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Dining & Lodging

Currently, Beijing has a bewilderingly wide choice when it comes to dining. It wasn't too long ago when foreigners visiting Beijing were relegated to dining at the Beijing Hotel as their only option. But how quickly times have changed. Restaurants open and close at a blink of an eye in the city, and sometimes, its difficult to keep track of the gastronomic scorecard.

Given that this is the capital, its not surprising that theres a wide mix of international cuisine available. Diners can take their pick from French to Thai to African food. Also, there are many regional specialties in Chinese cooking, and its possible for diners to try Shanghainese food on one night, and Tibetan the next - without ever having to step a foot out of Beijing.

Due to the glut of dining establishments in Beijing, its not possible to cover them all. Most restaurants are found in east and central Beijing in the Chaoyang and Dongcheng districts, respectively. The places in the following areas are recommended.

Chaoyang Park - This humble park is undergoing a transformation to become one of the hippest spots for dining and drinking. For spicy, finger-licking Cajun and live blues, try the Big Easy. Kudos go to its authentic atmosphere - a beautiful pink building that looks like it was transplanted straight from the New Orleans. For the more sedate, chill out with a coffee and a croissant at Bellas. For authentic Beijing jiaozi (steamed dumplings), try the charming courtyard restaurant, Gold Cat Dumpling at the nearby Tuanjie Hu Park.

Xidan/Xuanwu - For Beijing Duck, one can't go wrong at any one of the Quanjude Roast Duck branches in the city but go to the flagship branch at Qianmen.

Haidian - To fit the university student budget, there are many cheap hole in the walls which, due to the stiff competition, serve some of the best Chinese food in town. Wudaokou, known as Korea Town, has many small authentic Korean restaurants that cater to the large Korean student population.

Jianguomenwai/Ritan - From fast food to fine dining, this area has it all. Theres the standard Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Starbucks. But for those who want more variety, Once Upon a Time serves exotic Middle Eastern food. Mexican Wave, an expat favorite, serves decent Tex Mex. For Chinese food at affordable prices and in a romantic courtyard atmosphere, Xi He Ya Ju near Ritan Park is a good choice. Craving wood fired pizza? Adria is an excellent choice to cure that Italian fix.

Northeast Third Ring Road - This section is known for its many restaurants. For authentic Thai food in an elegant, modern setting, the Red Basil is highly recommended. For those who crave Thai and are on a budget, the Asian Star is a good bet. Besides Thai, it offers Chinese, Indian and Malaysian dishes as well. A longstanding city favorite, Sansi Lang offers Japanese dishes and fresh sushi at reasonable prices. For good old American food at hearty servings, the Hard Rock Cafe and T.G.I. Fridays can't be beat. Salsa Cabana, a Cuban restaurant, serves wonderful South American food in a festive atmosphere.

Sanlitun - For drinks and Japanese nibblies, Jazz Ya is a popular spot for hanging out and deservedly so. Its moody jazz and hipness quotient rates high. Down the street from Jazz Ya is the intimate Golden Elephant which serves well-prepared Indian/Thai food. Downtown Cafe, Franks Place and Durty Nellies both serve good burgers and fries as well as other pub grub favorites. For some spicy Sichuan, try Berenas Bistro. Any place on Sanlitun Bar Street is good for a drink but for those who want more ambience with their beer, Havana offers Cuban rhythms and beats.

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