For a close-up look at how Beijingers treat their restaurants as party venues and not just places for a meal, take a trip to Ghost Street. This 1.4km strip of Dongzhimennei Dajie is home to over 150 restaurants that attract everyone from hipsters to office workers, man-bag-toting businessmen and families, as well as the odd celebrity.
It never closes, making it one of Běijīng’s most buzzing streets, and it’s especially fun on Friday and Saturday nights. Traffic slows to a crawl as the restaurant workers line the side of the road trying to entice passing cars to stop at their joint. Crowds of people spill out onto the pavement waiting for a free table while clacking open sunflower seeds, as the sweating staff rush around delivering food and beers to people celebrating the end of the week.
Most styles of Chinese cuisine are represented on Ghost Street, but it’s best known for its hotpot and spicy seafood restaurants.
Ghost Street gets its English name from a mistranslation for the Chinese nickname of the street, Gui Jie (簋街). 簋 (pronounced 'guǐ') is an ancient bronze food vessel, a statue of which you can find at the far eastern end of Dongzhimennei Dajie, by the 2nd Ring Rd, but it’s pronounced the same as 鬼 – Chinese for ghost.
Sadly its signature red lanterns, which for years lined both sides of the street, lending it a unique look, were torn down by overzealous local officials in 2014 – they were a fire risk, apparently.