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At last, a cafe with inviting family fare

IN a cafe landscape dominated by soulless chains serving milkshake-like coffee concoctions in giant bucket-sized paper cups, one could be excused for longing for that cosy neighborhood coffee shop.

They are a surprisingly rare commodity in the Shanghai food and beverage landscape.

To often a visit to a cafe results in the following scenario.

Check: one gleaming new coffee machine with all the bells and whistles that no one knows how to drive.

Check: thirty-plus yuan price tag for a coffee that is an uninviting brown puddle of scalded milk and burnt, bitter beans, which instantly conjures in its recipient doleful yearnings for home.

Check: a menu of limp, lifeless salads, mayonnaise smothered sweet bread sandwiches and gluggy cream smothered pastas, all coming with a hefty foreigner-focused price tag.

Tucked away in the charming surrounds of Jinxian Road on the northern borders of an old residential complex is San Francisco-styled cafe Pier 39.

Named after the famed Pier 39 restaurant and bar area of San Francisco, the cafe is run by former Bay Area restaurateurs who have returned to their hometown of Shanghai.

And it shows.

It is blissfully free of the common cafe crimes one normally sees in the city.

Owned by David Sun and run by his niece Candy Tang, who spent five years in the Bay Area, Pier 39's highlight is its clam chowder.

Served in a hollowed out sour dough bun, it is made from a creamy flavor-packed family recipe that will scratch an itch for lovers of northern Californian cuisine classics.

The rich sauce, given depth by the addition of bay leaves, clings to the bread ensuring diners scrap every last drop from its sour dough casing.


Other notables are its Pier 39 special house salad that is packed with tender smoked chicken, Swiss cheese, egg, tomato and onion.

With generous lashings of avocado this big salad is filling and good value at 58 yuan (US$8.48).

Another standout in the salads is the smoked salmon variety and again the cafe doesn't skimp on the ingredients. Leaves are crisp and fresh, and the salads come with a homemade vinaigrette. A range of sandwiches start from 38 yuan to 48 yuan with big, American-style coffees around 30 yuan.

Tang says the family wanted to open a restaurant using some of the recipes gathered during their time running restaurants in the United States.

The cafe is modeled on the types of cosy neighborhood hangouts Tang said she loved in her former home.

"Right now a lot of our customers are actually from the surrounding neighborhood and we want to provide a very casual, welcoming atmosphere," Tang said.

"We have a very good connection with our customers and we want a comfortable, cozy place where everyone knows everyone and it is a small community."

The small caf?? captures the cozy atmosphere brilliantly with small intimate tables looking out along the quaint Jinxian Road streetscape.

Over the last few years the street has seen a number of funky fashion shops and the excellent Bliss bar set up home.

Eclectic antique shops also make for an intriguing post-meal stroll. Pier 39 is the perfect addition to this charming little corner of Shanghai.

Address: 172 Jinxian Rd, near Maoming Rd

Tel: 6258-1939


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