Article By Mike Leaner
No.29, Tian Shui Jing Jie.
6:30pm – 2:30am
Average Price per Person /人均消费: 100RMB
PROS: Great place to hang out; good food; okay beer
CONS: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not the sincerest form of bar
One of the most distinctive canine behaviors is panting. Dogs do it when they’re hot, and brachycephalic breeds (like bulldogs) have to do it pretty much constantly because their noses have been bred into mush. I ruminate on this because I wonder what dogs, or panting, have to do with a new brew pub near Hanguang Gate. Is it to imply that dogs are welcome? Is it to imply that the place will be so hot you’ll be panting? I’m not sure, and I found no evidence to support either hypothesis. The Panting Dog is, however, a pretty decent bar.
First and foremost, I haven’t been to a more comfortable bar in recent memory. The barroom proper is nicely laid out, using the space well and showing off their bar counter and brew kit. Seeing as it was a perfect autumn evening, I chose to sit on their sun room/patio instead, a glassed-in, porch-ish area with eclectic couches and wooden picnic tables. The atmosphere was very, very chilled, allowing me to have long, interesting conversations with my drinking companion (which is what I prefer to do at bars). The bar snacks are tasty and more-or-less affordable as well, making the Panting Dog a pretty good place for a pint and a nosh. I could envision myself spending a lot of nights on that patio holding court.
What bothers me about this place is that, for all the things that I believe them to be doing right, the other elements at play seem to be a series of backslides into old stereotypes about Chinese business (all of my evidence is circumstantial, so take as many grains of salt as you need). The menu design is a direct rip-off of a prominent “western food and beer” place across the city, to the point where I wondered if they were related (they aren’t); there were eight beers offered on the menu, but only four were available, and those four seemed to be attempts to ape the four flagship recipes of one of this city’s most famous breweries (their use of a brand name as a Chinese translation for “IPA” is the most damning evidence for this).
Conspiracy theories and knock-offs aside, I have to recommend the Panting Dog. Like, one to one-and-a-half thumbs up. You should go, and especially if you’re in that immediate area this is probably the best option you’ll have. I greatly enjoyed the atmosphere, and the core concept is exactly what this city’s bar scene needs more of. On the other hand, the devotion to copying their would-be competition means they fail to assert a unique identity, drawing unavoidable parallels to other bars and restaurants that savvy consumers and craft beer aficionados will almost certainly notice and potentially find wanting. I can’t shake the feeling that it would be so much more if they were more themselves, and I really hope they head in that direction because I like this place a lot. Here’s hoping that these are growing pains, and that as time goes on the Panting Dog learns to stand more confidently on its own four legs.
Mike Leaner likes to get dirty but not for free. He can be reached at email@example.com