Taco Bell Shanghai: 4 Differences from Home

After 8 years, Taco Bell has returned to Shanghai much like Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines. And like MacArthur, you’ll spend sleepless nights wondering if it was all worth it. 

"People of Shanghai! I have returned!"

"People of Shanghai! I have returned!"

Situated in the heart of Lujiazui next to the Oriental Pearl Tower (Lujiazui Metro Line 2, Exit 2), this is sure to be the most fancy location to give you spicy belly in the entire world. 

First Thoughts: Décor

Industrial chic on the outside, this Taco Bell is unapologetically non-Chinese. There is no mention of the Chinese name (塔克贝尔) nor do they even really have pictures of tacos. I would imagine, if I was a visitor from Dong Bei on my way to the Shanghai Tower, I would probably pass by this blissfully unaware of the cheesy goodness inside. 

Inside, surfboards line the ceiling as a reminder of its California roots while the rest looks like exactly what you’d expect from a slightly upper class version of a Taco Bell from the movie Demolition Man. 

First Thoughts: Food

The food was almost unnervingly fresh. Everything looked like the slimy, gooey Taco Hell, as it was so lovingly named in the USA, from home but tasted like it was made fresh to order. So much so, that in my brain I decided that this was a healthy alternative to my normal meals to justify coming back 3-4 times a week. 

Cheesy Goodness by Andrew Rochfort

Cheesy Goodness by Andrew Rochfort

The menu is limited as of now with only a few types of burritos, tacos and quesadillas, but I’m sure they’ll continue to expand as they go. There are also some new additions to the menu like chicken wings, French fries and waffles with chocolate syrup. For some reason they have added salads too. You want to be healthy? Don’t go to Taco Bell. 

 

Seen here: An absolute monster eating a salad at Taco Bell. Ugh. 

Seen here: An absolute monster eating a salad at Taco Bell. Ugh. 

 4 Differences Between Chinese Taco Bell and Home

1. Price

In the USA, you could feed a family of four with the change you found in your couch at Taco Bell. Unfortunately, here your couch better be lined with gold because a Cheesy Chicken Double Decker Taco will run you 39RMB ($5.64). You could get 3 of those in the US for the same price.

2. Drink, Drank, Drunk

Everyone knows it is mandatory in the USA to be drunk when visiting a Taco Bell (Thanks, Obama) but they don’t even have the common courtesy to provide you with the booze you need to do it. Like some kind of animal, you have to drink at home, order an Uber and go. Luckily, Shanghai has fixed this small glitch, as you can now get as drunk as you want here! Surprisingly, they serve mojitos, margaritas and even have Asahi beer on draught. 

Look ma! I'm getting drunk in a Taco Bell

Look ma! I'm getting drunk in a Taco Bell

3. Condiments

Those fun hot sauce packets with the silly sayings are gone. I was hoping we'd have them in Chinese, but no dice. It has been replaced by a decent selection of sauces at a sauce bar that now includes Sriracha sauce. 

4. Mountain Dew Baja Blast

Oh, God no! Why?! Why, no Baja Blast?!

No time for photos. More Taco Bell

No time for photos. More Taco Bell

Final Thoughts

Overall, Taco Bell was one of the only American staples that gave you hope for your trips home. Now, that it’s here and actually up to and surpassing the standards of Taco Bells back home. We never have to see our families ever again!


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5 Shanghai Urban Legends

Halloween is quickly approaching and there are frightful howls and screams all over Shanghai and I’m not talking about outside of Perry’s.

There are many urban legends in Shanghai about the secret spots where you might find a ghost or two. We here at The Shanghai Show don’t believe in urban legends and ain’t afraid of no ghosts! So we’ll tell you what we think really happened. 

The Paramount

In its heyday,  The Paramount was the place to be seen. Westerners visiting Shanghai would always make a stop over at this beautiful theatre. Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Shanghai’s notorious gangster Du Yueshang and the wealthy elite of Shanghai all would dance the night away in the coolest place in the East.

The Legend

A young girl named Chen Manli was a dancer at the Paramount in the 1940’s. She was the type of dancer you could pay to join you for a couple of dances when you were in town. According to who tells you the legend, she refused to dance with either Du YueShang or a Japanese officer. The gangster/officer was so angry, he walked in to the club and shot Manli where she immediately died. If you can sneak up to the fourth floor where she was killed, some say you can still see her ghost dancing by herself.

