Before he sadly passed away earlier this year, Noodle-In shop proprietor, Misandao frontman, and general punk scene agitator Lei Jun was working on a brand new Gulou bar and restaurant to be opened in partnership with Corner Melt owner, motorcycle enthusiast, and general cheese sandwich agitator Jimi Sides. Punk Rock Noodle is the name, and even though the former is no longer with us, the noodles-plus-punk rock ethos lives on in the new place, which has been soft open for about a month or so at 25 Donggong Jie, off Gulou.
Never mind the bollocks :P, here's Punk Rock Noodle:
Punk Rock Noodle is a one-room restaurant plus outdoor terrace, with seats for 30 to 40 or so. It looks like the grown-up, more mature, better looking, more nicely designed version of the old place. It's pretty spiffy but it's punk roots are still peaking out from behind the seams a bit -- it's like a skinhead going to a job interview or something.
The legacy of the man overlooks the place, and aside from the fact that his widow runs it, a lot of the kitchen and support staff from the other restaurant are the same, and all his friends still hang out there, they've got big framed tributes on the walls...
...and a lot of the detail and decoration comes from his and his crew's life and times in Beijing punk rock. These little touches are what make the place pretty neat; they've incorporated their own history directly into it.
After being open for little while, they've basically totally reverted back to what they were doing at the other place, which is to say, it's more noodle restaurant than bar. You're pretty much going for the noodles. And if you like punk, good music to listen to while you eat noodles. Despite the fact that at any given time, there's always going to be at least one table of kids with tattoos and mohawks drinking the cheapest beer available, they concentrate on lunch and dinner business, and are closing at 10:30 or so on the weeknights. You're going to be going for the noodles.
These ones in particular:
The "Spicy Guzhou Fried Noodles - 38rmb". A plate of Guzhou-style, heavy ginger, fried egg noodles with chicken. I've been back four of five times and these are the best ones. Nice crisp and bracing flavor, rounded out with chicken and lovely spice. They make it super heavy on the ginger.
From their own hand-pulled noodles, here's the beef mushroom one...
...which is a thick and hearty slab of noodles. Super heavy. Didn't have to eat for a month after.
They've also got a few noodle options for vegetarians and vegans -- "Big Buddha Noodles (28rmb)" with sauteed eggplant and peppers -- so if you're struggling to maintain the faith in the face of all the meat-heavy Beijing restaurants, here's one to try out.
Other stuff. Lots of bar snacks. Here's the "Oi! Oi! Cheese Balls - 38rmb" -- these are deep fried cheese balls, served with Thousand Island dressing, proclaimed on the menu to be "Lei Jun's favorites":
And they've also got a wings section.
"These are the "Unite" wings. Six for 50rmb. Three coated in crushed ramen noodles and three coated in crushed potato chips. Thumbs way up. Real tasty and creative.
Lastly, we also had their Fish 'n' Chips (60rmb), which, allegedly, might not stick around on the menu much longer. Shame. It was pretty decent.
The Take-Away: So yeah. It's the old place in a nicer, newer, better-looking environment. It's part noodle restaurant and part clubhouse for the usual crew of Beijing street punks and skins. The music is good. Food's decent.
The progression of all Beijing musicians goes like this:
Learn guitar => Leave small hometown for Beijing => Start band => Play a few shit shows => Get on a shit label => Release an album => Play one club show and 90 festivals a year => Star in Norwegian documentary => Start experimental side project => Never play for at least a year => Band breaks up => Open Gulou restaurant, bar, or vintage shop.
(Optional: Learn to DJ.)
You might skip a few steps but the first and last steps are unavoidable -- learn guitar and open Gulou business. That's the alpha and omega. All careers in music in Beijing end in a Gulou noodle bar.
And that's alright. Service is going to be what you get, operating hours are going to be all over the place, and food's not exactly going to be five-star, but who else would you rather hang out with when they're serving you beer and noodles?
Plus maybe if you're lucky and you make friends, they'll draw the curtain, lock the door, let you smoke in the place, and dish out some shots. Note to business owners: always do this, all the time.
Punk Rock Noodle is at 25 Donggong Jie, Gulou Dongdajie. That's the first hutong on the right when you're walking up Gulou Dong Dajie towards the tower. They're open daily from 11:30am to 10:30pm.