Pun heavy names are the stuff of drag queens. Shanda Leer. Sissy Spacecakes. Lisa Newcar. Jamie Lee Squirtus. It's my favorite kind of humor. So while I'm not a big fan of the frozen food and snack emporium known as Trader Joe's in America, I'm a definite fan of Traitor Zhou's Non-Kosher Delicatessen. Daring to proclaim yourself as untrustworthy in your damn name, simply for the sake of punny humor. I love it.
Currently in soft opening, Traitor Joe's occupies space in 1949 right at the front entrance across from Jing A Taproom. They're still cutting their teeth, but staff was incredibly friendly, helping us navigate the placards throughout the space that serve as menus. Design concept seems to be kind of like a small grocery shop with arbitrary geometric forms resembling tumblr .gifs plastered on everything. Otherwise, it's basically a tiny room with rows of fridges and shelving smartly arranged to get maximum use per square foot.
Traitor Zhou's focuses on daily varieties of bagels, bagel sandwiches, and spreads, as well as coffee, adorable tarts, and donuts. Thimble-sized plastic tubs of the cutest cream cheeses ever with wacky flavors like salted plum, miso caramel, and chorizo sit patiently on corkboard. They sell lots of other things, like fancy pants raisins, homemade ice cream, bottled drinks, gourmet sea salt and their own espresso blend.
Hmm... Similar, slightly jumbled business concepts like this crop up incessantly near Gulou, but there they would instead open at 1pm and be staffed by a hungover tattoo artist who forgot to bake anything. I guess rents in 1949 are too high to play around, so Traitor Zhou's rewards the consumer with actual effort. Score.
Alright, lunch. It's all about bagels here, which are made very well. Dense and chewy with a good crumb. Several flavors, all 10rmb. The charcoal nori one looks like a black hole, selfishly absorbing all light. So that's a thing. The sandwiches are maybe too on-the-nose in that artisan millennial food truck style, but flavor-wise they really delivered.
1) Smoked wagyu beef, sriracha cream cheese, pickles and cabbage on a sesame bagel. 2005 Hipster sriracha overuse not withstanding, this works as a manly lil' meaty sandwich. The beef is tasty and portion generous, although it lacked a “bite.” Maybe the cumber pickles could be switched out for some pickled peppers, or the sriracha cream cheese could use more sriracha.
2) Guizhou preserved bacon, miso caramel cream cheese, kale and raisins on a sea salt bagel. My favorite of the two. The bacon, or “la rou,” is wonderfully smoky and rich, with contrasts nicely with very plump raisins and hints of salty sweet from the clever combination of miso and caramel in the cream cheese. Lovely.
Afterwards, we grazed over some cutie pie desserts, all bite-sized. Some adorable donut holes with fruit toppings. Tarts were on point. Both the chocolate tart and the fresh, seasonal apricot tart (25rmb) could be dispatched in two delicious bites. Get a couple to go and bring them home to your sweetheart. Wash it all down with a summer appropriate iced coffee, which featured a hand-cut whiskey ice as to not water down your brew.
The Take-Away: So, Traitor Zhou's! It's a punny business. It should do a brisk take-away service for urban professionals and industry people in the area. Or catering. Or summer picnics. Or selling product to clueless but well meaning Gulou cafes. Highly recommended. <3
Traitor Zhou's is in 1949 The Hidden City, Courtyard 4 Gongti Beilu