junk food: pizza, popcorn, burgers

Somehow I always get around to posting about food. Given my job in the art industry, one would expect me to post non-stop about art, artists, art exhibitions, and the like, but … you know what? Since I spend so much of my time at work around art (and especially around bad soul-sucking art and pretentiously snobby art people), I prefer to find comfort in food (like the good ol’ American I am) and especially in good ol’ American junk food, id est, pizza, popcorn, and burgers.

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1. Margherita, Marco Polo, and Meatlover’s Pizzas from Una’s Pizza

I love pizza. I always knew that the type of pizza I grew up with wasn’t ‘real’ Italian, but I never realized how ‘fake’ the pizza I know and love really is until I came to Shanghai. Kinda random, right? Regardless, there are plenty of places to get fake-style pizza in Shanghai, and Una’s is one of them. To be completely honest, I don’t actually like Una’s Pizza. Their thin-crust style is decent yet sub-par and their toppings leave much to be desired, but the taste is alright and the price is acceptable. I much prefer Pizza Street, but their website ordering system is down so I’ve been exploring my options, and while Domino’s Pizza is okay-ing-ly chewy, it’s nowhere near as good as in the States.

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2. Act II Microwavable Butter Popcorn

28 RMB for three bags of popcorn? That equates to about $1.50 per bag of popcorn and normally my cheap self would be completely against such an obvious laowai-gouging price, but you know what? Heck, yes! I didn’t realize until I saw that box of popcorn on the shelf of that small little stall on Changde Road that it has been years since I last consumed buttery popped corn goodness. I even used to own a popcorn machine back in New York that saved me a ton of money. But alas, microwaves in China do not have a standard Popcorn button so most of my popcorn turned out a bit burnt. Eh, whatevs. Popcorn (even burnt) is still a pretty satisfying snack while working.

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3. Burger King Steakhouse Burger

I’m generally a creature of habit. If I’m at Burger King, I get a Whopper. If I’m hungry, I’ll add a side of large fries. It really is that simple. But for some reason, after a long day at work at which I got off around 9 PM, I decided to throw caution to the wind and order a Steakhouse Burger. No idea why. Unfortunately, the picture on the menu never lives up to expectations. The expected fried onions were barely detectable and the meat was kinda weird and the bun was kinda weird and the sauce was kinda weird. It was just … off. And 38 RMB compared to the normal Whopper’s 21? I should’ve stuck with my usual. But oh well, I was adventurous (if only a little bit).

And you know what? The longer I stay in China, the more American I feel and the more I miss the States. As in, only in seeing the differences do I realize how completely American I really am – in the way I talk, the way I act, the things that I like, the things that I value. Sometimes even simple things like my preferences for food really put things into perspective. I’ve been in Shanghai for almost two years now and as much as I like and appreciate Shanghai for its potential and as much as I’ve grown personally and professionally since moving here, there really is no place like home. And I really do miss the food.

burger at the camel

Ah, burgers. I try not to be one of those obnoxious “look at me, look at me” Americans because they give the rest of us a bad name, but it’s still pretty obvious that I’m American. Not only because of my accent and the way I project my voice without consciously meaning to, but in my absolute enthusiasm for meat, cheese, and bread. And being from Texas, not only do I like burgers, I am a burger connoisseur. And sadly most of Shanghai’s options land on the mediocre to mediocre-good portion of the scale.


A bit back I went to The Camel, a pretty popular sports bar in Shanghai, for their Wednesday burger deal (burger and beer/wine for 50 RMB). I had their bacon cheeseburger and yum it was good, but just the standard kind of yum. You know what I mean? Meat, cheese, and bread will nearly always get a checkmark in my book, but it was a bit lacking in flavor and seasoning and just didn’t have that greasy richness I was hoping for. So The Camel won’t make my list, but if I’m in the area on a Wednesday … it’s still a good deal.

The Camel
1 Yueyang Road
Xuhui District, Shanghai

munching on munchies

Because sometimes you just need a hamburger. And crinkle fries. Especially when there’s free delivery. And if that craving happens about once a week, what’s the big deal?


Oh yes. I don’t understand why people think burgers are oh so unhealthy. What’s in a burger? Bread, meat, vegetable, fruit (the tomato), and dairy. Right there you have your five major food groups. Granted there’s not much nutritional value in the accompanying fries, but they’re good for the soul, so they’re a-okay in my book.

Five years ago when I first arrived in Shanghai, I heard about this hamburger place called Munchies, which was opened by an American, so I gave it a try and promptly fell in love. A lot of the burger joints in Shanghai are the gourmet kind, but Munchies is more of a normal burger place: good service, good food, and decent prices. The food isn’t write-home-about, but it’s solid. Now Munchies has two locations, although I’ve only been to the one. And I will keep going, because it’s good eatin’.

