Living in Nanjing
There’s a misconception that only First Tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai have anything to offer western tourists and serial expats, but it’s patently wrong.
More and more these days, ‘second tier cities’ such as Nanjing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, and Xi’an are developing thriving and cosmopolitan dining scenes that are a fine accompaniment to the fantastic local cuisine on offer.
Whether you’re stopping off as part of your travels across China or looking to move to Nanjing as a teacher or a student, chances are you’ll have a hankering for a taste of home at some point. I’ve done my best to collate a list of the best western food in Nanjing and arrange it by category.
If I’ve left something out (or if you run a restaurant and want to be included) let me know by leaving a comment below.
No matter how long you’re in Nanjing, be sure to check out Nanking Nation. Not only does their website have a lot of information about bars, restaurants, and things to do in Nanjing – but their discount card also works at a lot of the below venues.
For your convenience, I’ve listed addresses and websites (where available) for all venues at the bottom of this entry.
The Best Western Food in Nanjing
Below, you’ll find suggestions divided by broader categories of western food in Nanjing. I’ve picked a favourite, a runner up, and then listed any honourable mentions that spring to mind. Bon appetit!
Best Burgers in Nanjing
Winner – Motu
A New Zealand owned establishment in the charming Laomendong tourist area, Motu is a runaway winner when it comes to burgers. Using imported Mongolian beef and a range of New Zealand ingredients, their menu is a mouthwatering blend of American burger traditions and Kiwi innovation.
Home to Nanjing’s best vegetarian burger, they also have ridiculously good milkshakes made using New Zealand ice cream.
Runner Up – Momentum
A little difficult to find in the basement of the Catherine Park mall, Momentum is definitely worth taking the time to search out.
Once located in a tiny hole in the wall on Shanghai Road, the locally owned burger joint has since blossomed into a TGI Friday style family restaurant with a selection of American favourites including burgers, wings, and some truly decadent milkshakes and alcoholic smoothies.
The Momentum brand has since opened up two additional locations, including one in the more popular IST Mall.
Blue Frog does gourmet burgers at Shanghai prices but does have a pretty sweet 2 for 1 arrangement on Mondays that turns the restaurant/bar into one of Nanjing’s most popular spots.
Jimmy’s does a deliciously greasy chicken burger with bacon and cheese (ask for the Tropical Lava Thunder Burger) that is good for what ails you after a night of drinking.
Strikers Sports Bar, located on the ground floor of the Hilton, does some really good stuff with burgers as well. Thursday nights have discounted burgers and beers, making it a good stop before you head out.
Finnegan’s Wake is an Irish bar, but does a very good blue cheese burger and a few other offerings as well. They’re pricey but worth it.
Pimiento and Blue Sky also have passable burgers. The sliders at Blue Sky are worth a try.
Best Italian Food in Nanjing
Winner – Bellini’s
With two venues in the city (as well as a bar that doesn’t serve food), this classier Italian restaurant is a great place for dates or celebrations. While I’m of the belief their pasta dishes are a tad too small for their price tag, there’s no debating their quality.
The atmosphere at the restaurant is top notch, and it feels like you’re at a fancy restaurant rather than a Chinese impression of one.
Runner Up – Friends
It’s nothing to write home about, but Friends is a small restaurant that offers a selection of pizza and pasta at very affordable prices. I’m particularly fond of their pesto and spicy seafood pastas.
Jack’s Place, proudly displaying that it was once featured in Lonely Planet, offers dirt cheap Italian food that ranges from acceptable to quite good.
Syzeria, a chain of Japanese run restaurants with venues all over the city, is arguably the cheapest Italian meal you’ll find in the city. It’s greasy, uninspired fare – but if you’re on a budget and want some carbs, it’s worth a look. Cheap wine and beer make it popular with budget conscious students.
Best Pizza in Nanjing
Winner – Jimmy’s
Nanjing’s premier sports bar also happens to have (in my mind) the best American style pizza going. There’s a good selection of toppings and they’re one of the few pizza places to deliver until late. My personal favourites are the TaMu and the CJ, but they’re all pretty damn good.
Runner Up – Bellini’s
Boasting by far the biggest pizza you’ll find in Nanjing, Bellini’s does a 50% off night on Tuesdays that makes their already tempting pizzas nigh on irresistible. There’s not a lot of meat options available for the carnivores, but every one of their pizzas is a treat.
