Windows Too

24 Jan 2006

Windows is a “chain” of bars in Shanghai. The original Windows bar was so successful that Windows Too was opened, followed by Windows Tembo and Windows Scoreboard. A segment of the Shanghai population considers Windows trashy, and not without reason. I still think Windows is not bad at all, though, for the following reasons:

1. The drinks are really cheap. 10 rmb gin and tonics! All drinks are 10 or 20 rmb. (Drinks in most Shanghai bars start at 30 or 40, and I’m not talking about the expensive bars).

2. Even on Sunday night when other bars are deserted, the place gets pretty packed.

3. Cheap drinks!

4. People dance. It’s just a fun atmosphere. (No snobs in Windows!)

5. Drinks… cheap!

Since the Windows model has obviously been successful enough to open three additional bars, I wonder why more bars aren’t copying it. The model is basically: (1) cheap drinks, (2) popular hip hoppish music. Nothing remotely fancy or difficult. As best as I can guess, the model is not being copied because (1) bar owners like to be pretentious, and (2) most people in Shanghai like pretentious bars. (They call it “class” but they’re not fooling me.)

Windows Too is a bar in Shanghai I have had fun at on multiple occasions. I can’t really say the same about any other bar except for the now gone Tanghui and the legendary Excalibur Rocks behind the Portman, which I found out the other day has already disappeared into some new construction site (don’t cry, Greg). Of course, the best time I ever had at Excalibur Rocks was largely due to one Jamie Doom, but that’s another story

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. The Windows model seems to be copied all over the place here in Beijing, especially in the student district of WuDaoKou such as Taku and Wudaokou. There are arounf 4 bars there that offer cheap drinks 10-20 kuai with a VIP card that nearly everyone has, and 50 Kuai open bar nights Wed-Sat. Its all popular hipphopish music, and those places are packed until 3 am even on Monday, I think they are more popular here because there are simply more students (foreign AND Chinese) in Beijing. There are also 2 or so new bar/clubs opening up in the area this spring/summer, so things are getting better. People rag on and on about why Shanghai’s nightlife is so much better, but I think its a bunch of nicely dressed up places with mediocre service and expensive drinks. Although I did have a blast at Windows when I was there. Maybe this is because I am still a Junior in college. But I do have to say distance can be a killer here in Beijing, if you live in Chaoyang its a 25 minute 30 kuai taxi ride toget there, and vice versa.

  2. I think they also serve 10RMB Burgers.. or was it 20RMB burgers?

  3. There’s also a basementy bar on DingXi lu (by Zhongsan Park) that seems to follow a similar model.

    It’s a lot dirtier, but has sort of an interesting crowd (and 10RMB drinks!).

    Either way, I’ve always found these sorts of bars to have way more character than places like Pegasus or Mural or most of the other places on Maoming Lu (though blue frog has cute shotglasses).

  4. The basement bar on Dingxi Rd is called C’s, and while they have cheap drinks I wouldn’t say they’re following the same model as Windows. C’s is one of the few dives in Shanghai that knows it’s a dive and celebrates the fact — they have good music and cool events (eg Antidote party), and they’re only pretentious about their indie cred. Windows Too is just a shopping mall bar filled with bad hip-pop and kids who wish they could afford Bar Rouge.

  5. Brad,

    Thanks for that name. I am a little curious now, since that’s gotta be really close to me. What’s the cross street?

    Seeing your comment, I thought you might plug some other up and coming Shanghai bar…

  6. John, if you had checked out the number one English language resource for rock music in Shanghai before replying, you would know that C’s is on Dingxi Rd, just south of Yan’an Rd and before Fahuazhen Rd. I think the actual cross street is an alley called Niuqiao Rd (牛桥路).

    I’d love to plug Shuffle, but I think it’s in a different niche than Windows or C’s. For one thing, the cheapest drink is Tsingtao, at 25RMB (Carlsberg draught is 30RMB)…but I guess it’s a decent deal when you factor in the free live band.

