I’ve complained about the expat community in Suzhou before. Those complaints are still valid. Impartial information is almost impossible find. A vast majority of expat websites are complete rags and almost every “article” you read is really just advertising in disguise. Gross.
Every now and again, I try to do something about that. Time for a little trip around town. No hidden advertising, no lies, no bullshit. Let the rating of completely random stuff in Suzhou begin!
Best Indian Food:
1) Kamal’s – Don’t know about Kamal’s? Read up. Yes, it’s a dive but it’s also hands down the best Indian restaurant in town – not even close. The owner Kamal is a character too. Love that guy. Did I mention that it’s also cheap. Yeah, go to Kamal’s already.
2) None – Massive drop off. Massive. You could eat at Kamal’s three times for the price of one meal at any other expat focused Indian restaurant.
3) Namaste (Ligongdi) – I guess. It barely squeaked into 3rd place over none.
1) Per Bacco – Not amazing but reasonably priced. Thin crust style. Fine, I guess. God, I miss real pizza.
2) Melrose (Tuesday nights only) – Like Napoleon said, quantity has a quality all of it’s own. The pizza is just OK but Tuesday night is buy one, get one free. It’s a shit ton of pizza for the price and that works for me.
3) DaMario’s (188 building) – It’s solid but expensive. Much better than Mama Mia’s. I hate Mama Mia’s. Screw that place.
1) Drunken Clam – Family Guy themed, chill environment, cheap drinks and a cool dude running it. It’s kinda a dive. In other words, my kind of place. (Rumor has it that the Clam was recently sold so let’s hope the new owner can a good thing going)
2) The Bookworm – Great set up, chill and not too expensive. Do you like a little conversation with your beers? Have a non-boozebag friend? Then this is the place for you. The Bookworm is also a library (members can check out books) and has plenty of board games if that’s your bag. A great place to waste away a Sunday afternoon. This is a very close second place.
3) The street - Drinking in public is legal here. Take advantage. Didn’t you learn to pre-game the bar in college? Booze it up in a park, catch a nice buzz and then go to whatever overpriced joint your fresh of the boat expat co-worker recommended. Let them spend 400 RMB drinking at the Camel. Flasks are also highly recommended by Zhou.
Best Schools For Expat Children:
1) SSIS – The best. I have friends who send their kids there and they love it.
2) Dulwich – Solid. Can’t go wrong with Dulwich.
3) Do your homework. Go sit in on classes. This is China, don’t take people’s word for the quality of their programs. Do your own research.
Best Night Club:
1) Go to Shanghai
3) Double none – Don’t go clubbin’ in Suzhou. Period. Even the gay club in town is not fun. How is that possible?
Best Place to Take Your Family When They Visit
1) Tiger Hill – It’s famous for a reason. It’s super Chinese and visitors like that.
2) A Garden Tour – Hit up some gardens in the old downtown. A bunch of them are free. If you’re poor, this is your number 1 option.
3) A Pingjiang Lu or Shantang Jie boat ride – Suzhou is the Venice of the East (stupid and incorrect) so play on that. Moms like paddle boat rides.
Best Baked Goods
1) Baker and Spice – Everything’s nice.
2) Secret Recipe – Best cakes in Suzhou
3) Bonjour Amy – Not bad for a Chinese bakery
Best Mexican Food
1) Your house – You can buy everything you need at Euro Mart and the Enjoy City stores. Even if you use the Old El Paso seasoning mix, you will dominate the Suzhou Mexican restaurant scene.
3) Casa Zoe – The nachos are pretty good, I guess. Then again, how do you screw up nachos?
Best Western Grocery Stores
1) Enjoy City – Located inside Horizon and Linglongwon (Bayside Garden), these are my favorite.
2) Euro Mart – A close second. Has almost everything you’ll need. I think it smells a little strange though.
3) Metro – A pain in the ass to go to but worth the trip.
Reader Recommendation: Our faithful reader Dash has recommended Food Mart in the B1 of Jiuguang in Times Square as an additional grocery store. See the comments for details. Check it out.
Best Random Western Activities for Families
1) Bowling – I like the bowling alley in Ligongdi. Fun but expensive. Good for birthday parties or office outings.
2) Foreign Movies at the Theater – My favorite movie theater is on the second floor of the Cultural Center. It’s such a cool and strange location for a movie theater. Prepare for annoying Chinese movie behavior.
3) The Shows at the Cultural Center – The Cultural Center has some very interesting shows come through town from time to time. A wide variety and good seasonality (like the Nut Cracker). Keep an eye out for shows you might like.
Best Place for Art:
1) Gallery 4 – My friend runs this place so I am unable to comment objectively.
2) Go to Shanghai
3) Seriously, go to Shanghai
1) Your house – Always take the Browns to the Superbowl before you leave for the day. ALWAYS keep a pack of tissues on your person in case of emergencies. Things in China can go south quickly and you don’t need stories involving bathroom disasters – trust me, I have several.
2) The Pinnacle (55th Floor of the Western 188/Frazier Suites Building) – Best public toilet in Suzhou. It even has a view. Good for all of your Xinghai Square bathroom needs.
3) Office buildings – If nature calls while you’re on the road, a good strategy is to find the nearest office building, go to the elevator, look at the company listing on the wall for a floor with several companies and go visit their bathroom on that floor. All office buildings have a bathroom for the companies on that floor to use. Why? Because every company must pay rent for their office space by the square meter plus pay for the area the elevators and bathrooms take up. 5 or 6 companies might be paying rent on that bathroom so they are usually good.
Best Places to Meet Chinese Girls
1) Through your co-workers – Old Zhou is off the market but still plays matchmaker from time to time. The key to meeting a good Chinese girl with mother-of-your-children qualities (not the scarlet women that frequent Western friendly establishments) is to make friends with a nice, intelligent, successful Chinese woman at your job. Her age is irrelevant. After several months of being an upstanding citizen, drop a clue that you’re single. If she likes you, prepare to have a steady stream of high quality wife material sent your way. It will help if you have money.
2) At an English Corner – Good Chinese girls go to English corner, not the bar. This ain’t the West.
3) Take Chinese lessons – I met my lady that way…Awwwwwww…..so why aren’t I fluent yet?
Best Street Food in Suzhou (not China)
1) Roujiamo – Shredded pork, sauce, bun. Thank you Xi’an.
2) Naan – The flat bread from Xinjiang. Best tasting bread in China. Kind of looks like a pizza without toppings.
3) Chuan (Chuar) – Those are Kabobs to you English only folks. Much better up north in Beijing or Xi’an but always a solid choice.
Places Best Avoided
1) Blue Marlin – Old pervs love the Blue Marlin. Food sucks too.
2) Mama Mia’s – You’ve been warned twice. Turn up the heat on your ovens Mama Mia’s. Your pizza should be good but it’s just not. And those prices.
3) Summit Market – God, I hate Summit. Lower your prices 20% already.