Overwhelmed by noodle options in Shanghai? You're not alone. Kyle Long of Glutton Guides: The Hungry Traveler's Guidebook series makes navigating the noodle scene a whole lot easier.
SHANGHAI – As an avid runner, there's nothing better than having options when it comes to my daily carb intake. Shanghai noodles are next level, and the lunch-hour lines down the block will clue you in to some of the best spots. The city itself is a melting pot, so the food scene is an amalgamation of China's diverse regional cuisines. But there's no messing with quick and cheap bowls of noodles. My list reflects Shanghai's huge range of offerings, but most of these spots are around RMB 20 per dish ($3.25). English menus are still rare, so look around at what other diners are eating to see what's popular.
Wei Xiang Zhai
14 Yandang Rd.; Xuhui District; +86-21-5383-9032
This is a crash course in Shanghai noodle etiquette, or lack thereof. Prepare to elbow your way through the crowd to the aunty at the cash register. Order the sesame-peanut noodles that almost everyone is eating, and then pin your receipt to a table-numbered clothespin once a seat frees up. Don't forget a splash of vinegar on top of your bowl to balance out the chili oil. You'll make a point to return again and again during your trip.
Liu Dao Men
419 Xinhua Rd.; Changning District; +86-131-2231-4059
These Sichuan noodles are the real deal, and there's an English menu to boot. They may ask you if you can handle spice when you order. Unless you're a pro, keep it on the low side. It still may still burn your face off.
Ding Te Le
494 Huaihai Middle Rd.; Huangpu District; +86-21-5107-9177
The name of the best dish here is as big a mouthful as the noodles themselves: 白汁葱油肉丝拌面, or bái zhī cōng yóu ròu sī bàn miàn. The wheat noodles, in just a touch of pork bone broth, are topped with caramelized scallions. Splash on some Shanghai Worcestershire sauce like the locals do for the best in alleyway cuisine.
36 Sinan Rd.; Huangpu District; +86-21-5306-6604
When the former owner, a granny from Ningbo, passed away, she supposedly left her recipes to her grandson who enlarged her tiny shop. Diners continue to pack the new, larger space all day long, especially around lunch. Ningbo is known for seafood, so stick with winners like yellow croaker or crab roe in a very slurpable soy-based broth. Watch out for bones!
Zhu Que Men
391 Dagu Rd.; Jing'an District; Tel: +86-21-6880-1717
This two-story shop has, hands down, the city's best noodles from Shanxi province. No trip to China is complete without sampling the epic you po noodles. The region is known for vinegar-laden sauces, but don't leave without trying a roujiamo, China's ancient (but currently trending) version of a hamburger. There are plenty of great beer and wine spots along this street. Perfect for an evening out.
52 Gao'an Rd.; Xuhui District
These 24-hour halal noodle shops dot just about every Chinese city — for good reason. The beef broth noodles and lamb dishes are a nice break from mainstream pork-heavy Chinese cuisine. The bonus? The noodles at this location are hand-pulled in the dining area, so you get to see exactly how the strands transform from a block of dough into a bowl of noodles.
319 Noodle House
319 Yongjia Rd.; Xuhui District; +86-21-158-0188-6986
Try to snag one of the outside barrel tables to slurp noodles and people-watch in the tree-lined former French Concession neighborhood. Shanghainese cuisine tends to be sweeter than other regional cuisines, and these noodles showcase that to a degree. Try the minced pork zhajiang noodles, which pair nicely with the old school, glass-bottle soymilk drinks.
Lane 1310, No. 2, Dingxi Rd.; Changing District; +86-21-5237-9558
Slightly more upscale than others on this list, the Taiwanese noodle shop is known for its succulent, slow-braised beef noodles. The affordable lunch sets are a no-brainer, and you get to choose between various noodle styles.
607 Changle Rd.; Xuhui District; +86-21-5404-6727
The family-run shop is my go-to for the dish every Shanghai denizen eats regularly: scallion oil noodles. Every bowl is hand-pulled to order, so noodles are guaranteed fresh. The sauce is a deceptively simple mixture of homemade scallion oil, soy sauce, and vinegar, but the simplicity belies its big flavors. Head up the super steep stairs to find the dining room.
233 Xiangyang Rd.; Xuhui District; +86-21-6471-0556
This may very well have the city's most consistent lunch rush. Get here by 11:30 a.m., or be prepared to wait, as there's only a handful of jam-packed tables in the small dining room. Adventurous eaters may opt for the excellent soup noodles topped with liver and cold kelp appetizers. The scallion noodles and zhajiang noodles are also excellent.
Check out Glutton Guide's 2016-2017 Glutton Guide Shanghai: The Hungry Travelers Guidebook. Written by foodies for foodies, this digital guide is all an eater needs to find the best food in the city.