The vast country of China has just one time zone, so Shanghai’s East Coast location means darkness comes early and most residents usually eat by nightfall, with restaurants often closing their kitchens around 9 p.m. But for those who keep late hours, there are a few late night supper spots around town.
Aggressive government crackdowns on hawker stalls have driven many of the late night street vendors indoors, and our top five list goes beyond these roving vendors to feature a mix of restaurants that stay open late and small family-run gems that cater exclusively to the night-owl crowd.
A Wen Ye Shi Doujiang Youtiao Dian
As more street food vendors close around the city, Shanghainese diners long for the hawker stalls that thrive in Taipei’s night markets. A Wen tries to fill the gap by serving Chinese breakfast 24 hours a day, albeit indoors in a clean, but not mall-sterile environment. This shop sells Taiwanese standards, like egg pancakes (蛋饼 Dàn bǐng) and savory soymilk (咸豆浆 Xián dòujiāng), as well as classic Shanghainese dishes, like soup dumplings (小笼包 Xiǎo lóng bāo) and sesame balls (麻球 Má qiú).
Bai Wei Shou Bo Long Xia Guan
Shouning Lu food street may have closed, but the demand for crawfish is still high in Shanghai (in 2017, crawfish was the most ordered dish on Meituan-Dianping delivery service and is a US$14 billion yearly industry). Bai Wei serves up over 20 crawfish dishes, with cooking methods from dry-fried (干煸 Gān biān), stewed (黄焖 Huáng mèn) and fried with rice cakes (年糕 Niángāo). We recommend braised with 13 ingredients (十三香 Shísān xiāng), including a fragrant cumin, sliced onions and Chinese leeks. Spicy stir-fries are available on the side, and we like the spicy pressed tofu (小炒香干 Xiǎochǎo xiānggān).
One of Shanghai’s best options for cha canting (Hong Kong style diners), Cha’s usually has a long queue out the door. But if you come late-night, you’ll be able to get a table amongst the Ovaltine and Horlicks tins at the 1950s-style diner. If you need some more caffeine to fuel you through the night, try the 鸳鸯, black tea plus coffee mixed with condensed milk and served hot or iced, the perfect pairing for a sweet pineapple bun (菠萝包 Bōluó bāo) or savory beef rice noodles (干炒牛肉河粉, gàn chǎo niúròu hé fěn).
Ding Te Le
Hidden down a laneway, Ding Te Le serves Shanghainese alleyway cuisine – think comfort food like congee and noodles – 24 hours a day in a humble, cafeteria-style setting. But don’t let the plastic chopsticks fool you – this place prioritizes taste over looks. The bái zhī cōng yóu ròu sī bàn miàn (白汁葱油肉丝拌面) is a challenging mouthful to say, translating clumsily as “white juice scallion oil shredded meat mixed noodles, but is one delicious mouthful to eat. For the spice-inclined, the spicy meat with preserved vegetable noodles in soup (辣肉雪菜面, là ròu xuě cài miàn) is a must. Order the deep-fried fragrant pork cutlet (香炸大排, xiāng zhà dà pái), a Shanghainese standard, on the side to round out the meal.
Er Guang Hundun
The Pang family has been slinging dumplings to feed the nocturnal scene in Laoximen more than 20 years, and despite having to move from their original streetside location on Zhaozhou Lu, they show no signs of slowing down. Lines of a dozen or more people frequently queue up for their signature pork and shepherd’s purse dumplings (芥菜肉混沌, jiècài ròu hùndùn), which swim in a finger-lickingly chopstick-suckingly amazing peanut sauce. They have recently franchised their shop around the city, but this is original family-owned location.