  7. Brad,

    Yeah, you’re right, the niche is a bit different, but I never minded paying 30 for Carlsberg draught at Tanghui because as you say, the music more makes it worthwhile.

  8. OK, actually the niches are quite different, they’re just grouped in my mind because unlike most bars in Shanghai, they’re bars I don’t mind.

  9. There’s a quote for the testimonial page on Shuffle’s website: “One of the few bars in Shanghai I don’t mind.”

  10. Sounds like just about every other bar opening in Beijing these days – overplayed hip hop, sticky floors and practically free drinks. You know you’re in serious trouble when they don’t even stock bottled Qingdao, but the other rip off green labelled one. What’s it called? something 山?

  11. again, i’m reading this from Vietnam. Anyways, we have a chain of cafes here, also called Windows. Basically over priced coffee drinks, but that’s the whole coffee scene around here. No Starbucks… are they in Beijing yet? Thought I read somewhere that they are…

  12. Wanbro – do you mean Lao Shan? you can find it in Qingdao at the Xiao Mai Bu’s, usually 9 bottles in one crate for 15rmb. The great Qingdao bargain.

  13. Windows Too was one of my favorite places in Shanghai, and the fact that I will never again be able to lose all my money at Excalibur again while dancing with a hula hoop makes me feel not a little empty inside. You can’t sling a dead poodle without hitting a pretentious watering hole in Shanghai, which I think is while Carl likes the town so much.

    Give me a place that has some real people—people who don’t need expensive crunk to wild out. Of course the place that Greg, Alf and I are opening will be dirty, cheap, shady, and have pirated Telmundo soap operas playing 24/7. I don’t want to reveal too much of our business plan but let me just say: hip h-opera Tuesdays (With the stylings of R Kelly’s young brother S), and Free Anti-biotics Fridays—cuz we care. Oh…and drinks start at 8 rmb. Holla.

  14. My top three favorite Shanghai bars:

    1) Plan B
    2) Goodfellas
    3) Windows Scoreboard

    All of them very cheap. What you meant to say Jamie is that I like pretentious clubs, CLUBS, not bars. 😉 I do agree with John in that Windows Too does make for an amusing night out. The people watching opportunities are not to be missed. Fun to watch english teacher white boys consistently crash and burn until they, inevitably, find that dumb girl with a low enough self-esteem to go home with them. Completely unrelated to that fact, ahem, I hope that a certain Naval Aviator had fun the other night at said venue. They also had the best bartender in town, but he thankfully moved over to Scoreboard. 🙂 Scoreboard doesn’t play hip-hop and isn’t full of lames.

    John, C’s is just dirty, but you should give it a try. Also, Tanghui is supposedly reopening on Changle Lu sometime next month. I hope they bring their antique dildo collection and the unfairly musically gifted Xinjiang hash-head from the previous bar. Plan B is under new management (sorta) and is ready to rock again.

  15. Carl,

    I think I know the Windows bartender you mean… He used to always be there, but he wasn’t there last time.

    I’ll have to check out Plan B one of these nights. For some reason I always assumed it was one of those pretentious places… 🙂

    When Tanghui reopens I’ll be there.

  16. Kel, there is a Starbucks in Beijing…in the Forbidden City no less. At least they kept the signage low keyed. Not sure if there are others, although I would assume there are.

  17. the best bar in shanghai is a bottle of baijiu and a bench in fuxing park…

  18. Lao Shan sounds about right. Bottled dog’s piss, but makes for a cheap and rowdy round. Which is what these bars are all about really, isn’t it?