Pisa Pizza, with its more traditional, thin crust Italian style pizzas; is a popular alternative to the chains such as Pizza Hut and Papa Murphy’s. They also have a decent selection of pasta, and the option is there to eat in or have your favourite delivered. Try the four cheese pizza. It’s amazing.
The aforementioned Friends also does pizza.
Best European Food in Nanjing
Winner – Seleccion Espanola
Spanish cuisine isn’t one of the most popular cuisines on earth, but Seleccion Espanola is sure to make a believer out of you.
Their paella is not only huge but delicious, and there’s a number of mouth-watering tapas options. The sangria is pretty fantastic as well. This place was my go to date spot in Nanjing.
Runner Up – Les 5 Sens
I can’t go past this exquisite French eatery when it comes to European food, not from that little boot named Italy. The staff at Les 5 Sens are professional and the set menus are ridiculously filling at a good price. Enjoy an ice cold kir while you nosh on some divine mains; you won’t regret it!
Paulaner is a German brewery chain which offers a pretty good selection of German specialties such as sauerkraut, sausages, and other such treats. The prices are a bit steep, but all things are made better by a liter of hefeweizen.
Secco is a rather well-kept secret in the city, but this awesome bar also does some fantastic German food including schnitzels, kebabs, steaks, and sausage platters.
Brownstone might be more cocktail bar than restaurant, but their tapas selection is good and everything I’ve tried there has been worth the price.
Best Sandwiches in Nanjing
Winner – Skyways
A Nanjing tradition, Skyways is a bakery boasting the best (non-sweetened!) bread in the city and the best sandwiches to boot. 30rmb buys you a sandwich (choose from five toppings + salads + sauces) with a cold drink on the side, not a bad deal. There are also weekly special for those looking for some variety.
Runner Up – Element Fresh
Newly arrived on the Nanjing eating scene, the Shanghai brand has some damn fine sandwiches if you’re willing to pay a little extra. There’s a selection of 10-12 cold or hot sandwiches that ought to satisfy your western cravings.
Momentum is more famous for its burgers, but it also has a number of sub style sandwiches including BLTs, turkey & cranberry, and Philly cheese steak. They’re not as good as their burgers, but are a sizable bite.
Wagas is another Shanghai chain offering some good western style sandwiches, including some delicious breakfast options.
Uncle Pizza does Skyways sandwiches for a fraction of the price of Skyways, and also has a selection of pizzas at very affordable prices.
Best Buffet in Nanjing
Winner – Tairyo Teppanyaki
It’s not technically ‘western’, but this Japanese chain is a popular ‘all you can eat’ option for the western scene. 180rmb buys you bottomless drinks and your choice of as much of anything on the menu as your heart desires. Watch as the chef cooks it in front of you and then wolf down as much steak, seafood, and sweetness as you can stomach.
Runner Up – ???
I don’t know a great many other buffets in town, I’m afraid to say. The city did used to have a pretty stellar Buddhist vegetarian buffet, but it’s since turned into a pricey eatery 🙁
Avoid the churrasco inspired Golden Hans at all costs. Cold meats and poorly prepared salads? Blech!
Best Bar Food in Nanjing
Winner – Jimmy’s
He has the best pizza in town, but there’s no denying that Jimmy’s is the king of Nanjing bar food. The greasy burgers, sizable pies, a modest Mexican menu, and his signature BBQ all make for a perfect accompaniment to a dozen or so ice cold beers.
BBQ nights serve up great steaks and ribs and make Jimmy’s a popular dinner option.
Runner Up – Talking
A chain of 6-8 bars scattered across the city, Talking has a surprisingly broad selection of foods including Thai, Italian, and German. It’s hardly gourmet fare, but at the low prices and quick cooking time, it’s a good option if you’re about to have a big night and want to line your stomach.
Finnegan’s Wake is a bit pricey to be considered bar food, but there’s a pretty fantastic selection of burgers, larger meals, and desserts on hand if you’re feeling peckish.
Secco’s kebabs are a brilliant option if you’re late into your evening and feeling a mite peckish as well.
Brewsell’s does a range of grilled sandwiches that are worth a look if you’re after a fast bite.
