Written by Benjamin Greuter

As an innocent newcomer, over two years ago now, I stumbled around the city center with a couple of my chinese colleagues, both young ladies studying english and volunteering with my summer program. We had never really been inside Xi’an’s city wall before, especially by ourselves, but we’d heard the legends of “Bar Street” and sought the fun, happening environments of lore. Far off track, and without proper direction, we explored and found ourselves for the third or fourth time walking around the Bell Tower square when I, sweaty and depleted of enthusiasm, caught sight of something promising: a small circlular glowing sign that read, “Spring Bar”. My heart beat quickened, and, as I pointed it out, I found there was no especially appearant entrance. In fact, under the sign there was only an Oppo shop and a China Post. Then I saw it. In my desperation, I scaled the wall around the corner and found a small opening, a narrow passage leading back further into the building. As I entered, I noticed the art on the wall and felt I must have been close. Inside there was nothing but a stair case and empty walls. I climbed, and hit the jackpot: Spring Bar.
This bar is another of a series of hostel/bar unions that have sprung up in throughout China, so there are rooms upstairs and a breakfast nook on the first floor. The main attraction is the breathtaking, front row view of the Bell Tower. On many a night I’ve spent hours over the pool table, halving my attention between the game and the glowing, glorious tower outside the window just next to the table. There is no better view in the city, guaranteed. This second floor bar hangs over the aforementioned China Post and Oppo store, directly facing the tower. There are four main rooms, the entrance room with the pool table, the bar room that sports a super long half tree trunk table perfect for large groups and drinking games, a side room with a couple of cute tables and comfy sofas, and a sort of porch room, two walls of which are composed entirely of windows.
Now, there are downfalls. If you are one who likes to be in a hot spot where everything is going down, this ain’t the palce for you, yet. It seems that, even after all this time, no one frequents this place. Most locals don’t know about it, and only the occasional random stumbler shows enough curiosity to wander in. It’s never packed, usually never more than one group or couple of friends per room, despite Spring Bar’s space, comfy seating, and openness to patrons’ music preferences. The prices aren’t the best, but they aren’t the worst. Pretty average, I’d say, for Xi’an bars. Don’t have high expectations for the toilets and don’t expect to have nice sit-downs with the local owner to develop a close connection that results in you bringing in business and getting discounts. There is no special treatment, and the staff seldom involve themselves any more than necessary with the guests or patrons. Just as well, in my opinion; this is where I go to not be bothered.
The pool table is comfy and worn in, with nice rounded pockets. The sticks aren’t by any means professional grade, either. Unfortunatly, the rules for playing pool aren’t set in stone. I’ve been charged 5 to 10 yuan at times to play, while most of the time they either simply hand me the balls for free or they are already left out on the table, no fee necessary. Last year, there was even a season wherein they were asking for a 100RMB deposit if you wanted to play, but lately it seems they’ve done away with that. So, I can’t really tell you what to expect; it depends on who is working and if they recognize me or not. It seems to be safe if you buy something to drink first, then ask for the balls. What I can say for sure, is that you shouldn’t break the flower pots on the window sills by accident while playing. I found out the hard way that they cost 20RMB per pot.
They serve all the main categories of coffee and have a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu that includes Mexican-style dishes, Chinese cuisine, pasta/lasagna and some Western bar food. They’ve recently revamped their menu, and my girlfriend and I are head over heels for the new “sesame steak burger” as I call it. It’s actual steak, not processed or ground, on a buttered bun with all the fixings, plus some kind of sesame dressing that adds an amazing flare to the sweetness. I recommend asking that they add a fried egg for only 2RMB extra. Try to resist the immediate urge to come back later for the same thing, since it can’t possibly be healthy. Oh, and the beer is always cold.
Pros: great view; intimate atmosphere; comfy seating;
Cons: no crazy-classy imports; sketchy toilets; overpriced soda.
Reccommendation: Steak burger, add egg, stay for pool.
Average price per person per meal: 60RMB
Average price per person per night of drinking and pool, not including dinner: 60-80RMB
Address:2F,Bell Tower Youth Hostel, No.1 of Beida Jie
( 碑林区北大街1号钟楼青年旅舍2楼 )
029-8725 9988