974 Wuding Road
Jing’an District, Shanghai
+86 4008 008 420

a good burger at piro

Yum, that’s a good burger. One thing I miss about the States is all the ground beef. I suppose that’s not typical of the whole of the States, but in Texas, I basically survived off of red meat and carbs. Steak, burgers, barbecue, and Tex-Mex galore! The meat quality in China can be iffy at times (and downright revolting at other times) so it’s hard to find good steak here without paying an arm and a leg for it. Thankfully there are a number of fairly decent burger places! (Not arm and leg prices, but not everyday deals either.)


When I first heard of Piro, I thought it was an Italian joint, because Piro sounds Italian, right? But thankfully it’s not! Because Shanghai really doesn’t need another mediocre Italian restaurant. Piro in Xuhui District (right by where Fortune Cookie is located) is American pub kind of food and it’s one of those bar/restaurant sort of deals where there’s always some kind of NBA game or what-not playing. Id est, it’s the typical American restaurant that doubles as a sports bar, which is the only kind of American restaurant you’re likely to see in Shanghai. I guess it’s the prevailing view that all Americans are obsessed with sports and beer. Hm … no comment.

Anyhow, their burgers are good, which makes sense given burgers make up half their menu – lots of burger options! Their burgers tend to the fancy shmancy type (small but tall) versus the more low-key wide and squat that I actually prefer, but taste and texture were good and my arms and legs are intact, so yay!

91 Changshu Road, near Changle Road
Xuhui District, Shanghai

leftovers leftovers leftovers

There’s a lot of food in New York. Thank goodness because I’m not a good cook (although for the sake of cheapness, I try). Eating out so often means … yummy midnight leftovers! It also means a very sad bank account … but let’s not think on that, eh?

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Beyond Thai Kitchen: Drunken Beef Fried Rice

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M&O Market & Deli: Fish Sandwich

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Red Rooster: Harlem Chowder

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M2M: Hamburger and Fries

All of these are totally recommended. Beyond Thai Kitchen’s drunken fried rice is really darn good and every time I go to M&O I try a different sandwich and am consistently completely satisfied. Red Rooster in Harlem on 125th is pricey, but it’s worth the trek and splurge … at least once. And as for M2M … I can’t even count how many times I’ve been there or how many hamburgers I’ve had from there – I also really don’t think I’d want to know.

burger + (bar/joint/place)

I had previously posted about a place called Burger Joint in Midtown, so I thought it’d only be fair to mention Mel’s Burger Bar in the UWS. Then that got me thinking … what makes a burger place a ‘burger bar’ versus a ‘burger joint’? Or for that matter, a ‘burger place’ (I’m specifically thinking of Dirty Martin’s Place in Austin)?

These three places are known for their burgers and have that same homey/classic Americana atmosphere … the only kind of atmosphere that allows one to wholeheartedly dig into a scrumdiddlyumptious burger. They definitely differ, but not to the degree that I would be able to identify Dirty Martin’s as a place rather than a joint, so what’s the deal?


Does it have to do with location or how they function? None of the three has real plates. None has multiple locations. Mel’s is a classic sit-down, at Burger Joint you collect your order from the counter, and at Dirty Martin’s you have the option of eating at the counter, inside, or at a picnic table outside. All have beer. Mel’s and Dirty Martin’s have televisions. Mel’s is a few blocks from an Ivy League school, Burger Joint is an ironic fad in a swanky hotel, and Dirty Martin’s is a cultural institution a stone’s throw from the ginormous University of Texas. None of them particularly cares about your health.

Hm. Whatever. I don’t think it really matters. How much do you pay attention to how something is named? At Mel’s I had the W.T.F. burger (seriously, that’s what it’s called) and it had cole slaw and fries on it. If that sounds disgusting to you, it’s okay, I never wanted to be friends with you anyway. Because it was delicious. Much better than Burger Joint, but I don’t think anything could ever compare to Dirty Martin’s greasy goodness …

burger joint

I’m not one of those girls who orders a salad at restaurants. The only kind of salads I like are Caesar salad and potato salad – neither of which is very healthy. So when I heard about this supposedly amazing burger place called Burger Joint, I decided that I had to try it. Well … that’s kind of a lie. It’s been on my list of places to try since last year, but I finally got around to it last weekend when a friend was in town and wanted to try an American burger.

Burger Joint succeeds in crafting its atmosphere more than its food. It’s located in the very posh, very sophisticated Le Parker Meridien hotel in Midtown. And then there’s this dramatic red curtain in the lobby, a narrow hallway, and voila … a very divey-burger joint, aptly called Burger Joint. But there’s also a long line, which is annoying because I hate waiting so long for food! The burger itself verged on mediocre and the meat definitely could have used more seasoning. I ordered mine with the works, so when I unwrapped it from its white paper … it looked pretty rough. Still, it was a fun place with a very random music playlist. Will I go again? Not unless someone else really wants to.