  19. Yea I agree Beijing does not have the “class” of shanghai, but who cares? You can have the same amount of fun in Beijing for 1/3 of the price in Shanghai. There is 50kuai all you can drink from Wed-Sat in Beijing, you just can’t beat that. (Wed- Propaganda, Thurs- Taku and Vics, Friday – Taku, Sat – Taku) and most bars in beijing will serve beer for 10kuai. Admitted the distance thing is a pain, but you just take a few shots before you get into the taxi to keep the party goin’

  20. Reggae Bar = undisputed heavyweight champ, and don’t say you hate it Carl because I know you love it (beeyotch!).
    Tang Hui = overrated, and liking anything about Tanghui except the couches in the entryway and the luscious red lighting automatically makes you a hoser. Except liking that it’s gone.
    Blue Frog happy hour = economical way to drink in the company of women in suits.
    Windows needs an age limit, or age cap actually, because I’m definitely too old for that place. I wonder if I could request that I be 86ed.

  21. @Alf

    You made several squirrel friends that night didn’t you.

    @John

    Yeah, the guy with the ponytail. His name is Donny. We are good buds. Did I mention that Windows Scoreboard sells Xinjiang Black Beer for 10rmb?

    @LD

    Yes, Reggae ROOLS, but unfortunately it’s in HZ. Best bar in China hands down. I think the new Tanghui is gonna suck since apparently it’s going to be much larger than the old one. Windows Scoreboard is nice because there aren’t alot of young people, you don’t have to like sports to have a good time (just ignore the silent TV screens), and its still cheap. Plus, darts!

    @Brian

    While I agree that the Starbucks inside the Forbidden City is low key, the guy they hire to loudly point out its existence to tourists is not. I nearly karate chopped him in the throat…and then I went and got a orange frappuccino.

  22. Carl, Alf and I almost got in a fight with an Aussie member of the Russian mafia in Reggae one time. Something about Americans being loud while they playing “spin the phone”… My vote in Hangzhou goes to the now defunct Man Bar who’s owners let Carl and I beat them in basketball everyday before they killed us in dice.

  23. John,
    I think we had the house Rockin the other night at Windows – even for a Sunday. Next time I promise to get up on stage earlier… Although, I still believe I’ll stay on stage and dance alot. It was too much fun getting the crowd going.
    Thanks, c’ya on my next trip thru and we’ll do it again. Next time we might take a posse.
    Greg

  24. The marvellous thing about a bar named “Windows” is that it really brings new meaning to the idea of a Windows-induced crash. And you could refer to the hangover pallor as the “Windows blue sheen of death”.

    Sorry. To cheap to ignore such obvious puns.

  25. […] John in Shanghai relates his take on a trashy bar, where apparently the drinks are el-cheap-o. […]

  26. Nope, no Starbucks anywhere in Vietnam.

    Um, when you said trashy, I thought you were talking about “seedy.” I guess not? This place sounds pretty upscale from the sound of it. At least what I’m used to anyway.

  27. I contacted the boss of Tanghui for a few times, the guy said it’s gonna be reopened on Feb. at Huating Rd., sounds pretty good though it’s still under construction IMO.

  28. It might be cheap, but it is also dangerous. I saw three Window’s Too security guys beat up two foreigners and a Chinese girls. The security guys used beer bottles and a broom stick, and made contact a number of times. Both foreigners had blood running down their faces, and the Chinese girl was thrown to the ground. A foreign manager stepped in at the last moment shouting, “Don’t use bottles! Don’t use bottles”. Was he recommending a better weapon? I guess that’s what you get for wearing a suit to a bar like windows. Enjoy the cheap drinks, but be careful about upsetting the staff.

  29. Stanger Says: May 13, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    Good news! Tanghui reopened last night. Yes, LD it is bigger, but it hasn’t lost any of the original rawness. 85 Huating Road, corner of Huaihai Road.

  30. Be warned Says: July 10, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Excalibur is back but be warned you will go have a good time and have a huge dent in your wallet . I recommend that you stay away from this bar too many guys including yours truly has come unstuck there lately !!!!!!

  31. […] or mid-week bar that was totally our local – I’m pleased to see it still getting some love. It was massively student like really, but the pre-uni me didn’t spot […]

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