Blue Sky has a range of traditional bar foods, as well as some Australian staples such as meat pies. It’s not cheap.
I’ve not made it over yet, but Gilly’s apparently does some great bar food. Their pizzas get plenty of love.
Best Cafe in Nanjing
Winner – Local Birds
Maybe I’m just a sucker for bagels, but Local Birds has a great selection of bagels, donuts, and other treats to start your morning with. They also have quick and cheap Americano and Espresso coffees.
Runner Up – Pause
A cute little alleyway cafe with plenty of seats and acceptable WiFi, this is a good one to set up for a day of work. It doesn’t offer much in the way of food, unfortunately, but it has the best selection of coffees and teas outside of a Starbucks or Costa Coffee.
Their cookies and cream latte is a personal favourite.
It’s best known for its sandwiches, but Skyways also has a number of cakes, cookies, and even ice cream for those with a sweet tooth. They do a variety of coffees as well.
Eat is located right next to Pause, and has some decent options as well.
Sculpting in Time is a perennial favourite with university students, and is a go to place for language exchange meetups.
Best Mexican in Nanjing
Winner – Axis
Almost as soon as my post went live, I’d received an email from an ardent admirer of this relative newcomer to Nanjing’s food scene. Located a little farther afield in Xianlin, this place
Located a little further afield in Xianlin, this place specializes in Tex Mex style comfort food but also does pizzas and other perennial favourites. Cherie swears by the place, so I’ll be heading down there in the next week to try it out myself.
Runner Up – Behind the Wall
From a newcomer to one of Nanjing’s longest lived foreign food establishments, Behind the Wall offers faux Mexican that ranges from dreadful (their soggy nachos) to decent (their quesadillas). The place has a great outdoor seating area and does a happy hour most nights, making it a fun place to hang out and drink. Just not a place I’d recommend if you’re craving good quality Mexican.
Gilly’s (also in Xianlin) also has a selection of Tex-Mex favourites.
Best Asian Cuisine in Nanjing
Winner – Taj Mahal
Nanjing is blessed with a number of good Indian options, but for my money, Taj Mahal is the best bang for your buck. With venues in both Xinjekou and Shanghai Lu, Taj Mahal has a large selection of curries as well as tandoori, naan, starters, and desserts. They also deliver.
Runner Up – Pho Saigon
Located in in Xinjiekou, this often overlooked gem is a real treat for lovers of Vietnamese food. Their English menu is full of Vietnamese favourites mixed in with a few other southeast Asian favourites from Thailand and Indonesia.
The Vietnamese coffee is terrific and they’ve also got a selection of southeast Asian desserts.
Poets in Deji Plaza does a selection of Thai and Thai fusion dishes, as well as having ladies night (free mojitos) on a Wednesday and guys night (free Heineken on a Thursday) to lure in the college crowd.
Masala is another great Indian restaurant with all of your favourite curries.
Thai Tasty in Xianlin is one I’ve not visited myself, but I’ve heard good things about their selection of Thai dishes.
Wagas is another Shanghai institution that has recently joined Element Fresh and Blue Frog in the city. It is more of a juice bar and coffee shop but has some remarkably good Thai curries on offer.
Best Brunch in Nanjing
Winner – Pimiento
From a sheer bang for your buck perspective, it’s hard to overlook Pimiento’s 35RMB Saturday or Sunday brunch. Bacon, eggs, sausage, ham, vegetables, and French toast accompanied by bottomless tea or coffee? You can’t beat that when you’re nursing a hangover and need a grease injection.
Runner Up – Element Fresh
It’s pricey, but Element Fresh’s brunch menu includes French toast, sandwiches, salads, traditional continental or American breakfasts, and even breakfast burritos. Their selection of juices and smoothies make for a nice accompaniment too.
I’ve not had the pleasure of partaking, but Finnegans Wake does a number of breakfast options including a full English. Haggis is available as well, for those really missing the Old Dart.
It’s worth noting that Nanjing is a developed and rapidly westernising city. You’ll be able to find recognizable western food chains such as McDonalds, Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and the like all over the city. There’s even a few Cold Stone Ice Creameries.
