Beijing's gastronomy scene showcases all the regions of China, as well as both Western and Eastern international cuisines. You'll find everything, including Peking Duck joints, Chinese and European fine-dining options, an American-style brewpub, a dumpling house, and spicy hot pot places. "Best" can be hard to define, but all of the restaurants on this list serve high-quality ingredients, have massive public approval ratings, and each contain their own distinctive personality, along with kitchen chops.
Eat at Moka Bros when you want to eat a healthy, affordable brunch original to Beijing. Created by two brothers, one a chef and one a sommelier, the menu is gourmet, yet affordable. Try the steak and avocado wrap, a power bowl of full of veggies and quinoa, or a sweet crepe to put you in the brunch mood. Wash it all down with fresh juices, smoothies, or strong cocktails. Relax and enjoy in their Sanlitun location, an airy, bright, and hip space, perfect for midday lounging.
There’s nothing quite like slurping down the ever-changing spicy Sichuan broth of Haidilao’s famous hot pot soup on a cold winter’s day. The lajiao (Sichuan pepper) will numb your tongue, while the warm broth will soothe your throat, and the bustle of attentive waiters and patrons gathered around giant metal pots sharing a meal with friends, makes the whole experience strangely cozy. Add quality meats to your salty or spicy broth, and ask for the noodle pulling chef/dancer to come to your table. Recommended for first-time hot pot tasters or for those who claim hot pot isn’t for them, Haidilao will sway even the staunchest of objectors with its excellent service, commitment to quality, and extensive flavor offerings.
Started by a couple of Sichuan exiles trying to make good, Zhang Mama now has won city-wide renown, numerous awards, and is infamous for its long wait times. Order the super spicy boboji (oily broth) and choose your skewers of quail eggs, tofu, mutton, or vegetables to plunk in the fire-inducing liquid. Get the spicy tofu (mapodofu), spicy huiguorou (twice-cooked pork), or spicy whatever you want, really. If you don’t like spicy, this will not be your place. If you do, it will be a heavenly experience, albeit with multiple rice orders due to preoccupied staff.
TRB Forbidden City
Fine dining meets incredible views of the Forbidden City in this eatery serving creative European-style food. Though tucked away by the Forbidden City’s East Gate, once you enter, the city sounds fade. All that remains is impeccable food, one of the largest wine selections in Beijing, world-class service, and complimentary champagne and appetizers. Try the four or five-course tasting menu (which usually becomes more like 11 courses with all the small plates they give you on the house) and end it with their famous Madeleines.
The colorful dumplings here have repeatedly shown up on food blogs and even helped Baoyuan nab a Michelin star this year. But it’s not just the brilliantly bright green, purple, and an orange outer cover that makes these horn-shaped dumplings great; it’s what’s inside that counts. Some of the most creative dumpling fillings in Beijing are stuffed into these bad boys, like Kung pao chicken, fish, mushroom, and more (up to 40 varieties of flavors), and all are reasonably priced. Note that they have two menus, one for dumplings and one for everything else. If ordering off the latter, go for the eggplant, pork green beans, or Sichuan chicken.
Xin Rong Ji
If you’ve got a hankering for seafood Taizhou-style, like steamed talon shrimp or yellow croaker, this place delivers the goods. They specialize in fish from the East China Sea but also serve a solid stir-fried snake, steamed crab, and noodle dishes. The location on Xinyuan South Road holds the distinction of being the only restaurant in Beijing to receive three Michelin stars. The service is excellent, and the space itself is elegant without pretension, complete with bonsai trees, and cut wood panels.
No-fuss Nordic food, The Georg offers only 12 menu items in an elegant yet casual space next to Houhai Lake. Plates have ingredients like sea buckthorn and salmon roe, with a focus on seasonal offerings. Savor the fresh-baked bread with truffle butter, as you wait for one of the beef or fish dishes to arrive. Enjoy your meal by the glow of the central fireplace, then check out the attached art gallery when you’re done.
Siji Minfu does Beijing classics right. Order their delicious Peking Duck cooked over fruitwood and carved tableside, as well as their chewy Zhajiangmian noodles with saucy soybean paste (said to be some of the best in the city). They even have fancy (and palatable) baijiu. All the dishes are perfectly seasoned, and the decor is clean and straightforward. Go at non-peak hours to be seated quickly, otherwise be prepared to wait up to three hours for a table.
Taste of Dadong
Peking Duck grand master chef Dong Zhenxiang opened Taste of Dadong to offer his same delicious cracklin’ duck, without the show and for half the price of his larger, fancier restaurant, Dadong. A must-order, pair the Peking Duck (less than a whole duck portion and leaner than competitors’ ducks) with other traditional Chinese plates, like their super stuffed steam buns. Want more adventure? Try the dry-ice stuffed cherry tomatoes as a side, or get a whimsical dessert of candy floss “flowers.”
Boasting one of the best rooftop bars in Beijing, Migas’ China World Mall location has views of the Central Business District’s most famous buildings and a massive terrace for al fresco dining. This is the go-to place for Spanish cuisine in Beijing, and rightly so with their dangerously strong sangria, a wide selection of tapas, an Iberian Ham to write home to Seville about, and innovative paella (truffle oil, anyone?). In the evenings, live bands or a DJ play smooth tunes, adding to the glamorous vibe.
The standard for vegetarian dining in Beijing, King’s Joy serves creative meat alternatives like dragon fruit and apple “sushi” and mushroom and tofu “lamb” kebabs. As if innovative vegetarian takes on Asian staples weren’t enough to bring you in, they also have a full-time harpist, sunny hutong courtyard seating, high tea, and two Michelin stars to their name. Book in advance as King’s Joy is in high demand with both veggie lovers and meat-eaters alike.
Groovy and vibrant, Keaami serves Thai food and Southeast Asian plates as colorful as the cushions they shipped in from Thailand. Funhouse blues, yellows, pinks, and purples grace the table in the forms of green chicken curry, durian tiramisu, mango sticky rice with edible flowers, and tropical drinks. Try their signature six-course menu if you can’t decide on what to order, then sit back and enjoy the interior of bamboo and wood, appropriately evoking island vibes.
Jing Yaa Tang
Good value meets the best dim sum in the city at Jing Yaa Tang. Go for lunch and order the all-you-can-eat dim sum deal, available daily. Feast on shrimp soup dumplings, pork buns, sweet egg tarts, and more. Order a craft beer, coffee, or free-flowing champagne, to help wash down the tasty morsels. Jing Yaa Tang does several regional dishes, but they are most known for their dum sum and their Peking Duck, which you can watch being prepared in their open kitchen.
The pinnacle of traditional Peking hotpot, Jubaoyuan, has served delicious halal mutton soup in big brass pots for over 70 years. Beijingers have been waiting in long lines to eat it ever since, and all at a reasonable price (usually $15 or less per person). Jubaoyuan employs its own butchers, guaranteeing quality cuts that arrive at the table alongside an array of raw vegetables, various kinds of mushrooms, tofu, dipping sauces, and crispy sesame cakes (shaobing)—rumored to be the best in town.
Slow Boat Brewery
The OG of Beijing microbrewing keeps their rep real by brewing beer onsite in their Sanlitun location. Not only known for their taps, Slow Boat boasts one of the best burgers in town, which has picked up numerous foodie awards. Using North American brewing techniques, Slow Boat makes beer that is “uniquely Chinese” as they like to say, with ingredients like pomegranate-infused honey from Shangri-la. Order their signature Fryburger with beer-battered French fries and aioli or try one of the more straightforward (though still tasty) options along with a pint.