The greatest appeal of Shanghai's cuisine is that it is the best of both China past and China present. Without the recipes that have sprung from the surrounding Jiangnan region or a record population to devour local favorites like xiaolongbao and sheng jian bao on a daily basis, this city would not have developed a reputation for delicious food that extends far beyond the country's borders. Despite the fact that urban street eating is not as prevalent as it was even a decade ago, there are a number of inexpensive local chains that provide the best of Shanghai's food staples and a handful of streets that will reap gastronomic rewards for the savvy traveler.
Being that Shanghai is so huge, there are going to be tons of places to eat, including a smattering of Western chains and other internationally recognized fare. We say that when in Shanghai, you should definitely eat local. If you're looking for an area representative of romantic China, there are a number of side streets in the former French Concession that are ever-popular for the shikumen houses (stone tenements and narrow lanes) and quiet cafes and eateries. Most famous is undoubtedly Tianzifang, although if you are looking to get off the beaten path and still enjoy the same vibe, head to Jing'an Villa for a truly quaint area with food stalls that has yet to be infiltrated by tourists and the commercial industry that follows.
Speaking of authentic food areas that have been gentrified, Wujiang Lu was turned into an “entertainment area” a few years back and has lost the urban flair that made it such a huge draw for a long time. There are still a lot of moderately cheap restaurants in the neighborhood, so don't let it deter you too much. The street food on Yuyuan Road near the Yuyuan Gardens in the Old City has the largest selection and variety, as well ubiquitous Ming and Qing architecture, while those searching for something a little simpler can visit the stalls along Sipilou Lu. Finally, if you're in a seafood mood (and Shanghai has plenty of quality seafood), head toward the northern outskirts of Shanghai to the Tongchuan Lu fish market, where you can choose your own fish to be cooked at one of the nearby restaurants.
Although it is nearly impossible to outline all of the excellent restaurants in the city, there are a handful of local chains that have the quality recipes and long queues that are indicative of their worthiness. The cuisine, particularly the soup-filled buns, of Din Tai Feng has been labeled amongst the top in the world, while a cheaper, no-frills variation can be found at a number of Jia Jia Tang Bao locations. Then again, the shen jian bao (soup-filled dumplings) of Yang's are arguably a Shanghai treasure. For a more specific listing of restaurants that may be of interest, peruse our activities and see exactly what you could be eating when your time comes to touch down in this great city.