Tag Archives: Coffee

Secrets in Shanghai

Lunch and Hidden Treasures

My co-worker (former co-worker as of tomorrow when I will have officially taken over ALL of his classes)  and friend Roger mentioned the other day this secret, awesome location he found – right on West Nanjing Road that is similar to Tianzifang but without the tourists.  On Wednesday, after finishing my 汉语(Chinese) midterm and before I had to go teach for the evening, we decided to meet up for lunch so he could show me this newly discovered area of town.

As we were walking down West Nanjing, just a minute or two from the subway stop on a street filled with people, expensive shops, western brands and traffic; I had my doubts about finding someplace so unknown.  However, when we turned to walk into the gates of this little Chinese community that seemed like any other residential area, I also had doubts about finding anything worth seeing.  Forget things worth seeing, I was hungry – and I didn’t even think we could find street food in these deserted rows of houses.

We walked down the first little alley and my suspicions of Roger’s hidden treasure grew, “This is just a dead end” I claimed, stopping a few doors from the end of the alley… But was it really?  Roger led me down to the very end – where behind the last gate you could peer into the house and see a little coffee shop with seats set up inside.  Peering into another house, there was a barber shop inside – a woman sitting on the front step in the sun, reading a magazine with dye in her hair.

Down the next alley (pictured below) was an amazing shoe store –can you see it?  The signs are frequently on the inside of doors, so when the doors are shut they can’t be seen.  Other signs or plaques hanging on the brick walls outside are easily removed each night and brought inside.

Find the shoe store...

They are just normal houses – with hidden treasures inside, a great opportunity to take a look inside the homes of Chinese people.

Entryway to the shoe store

Peering in the window - shelves of shoes, all designer brands

Still hungry, we wandered down another alley.  There was a little coffee shop and Roger mentioned they might have food. As we were both ready for lunch, we figured it was worth checking out.  Walking inside, I was transported back into Portland.  A trendy, rich coffee cultured and comfortable environment, brightly painted walls, artwork, books, wine bottles and coffee equipment – sights and smells my senses weren’t accustom to in Shanghai.

Soaking up the atmosphere

I start looking at the shelves of coffee related products and knickknacks when I stumble upon locally roasted coffee – the name on the bag matching the name written in chalk on the gate to the house.  I was astonished –could they possibly be roasting and selling their own coffee here??

GZ Coffee Shop and Restaurant, right this way!

Knickknacks & Coffee - this is the entire shop

No way!! Artisan coffee, roasted right here in Shanghai!

I attempt to ask the question, but they didn’t understand.  Instead, I was distracted by the beautiful, handwritten paper menu, tied together with yarn that was placed in front of me.  Will Hutchens of Caffeinated PDX came to mind and I started snapping pictures of the espresso machine.  I opted for an iced Americano and the “spaghetti with bacon, onions and cream.”  Roger had the spaghetti Bolognese and a mango smoothie (made with milk and fresh mangos).

From beneath the counter - handwritten, beautifully made menus

Making my espresso - this shot is for you, Will!!

After a couple more photo opts, with my delicious and strong Americano in hand, we took our seats at the one table outside – patio seating.  It was here I realized that yes – this coffee is roasted here – as I spotted the coffee roaster sitting in the corner behind Roger.

I believe this is where my espresso was roasted!

On a Chinese couple’s front patio, between the coffee roaster and their house/coffee shop, we had grape vines growing above us, the brick wall separating us from neighbors on one side and the kitchen where our food was being prepared on the other side.

Outdoor seating!

Barista turned cook - view of the kitchen from our table, lunch is prepared.

In the doorway to the shop,  someone sat and watched us – she was soon joined by her daughter.

Mommy and baby watch us eat!

Other than the people who lived in the house we were visiting and the cats, in the 45minutes or so Roger and I spent there we didn’t see a soul.

At one point, Roger asked – “Do you hear cars?” I listened intently.  Birds, I hear birds – and the cats meowing.  Wait…I listened some more. No, I don’t hear a single vehicle.  We were in one of the busiest, metropolitan, westernized parts of the city and I heard birds chirping, the sounds of a kitchen, the water trickling behind me (Roger joked that it was a waterfall – but in reality it was the gutter) and our own voices.  Paradise – a hidden treasure – in the middle of West Nanjing Road.

Lunch is served (and delicious!)

One more shot - just because they are adorable

We looked at a couple more shops full of cutesy knickknacks and Chinese-inspired art and another amazing looking wine bar/restaurant that Roger had eaten at the night before, but then the wind started picking up, the rain clouds grew darker and with a roll of thunder in the distance we decided to head home.  I had to get to work anyways!  But I will be back – soon!!

Another front patio - another shop!

Another front patio - another shop!

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I knew I wasn’t in Portland when…

– the cars were all driving on the wrong side of the road.  Confused me for all of 2 seconds until I realized, Duh!  Hong Kong was a British Colony for 156 years (less the 4 years the Japanese had control during WWII).

– I was on the subway and realized I had the bodies of two strangers pressed up against mine and more people were boarding.  In Portland, when personal bubbles are invaded people quit crowding in and wait for the next train.  Personal bubbles don’t exist here nor does privacy for that matter…

– While bra shopping, (yes, I went bra shopping on my 1st day in Hong Kong and it was QUITE the cultural experience) the woman helping me had no problem pulling down my bra and causing me to flash the entire store.  Then again, the other girls in the store didn’t seem to mind.  My favorite was the one standing around in a bra talking on her cell phone.  Privacy?  Who needs privacy?  Oh, and Victoria Secret does not know what they are doing and this kind woman will let you know you need all new bras and will even show you how properly fitted bras will shrink everything from the width of your back to the circumference of your arm.

– I had to walk SEVERAL blocks to find a coffee shop.

– An “Italian Sausage Roll” at Starbucks was nothing more than a hot dog & Dijon mustard wrapped in a bread stick.

– Coffee & a snack for 2 cost $96.  (Hong Kong dollars, that is!)

– I was served a quesadilla at an Irish Pub.  The short list of menu items available also included: nachos, hot wings and calamari.

– I was walking around in a t-shirt and jeans while everyone else was bundled in winter coats.  It was over 60 degrees fahrenheit & sunny!  In January!

– Bamboo scaffolding??

– I get a little excited when I see another blonde 🙂

– While Irene was getting her wedding dress fitted, the sales associate was talking to Irene’s sister-in-law in Cantonese, then Irene’s sister-in-law would translate to English for me & Mandarin for Irene’s cousin.

– There was sunshine & blue sky – but you still couldn’t clearly make out buildings across town because of the SMOG.  Yuck.

– I learned that a geoduck is in no way, shape or form of any relation to the pretty bird that floats on a pond and tastes yummy with a nice orange glaze…


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