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The liveliest eating is in the Meican Shi Jie (The Delicacy Street) running north from the arch on Jinhuai Jie, 1 block east and parallel to Wenling Bei Lu. Here rows of food stalls with tables and chairs in the open air or in air-conditioned interiors compete for your business until the small hours. There is seafood in buckets, niupai (beefsteak -- a local favorite), dumplings, kabobs, hot pot, Sichuan food, and even Lanzhou "pulled" noodles. Especially interesting are the army-themed restaurants with pictures of aircraft carriers and stealth bombers on the walls. For more budget options such as rice boxes and barbecue, have a stroll up and down Yin Jin Jie opposite the Xinhua Bookstore. The excellent local wheat beer, Huiquan, will please anyone fond of Hoegaarden.

Those craving Western food will find McDonald's, KFC, and Pizza Hut around the city center, as well as a lot of smaller places trying to fake it until they make it. These include a CKF, a Just Loving Blue and Sea (obviously a McDonald's and Blue and White combo), and even an imitation of the Filipino Jollibee brand, here called Jallie Bee.

Qing Qi Shen, near the GP Hotel, behind the Guandi Miao in Tumen Jie, is a very pleasant teahouse in a traditional multi-courtyard setting, where people sit playing board games beneath caged songbirds or watch the performance of a storyteller (in local Minnan dialect), and order snacks and tea from a bamboo slat menu: Oolong (Wulong) is ¥70 per pot; ordinary tea from ¥8. The Red Rock French Restaurant (tel. 0595/2218-7273; 10am-1am) next door to the Puppet Museum is full of faux rococo furniture that Chinese seem to love, but the menu is interesting with temptations such as smoked salmon with asparagus rolls and baked taro and ribs with rice and cheese.

Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant (San De Su Shi Guan), Nan Xun Xiang (tel. 0595/2291-0599), opened by a locally based Hong Konger, has all the style, comfort, and imagination that you would expect of establishments at the midlevel. The menu includes vegetarian "sushi" (ri shi su ci shen), deep-fried crab claws with minced vegetarian "squid" (bai hua zha rang su xie qian), vegetarian "spareribs" with sweet osmanthus sauce (gui hua su wu pai), and the huge durian pastries (gan si liu lian su).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.