Nanjing’s Western Food Options
|Seleccion Espanola||57 Zhongshan Dong Lu (中山东路57号)||+86 152 4021 6048||Spanish|
|Lotusum||209 Shanghai Lu||+86 025 83301989||Wine Bar|
|Axis||12 Xianyin Bei Lu||+86 158 95872728||Mexican|
|Bellini’s||Nan xiu cun 14, off Shanghai lu (上海路南秀村14)||+86 025 52888857||Italian|
|Blue Marlin||1912, 8 Changjiang Houjie, Xuanwu District, Nanjing (南京市玄武区长江后街8号1912街区)||+86 025 84537376||European|
|Friends||TaoGuXinCun 4 – #2 Hankou Lu (鼓楼区汉口路陶谷新村4-2# （近上海路）)||+86 025 86617101||Italian|
|Jimmy’s||193 Shigu Road, Block of Gourmet Food & Leisure, Sunglow Bay||+86 025 86792599||American|
|Masala||Shop A05,12 Xianyin Beilu Qixia District (仙隐北路12号亚东商业广场A05)||+86 025 84448858||Indian|
|Momentum||88 Beijing East Road, Nanjing 210000, China||+86 25 8660 0042||Burgers|
|Pisa Pizza||81#-8 Shanghai Lu (上海路81号-8)||+86 158 05177575||Italian|
|Poets||Zhongshan Road No. 100, 1st Floor, IST Mall (中山路100号艾尚天地一楼A119)||+86 025 85656079||Thai|
|Strikers||1st Floor Hilton Hotel Nanjing (南京万达希尔顿酒店一楼
|+86 025 086658888||American|
|Thai Tasty||Shop 03, No12, XianYin BeiLu, QiXia District, Nanjing (南京市栖霞区仙隐北路12号亚东商业广场A03)||+86 025 84448858||Thai|
|Skyways||Shanghai Lu 160 (上海路160号)||+86 025 83317103||Bakery|
|Local Birds||158 Shanghai Road, Jinyin Street. Unit 106 (上海路158号, 金银街106号 （旁边Talking 3))||+86 186 5169 9613||Bagels|
|Pause Cafe||21 Nan Xiu Cun (南京市鼓楼区南秀村21号101室)||+86 025 86452567||Coffee|
|Finnegans Wake||6 Cinnalane, corner of Shengzhou Lu and Zhongshan Nan Lu (南京市中山南路升州路(原中北汽车站)熙南里街区6号)||+86 025 52207362||English|
|Brewsell’s||77 Shanghai Road (上海路77号（广州路的十字路口）||+86 025 58779429||Sandwiches|
|Secco||Chang Hong Lu 132 ,across from Suguo (长虹路132号,苏果对面)||+86 138 14020098||German|
|Paulaner||123 Guangzhou Lu||+86 025 83233999||German|
|Pimiento||209 Shanghai Road||N/A||Cafe|
|Sacre Bleu||209 Shanghai Road||N/A||Cafe|
|Taj Mahal||189 Shanghai Lu (上海路 189号 (猫空咖啡对面)||+86 025 83350491||Indian|
|Jack’s Place||35 Wangfu Lu||+86
|Studio 21||193 Shigu Road||+86 025 86795269||European|
|Les 5 Sens||51-1 Hankou Lu||+86 025 83595859||French|
|Element Fresh||100 Zhongshan Lu||+86 025 8565 6096||Healthy|
|Wagas||102 Zhongshan Lu||Healthy|
|Blue Frog||100 Zhongshan Lu or 501-B1, 1 Jianking Road (Aqua City)||+86 025 85656022||Burgers|
|Blue Sky||77 Shanghai Road||+86 025 86639197||Australian|
|Behind the Wall||Corner Nan xiu cun and Shanghai Lu||N/A||Mexican|
|Gilly’s||No.108 Wenfan Road, Xianlin District, Nanjing 21000||
+86 25 6606 6188
No.107 Gutong Alley, Laomendong | No.107 Zatong Alley, Nanjing 210006, China
|+86 177 0159 8220||Burgers|
ZhongShan Road 57, Nanjing, China
|+86 25 8472 9518||Japanese|
No. 25 Lion Bridge, Hunan Road, China, Jiangsu Province, Nanjing
|+86 (0)25 8337 4353||Vietnamese|
Shanghai Lu Market, 22 Hankou Xi Lu
Have I missed one of your favourite Nanjing restaurants? Have I done your favourite a disservice by not rating it higher? I’d love to hear your opinions!