Article By Mike Leaner
Hong Fu Da Sha, Bei Da Jie and Er Fu Jie Intersection.
(029) 8962 8473
4:30pm – 2:00am
Average Price per Person /人均消费:100RMB
PROS: Affordable; nice atmosphere; good barbecue
CONS: There’s an English menu but the handwriting can be a little tough to read
Xi’an ain’t like it used to be. I don’t seek to tell you whether that’s a good or bad thing, it just is. I feel it a lot in the bar scene. Drinking in bars in Xi’an has more or less lost its egalitarian roots, with most places focused on bilking both tourists and those with more money than brains. Then there’s the Sisyphean race for “authenticity,” in which bar owners like to bother me while I’m trying to drink to Chinasplain cocktails to me or tell me that their beer is authentically German because a white guy spit in the mash tun once. It’s exhausting. It’s just desperate anyway. I think this is why I like Magic Horse so much—there was no pretense, no nonsense, there was just a bar. Thank the heavens for small mercies..
You’ll find Magic Horse in an alley just off of North Street downtown, about a block north of Xihuamen (aka the eastern entrance to the Muslim District). It’s near a shopping mall, but it’s on a subterranean level so look for the staircase down into the bar. Once inside, there’s an immediate homeliness, with sturdy wooden tables, comfortable chairs and a bit of bric-a-brac setting the mood.
The bar takes a kind of kitchen sink approach to its offerings—there’s bottled beer, there’s draft beer, there’s cocktails. Magic Horse has the distinction of being one of the most affordable bars I’ve been sent out to in recent memory and can accommodate essentially any budget. Beer starts from 15RMB, and only their (generously sized) cocktails get into the upper reaches of price, with a couple coming in around 60 or 70RMB. You can also get something to nosh, because Magic Horse offers a complete barbecue menu, in both spicy and wussy varieties.
All in all, Magic Horse is the quintessential Chinese bar (even if that includes the astoundingly loud lounge singers), and therein lays its strength. Rather than attempt to be cloyingly hip or desperate to impress, it has a certain self-assurance in its identity. It’s a place for drinkers of all stripes. It doesn’t take a wizard to run a bar, but any sufficiently enjoyable bar is indistinguishable from magic. Get your friends, take the stairs underground, and ride the Magic Horse.
Mike Leaner likes to get dirty but not for free. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org