Later on the same theatre had a tragic scaffolding accident that lead to the death of a pedestrian. Some say this pedestrian can still be seen on the top floor of the Paramount throwing things out of the top floor window. 

What we think happened

Chen Manli was a woman about town and had debts to pay off. She decided that the easiest way to do this was to fake her death. She hired the gangster/Japanese official to fake her death. When her body was eventually removed, she was whisked away to Bangkok where she helped start the very first “lady” bar on Soi Cowboy. Some say you can still see her granddaughter selling overpriced tequila on the fourth floor of that bar. 

Qiu Mansion

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The Qiu Brothers were migrant workers from Shandong who moved to Shanghai at the turn of the century to try to earn a living. In 1915, they came into a warehouse formerly owned by the Germans but later fled during World War I. The story goes that the warehouse was loaded with paint. As the war waged on and prices of paint skyrocketed, the brothers quickly became millionaires. They became some of Shanghai’s most elite businessmen above that of some notorious gangsters.

 The brothers built identical mansions and surrounded themselves with immaculate gardens with tigers, peacocks and crocodiles around a man-made lake. It is said that every day at noon, two thousand pigeons were released from a towering aviary, darkening the skies over the country club on Love Lane (now Wujiang Lu)

 At the height of their powers, the Qiu brothers disappeared. No one knows what happened to them. Their animals were sold off or eaten by starving Shanghainese. One of the mansions was demolished in the 1950’s.

The Legend

During a demolition on Weihai Lu and Shimen Yi Lu a rumor circulated around the city. Li Fei, a night nurse at Yueyang Hospital, treated several construction workers for bit wounds despite there not being any wild animals around. People say that a mason attacked his manager with a hammer and claimed that “lizards” made him do it. A nearby neighbor swore she spotted a dragon crawling on a construction crane.

Workers at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel, located across from the site complained they were afraid to work night shifts due to creepy crawlers and ghostly animals. 

What we think happened

Real Estate prices in Shanghai have always been wild. Mansions are expensive, man. What’s the best way to get a mansion for cheap? Release thousands of man-eating lizards around the site. Boom. ??? Profit. Problem is lizards move quick. Soon, they found they couldn’t control the lizard population so they gave up on building a swanky pad on the site. Instead, they sold the land to Jalapeno and now you can eat Mexican food surround by…I mean…with absolutely no lizards around. 

Plaza 66

Behind that beautiful mall where you sip your lattes and buy your designer clothes lies a dark past. During its construction, everything went wrong. It got to the point where they had to call in fengshui master to see what was going on. Turns out, an ancient goddess was living in the foundation of the construction site and she was not too pleased with the new project. 

The Legend

The ancient goddess was so unpleased with the project that the fengshui master helped to alter the design of Plaza 66. If you look at it today, the designed was changed to resemble that of incense burning in honor of the goddess. After that, construction crews claimed they had no problems on the site and everything went back to normal after the goddess was pleased. 

What we think happened

I wish there was a way when I messed up at work that I could just blame it on an ancient goddess. "Uh, boss...I didn't finish that project because...you know, the ancient goddess." Clearly, the architect noticed quickly that this building was just ugly and instead of fessin' up to the boss and having to say, "we have to start over," he just told him, "sorry boss, gotta make it an incense holder for the goddess. How much more? Just an extra couple million. You understand."

 

Jing'an Park

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Some of you that have enjoyed a stroll through Jing’an Park may not know that this was once a cemetery for expats in Shanghai. In the 1950’s it was exhumed to make room for the park.

The Legend

After being exhumed, ghosts have been reported in the park. If you go for a late night stroll through Jing’an Park, keep an eye out for the spirits of expats past that haunt the park searching for their final resting place.

What we think happened

This one’s true. I’ve had many friends attacked by ghosts as they left Windows Too at 3am. Wait, ghost is another name for a streetwalker, right?

The Dragon Pillar

You may have noticed this pillar if you’re walking around Shanghai near Jing’an. In the 1990’s, Shanghai was completing the construction of it’s elevated highway system in the city center. They were working at an incredible pace until the team found that they were unable to drive in the pile supporting the conjunction of the two elevated highways. They say it just refused to go down no matter what they tried. The government and engineers were perplexed as to why this was happening because Shanghai overall had very agreeable soil and this was the most important part of the whole highway system.

