Midtown Happy Hour: China Sun has $3 Imported Beers, Free Wifi, and Nice Staff
If you like to eat, chances are you like to drink (read: a lot of you are freakin’ lushes), so I thought maybe it was time to introduce a happy hour column to the site. Every week, our Happy Hour Correspondent posts about a different bar in Midtown that fits the Midtown Lunch mentality: unhealthy food, not lame (unless it’s lame in a cool way), and most importantly… cheap.
I love finding good deals in unexpected places. When I say unexpected, this time I’m referring to a Chinese restaurant for happy hour. Yep, that’s right. As I scan Midtown for its best happy hour deals, I continue to find great specials in places where you wouldn’t normally look. But they might not be all that unusual. Mamacita covered Chef Yu’s happy hour back in 2009, so the Chinese restaurant happy hour special is certainly not unheard of. I’ve been eyeing China Sun (39th btw 6th and Broadway) for a few weeks, because I noticed when I walked by one day a sign advertising $3 beer, $5 house wine, and $5 wells from 4-7, and another sign advertising free wifi. The beer and wifi caught my attention, so I thought I’d stop by. Kids, I was glad I did.
To preface this story, I should mention that I studied abroad in Hong Kong and did some traveling in China when I was in college. I haven’t been there in over a decade, but it was a life changing experience. Any tastes, smells, or sounds of China still conjure nostalgia — so needless to say, I still have a penchant for all things Chinese. What I found as I settled in my barstool is that China Sun is almost like two completely different worlds around happy hour time. The bar area is patronized by an American after work crowd, and the larger restaurant seating area makes its money from buttloads of Chinese tourists that come in, have a family style meal in 30 minutes, and leave. Now, I know this might sound silly to regular folks… why would you want to go to happy hour in a place like that? It’s not your regular happy hour spot! Well, firstly, it’s interesting. And secondly, it’s pretty impressive to watch the sheer volume of people that come in, chow down, and exit before you’ve even finished your Tsing Tao.
The $3 beer bottle specials are: the aforementioned Tsing Tao, Sapporo, Heineken, Bud, and Corona. Not a bad selection. I of course had the Tsing Tao (ah, memories!). Notably, one of the best parts of the experience in this small bar was the bartender. She’s a Rachel-from-Glee look alike, and one of those genuinely nice, easy-going people who effortlessly makes sure everyone who enters feels comfortable and welcome. She knew all the regulars’ drinks before they even sat down, and made us first-timers feel at home right away. Bartenders, as any restaurant/bar owner knows, are often the employees that get patrons coming back through your doors again and again.
And it did appear that the owners have quite the business acumen. The middle-aged (I assume) husband and wife team have this place down to a science. Any time I traveled by bus in China, the norm was to stop at pre-arranged restaurants and share a family style meal on a lazy susan in the middle of a table. This wasn’t necessarily just on tours, but also on longer bus trips that were just getting you from point A to point B. China Sun brings a little bit of normalcy to Chinese tourists in New York City, in a similar way TGI Fridays and Olive Garden comforts those of us who grew up in the Midwest. So, the owners have deals with the tour bus companies, and let me tell you HUNDREDS of folks passed through in the two hours I sat there. I also noticed one of the owners, the man, coming into the bar area and chit-chatting with some of the regulars, giving one guy a nice little shoulder massage while joking about his long work day. So overall, I got a good impression of the staff, although I only interacted with a few; waiters and chefs were buzzing about in the back serving the masses.
Normally I would get Buffalo wings at a bar, and although they did have fried chicken wings on the menu, I knew they wouldn’t be original B-wings so I opted not to do it. Instead we tried a few different kinds of dumplings, which are always good munchies and go great with beer. I thought soup dumplings would be a nice choice since I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately after my trip to John’s Shanghai. They were small but not bad (but to be fair they were called steamed little juicy buns with pork on the menu). The vinegar sauce didn’t have any ginger flavor that I could taste. We also had the steamed meat dumplings with chicken — I was less impressed with those. They were a bit cold and the dumpling wrapper was slightly rubbery. They also serve sushi and Thai entrees. But any restaurant serving so much food to so many people in one night makes me nervous about the quality to begin with.
So food might not be the primary reason to go, but if you’re into something a little different, and you’d like to be an observer of a cultural practice from China right here in New York, you might give it a try. And $3 bottled imports in Midtown is a great deal, so if you like beer specials served by a cool bartender in a bar with free wifi (that actually works), perhaps China Sun is your place.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- These are some awesome specials. $3 imported beer is hard to find in Midtown.
- I like a place with nice staff, and the folks here are lovely.
- I’m a fan of doing things a bit out-of-the-ordinary. This is a nice spot for a change of pace.
- I develop a tic when I am not constantly connected to my phone/iPad/laptop, and the free Wifi here is reliable and fast.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Why would I go to a Chinese restaurant for happy hour? Give me an Irish pub any day.
- Too many tourists! Get me out of here.
- I like to eat when I have a drink, and the food here isn’t that amazing.
China Sun, 108 W 39th Street, 212-221-7238