Just when I am not drinking (beer, for a month) and not really eating very much either (possibly a long-term regime, since I find my weight is not falling nearly as quickly as I'd hoped), there's a new opening in my 'hood that appears to be exactly what I have been wishing for all these many years (when I was eating and drinking without restraint!): somewhere in the Gulou area that does decent Western snack food to take away, and at very reasonable prices.
It appears to be run by a couple of Chinese guys who speak very little English, and probably found their menu online somewhere; but from what I've seen so far, they are making the food quite well. Their burgers are all either 38 or 42rmb, which makes them cheaper than just about anywhere else in town these days, barely half the price of places like Let's Burger and Blue Frog, with which they compare not too badly (the toppings aren't as generous, and the side of fries is positively niggardly; but the meat and the bun are pretty darned good). They have a limited but enticing selection of soups, salads and sandwiches as well; and a bowl of chilli, which I think I'll be trying next time.
Ah, but the real draw is the drinks: fresh fruit smoothies or homemade lemonade by the pitcher for only about 15 or 18rmb (my memory lets me down on matters of detail, now that I am not reinforcing it regularly with alcohol); canned soft drinks are only 8rmb; stubbies of Tsingtao are only 10 or 12rmb. Ah, but who would drink crappy old Tsingtao anyway? They have an interesting range of imported beers at the cheapest prices to be found anywhere in town: only a few items on their beer list are as much as 25 or 30 rmb; bottles of Sam Adams or Saranac Ale are only 20rmb, and they're practically giving Stella away at 16rmb.
Honestly, IF I were drinking beer now, I would be hitting this place up almost every night.
The trouble is, they've got very little room for people to eat in, much less to hang around drinking. They've adapted a narrow little shop space, probably barely 25 sq m in total, and nearly two-thirds of that taken up by the galley and serving counter.
Also, I imagine they'll realise before too long that they've made a mistake with their pricing (Gulou hipsters will pay 15 or 20% more for the food, and probably at least 50% more for the drinks) and put everything up.
Until then, I think I'm going to try to keep this place MY SECRET for a while.