Aside from shopping and tourism, Shanghai can be a surprising culinary adventure. Food lovers will find a variety of food in Shanghai. Some local Shanghai specialities include Hong Shao Rou (red braised pork), Xiaolong Bao (meat dumplings) and roasted quail.
Hong Shao Rou 红烧肉 is a dish traditionally cooked using pork belly braised in a soy sauce stew. In Shanghai, bean curd is sometimes added. The pork belly is cooked with skin intact and eaten entirely with the skin and fat. The tender meat and light flavor of this dish makes it a favorite local dish. However, I don't recommend this dish for health conscious individuals.
Xiaolong Bao (little steamer buns) 小笼包 is also known as soup-filled dumplings. What differeniates it from regular dumplings is that the filling includes meat with soup. Once you bite into a xiaolongbao you will immediately taste the liquid broth. Some vendors even sell xiaolongbao with a straw attached so that you can drink the soup first.
Xiefen xiaolongbao 蟹粉小笼包 is a variant of the traditional xiaolong bao. The filling is a mixture of crab meat with pork meat. Warning: I thought the meat filling had an unusual "mystery meat" taste.
Roasted Quail 烧鹌鹑 is usually served as a whole quail and can be found in snack streets and restaurants. They are sold on a stick at snack streets (make sure you have plenty of napkins handy).
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant 南翔馒头店 is a famous dumpling restaurant named after the hometown of the original xiaolongbao. The restaurant is so popular that it has a take out window especially for the xiaolongbao. The lines start forming early and becomes very long fast. Be prepared to wait an hour minimum with no guarantee of getting the dumplings as they only sell the dumplings for a limited time on the weekends.
DinTai Fung 鼎泰豐 originated in Taiwan and has branches in the US. I highly recommend the xiaolongbao here as the meat tastes fresh and light.
Wagas 沃歌斯 is a cafe that serves a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, pastas, wraps, cakes, fresh juice and more. There's an English menu, friendly staff and free Wi-Fi.
Lisboa 葡京茶餐厅 contrary to its name does not offer Portuguese cuisine but tasty Macanese dishes which is a blend of Cantonese with Portuguese flavors. The roasted quail, curries and egg tarts are popular dishes.
Yi jia yi 一加一 offers local Chinese dishes. Unfortunately, the menu is entirely in Chinese with pictures of only popular dishes.
Lynn 琳怡中餐厅 is a more expensive restaurant offering a fusion of Shanghai and Cantonese cuisine. I recommend having brunch/dim sum here on the weekends. For approximately 100 RMB ($16), you get dim sum for all you can eat. This is a great opportunity to sample various dishes. Some favorites include the shrimp dumplings, spring rolls and mango pudding.
For the Vegetarians:
Vegetarian Lifestyle 枣子树 offers unique vegetarian dishes. The dishes closely resemble their meat counterparts like sweet and sour pork and Peking duck wraps nonetheless everything on the menu is vegetarian. I highly recommend this restaurant as every dish was delicious.
Gongde Lin 功德林 is the second oldest vegetarian restaurant in the city. The dishes are more Asian inspired and not as creative as the Vegetarian Lifestyle but still worth a try.
REEL Food Court is located on West Nanjing road near Jing An Temple. For those who can't decide on what to eat, this food court will not disappoint. You can find Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Western food here. There's also a separate section for desserts - smoothies, cakes, and even Taiyaki, たい焼き, the Japanese fish-shaped pastry with red bean, custard or chocolate filling.
Boxing Cat Brewery will satisfy your cravings for American food with a wide variety of beer. I recommend the pulled pork quesadilla and the fries.
Yunan Rd 云南路 offers specialty restaurants offering Peking duck and Uighur kebabs. The are also many seafood restaurants where you can pick your seafood from the tank and tell your server how you want the seafood prepared.
Wujiang Lu 吴江路 offers a variety of shops, restaurants and a small mall near West Nanjing road.
Xintiandi 新天地 is an affluent, trendy shopping area with many restaurants. There are also many traditional "shikumen" style houses also worth checking out.
Tianzifang 田 子坊 is a neighborhood of alleyways with similar "shikumen" style architecture. It is a hidden jewel. Aside from shopping, there are many snacks, restaurants and cafes inside the complex. Stroll through the alleyways and pick up a green tea ice cream. You should not leave Shanghai without checking out Tianzifang!