Yuèbīn Fànguǎn

Beijing in Forbidden City & Dongcheng Central

Post-1949, this was the first privately owned restaurant to open in Běijīng. It's so minimalist that it still has an old canteen-like feel to it, but the focus here, as with many of China's best restaurants, is on the food, not the decor. This is a proper locals' joint, so ignore the cigarette smoking and the fish-bone spitting, pull up a chair, order a bottle of Yanjing beer (燕京啤酒; Yānjīng píjiǔ), and tuck in.

The menu, naturally, is in Chinese only. House specialities include: guōshāo yā (锅烧鸭; fried duck – the first dish ever served here, apparently), suànní zhǒuzi (蒜泥肘子; pork shoulder in garlic and vinegar), miànjīn pá báicài (面筋扒白菜; glutinous braised cabbage), qīngchǎo xiārén (清炒虾仁; stir-fried shrimp) and wǔ sī tǒng (五丝筒; chicken-and-veg egg rolls, served with pancakes, leeks and hoisin sauce). Note, check how much your beer costs before they open it for you. Some are cheap, but some cost almost ¥20 a bottle.