Martini came with a massive lemon slice on the rim (!), though the Long Island was decent.
This first experience of the fully functioning Frank’s was slightly surprising given the bar’s team of expatriate employees, numerous investors with Beijing bar scene knowledge, and seemingly eager local employees, including a number plucked from Browns. Several readers have cited similar service problems, though I’ve also indirectly heard that Frank’s is a great place to watch the World Cup, especially since there are eight TVs inside in addition to the one out back (there is also a two-for-one special on Heineken). This is still a nice place to watch games and let’s hope they get the kinks worked out with service soon.
RITAN PARK CENTRAL COMPOUND
England vs. Trinidad and Tobago: I envisioned a garbage-strewn field surrounded by pungent portable toilets, but instead found the one must-visit venue for World Cup viewing. The games are shown in the central compound, on the altar once used for sacrifices to the Sun god, where two big screens are mounted. One has English commentary and the other Chinese commentary, making it amusing as those watching the latter wait in anticipation every time they hear the cheers and groans of those watching the former. The compound is surrounded by circular walls, adorned with Chinese carvings, surrounded by trees. Call it a giant yurt with the top down. There is plenty of seating, all the Qingdao (15 kuai) you could want, and Mojitos (25 kuai), Espresso (around 15 kuai), pizza and more from Havana Light. The only drawbacks: the toilets are, in fact, a bit gross, and by the time the final game ends, the sun is up and it’s hard to see the screens. The entry fee is 30 kuai and includes one beer. An added benefit is that you can pop over to Stone Boat in the late evening for some great live music.
Argentina vs Serbia & Montenegro: I arrived with Argentina winning 3-0 and before I finished my beer and my ham and cheese sandwich, it was 6-0. If anyone’s team is ahead and needs insurance goals, I’m willing to stop by and provide my luck, in exchange for pints and snacks.
RITAN PARK CENTRAL COMPOUND
Ghana vs Czech; Italy vs. U.S.: What a great place to witness the fastest-paced and arguably most exciting game so far, as Ghana won its first World Cup match by knocking off the highly ranked Czech team, 2-0. They now need to beat the U.S., which put up a ferocious battle against Italy, and benefited greatly from that country’s own goal. Three red cards, a bloodied face, and a futile Italian corner kick in each of the final five minutes. Great games, great location, great fun.
Japan vs Croatia: Browns is simply a fun place to watch the game, given its good beer selection, tasty food and good layout. This is one place that does not have to be full to have a lot of energy in the air. The big group of Japanese fans beside me had a great time, although I think some of them had ulcers after that tight game, and as they headed out, the Brazilians flowed in, as Browns is apparently their World Cup home base (witness the huge flag on the east wall). This place is probably your best bet if you’re looking for a crowd.
Brazil vs Australia: It was on the way home! There were more people sitting out in front (five) than inside watching the game (three), with Chinese commentary, but who cares when you are watching a valiant effort by Australia and sipping a Caipirinha made by manager Marc.
JOHN BULL PUB
Mexico vs Portugal: What a difference a quesadilla makes! John Bull Pub has been serving up authentic Mexican food on Fridays and Saturdays and did it again for this Wednesday night game. The result: tasty food and lots of people. Good times all around.
I posted a few business cards from Beijing bars and restaurants above. If you want to see more from oldie but goodie bars and restaurants, check my ‘memory cards’ posts here, here and here.
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