Nowadays, privately owned restaurants run the length of practically every street in Beijing – but that wasn’t the case 30 years ago when Beijinger’s only options for eating out were state-run cafeterias.
The shift began in the autumn of 1980 when, after several attempts, Liu Guixian was granted permission from the Beijing Industrial and Commercial Bureau to set up the city’s first restaurant, which she named Yuebin.
On the day the restaurant opened, Liu only had enough money to buy four ducks and some basic ingredients – not nearly enough to feed the hundreds of customers that crowded the hutong desperate to sample her food.
She sold out within minutes. Despite its unassuming appearance, the restaurant remains popular to this day, and is still run by Liu’s family.
It’s also retained the original style: weathered furniture, simple décor… staff even still use an abacus to calculate the bill. A good dish to try is the guoshaoya, wok cooked BBQ duck (28RMB), which is also notable for being the first ever dish served back in 1980.
Dishes are reasonably priced (10-50RMB each) and the hearty, affordable fare is made all the more enjoyable thanks to the feeling that you're eating in a place where history was made. Lian Lian