The Legend

A theory was proposed by fengshui experts that they may have hit a “dragon vein” and have offended the dragon guarding the city. This upset government officials but the crew couldn’t get it done and even foreign scientists couldn’t figure out why when brought in.

Eventually, everyone gave in and brought in a monk from Longhua Temple Zhenchan to explain what was happening. After he surveyed the site, he explained that the only was to solve the problem was to invite the dragon, who was lurking underground, to come out. He explained that to do this, a series of religious rites must be performed. What these rites actually were has yet to be discovered as they were hidden away. The monk chipped away at the dragon carvings which can still be seen today.

Eventually, the dragon was pleased and the pillar was put in place. The monk, Zhenchen, passed away seven days after the construction of the pillar.

What we think happened

Another case of the, “Oh, crap, this isn’t working…let’s tell the boss some ancient story.” To be fair, I like these kinds of stories way more than the ones we get back in the West. How much nicer would it be if this is how Western government officials spoke:

Reporter: Why isn’t that roadway system finished?
Government Leader: BECAUSE OF DRAGONS, MAN! THERE ARE DRAGONS DOWN THERE!


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Brian Tock Talks Tock's

The Shanghai Show is a weekly podcast featuring comedy bits and sketches along with world news and interviews with some of the heavy hitters in Shanghai and all over the world. Listen to the full interview on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, LizhiFM or XimalayaFM. 

If you’ve ever gone in to Tock’s you, no doubt, have met Brian Tock. One of the founders of Tock’s Montreal Deli, Brian shared his passion for smoked meats with Shanghai and even had Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau come in to talk shop one week before the infamous WeChat post that was shared all over about the falling out. The once proclaimed “New Emperor of China” by the Montreal Gazette sat down with The Shanghai Show to get to know the man behind the meat. [Listen to the full episode below]

Where are you from?
Originally from Montreal. A suburb about 15-20 minutes outside of Montreal called West Island. Grew up there, went to school there and then made a jump to London, Ontario and went to school at University of Western.

What brought you to Shanghai?
I used to be in manufacturing, headwear, accessories out of Montreal and I made my first trip to China in 2009/2010 and from there I came about 4-5 times a year. I’d come down to Guangdong and Dongguan and do that whole factory thing and I was always craving sandwiches. I grew up a Jewish kid in Montreal, deli meats were just part of the staple and so I just had some random thoughts, “oh, that’d be cool” and then went back home, quit my job, was working with some startups, got a phone call from my uncle who had traveled to Asia for many years and he was like, “Hey, what do you think about smoked meats in Shanghai?” It just so happened that I had a nice duplex in Montreal and smoking and curing meats was a passion of mine that I did so I put a plan together, jumped on a plane and moved to Shanghai. 

“I grew up a Jewish kid in Montreal, deli meats were just part of the staple.”

So you had the regular expat life but you came over and realized what was missing?
You know I can’t take credit for immediately realizing anything. I thought I knew China was about coming here 4-5 times a year . I thought, speaking to people , you’re like, “Oh, ok that’s China, I get it,” but actually moving here, living here, working here with everyday people has really opened up my eyes to what it actually takes to not just exist here in China because it’s super easy to do that here, especially in Shanghai.

 

So Prime Minister Trudeau came by your deli, what’s he like?
Justin Trudeau is a cool dude. We actually, roundabout knew each other. We were in some of the same circles in Montreal. Actually meeting him face-to-face though, he's super down to Earth. Definitely someone who was born for the political sphere. He asked real questions about my story, what it's like to do business out here. Interestingly enough, he was in China 15 years ago when his dad was Premier of Canada so for him, he was just in awe while we were chilling in the kitchen. He couldn't believe what happened in the last 15 years in China. He spent 45 minutes in our space...he dropped by with a 50 person entourage. 

Courtesy of www.instagram.com/tocksdeli

Courtesy of www.instagram.com/tocksdeli

Is he as dreamy as everyone says he is?
He is a good looking man.

Did he take off his shirt like in all his hiking photos?
No, he did not but he definitely undid his tie, rolled up his sleeves and he actually served a customer in our restaurant. It was super natural. It wasn’t staged, I was busy and he just said, “Need me to take that?”

Courtesy of www.instagram.com/tocksdeli

Courtesy of www.instagram.com/tocksdeli