Xiamen rightfully draws food lovers from across China and beyond, but you really have to know where to look—and some of the city’s best and tastiest spots can also be the least assuming. So follow our lead with a progressive culinary crawl. We’ll be tracing the long thoroughfare (really more of a lane) that begins as Daxue Lu 大学路 and later becomes Minzu Lu 民族路. The offerings here are excellent at all hours of the day, but you’ll have to head out in the morning to score the famous yu bao 芋包 at Yubaosao: a shell of shredded taro bursting with an unctuous mix of dried tofu, shiitakes, minced pork, and cilantro, then topped with squirts of oil, mustard, and sweet chili sauce. Next up? Coffee. Most cafés don’t open until 10 a.m., but the very good BH Barista Honor Cafe kicks things off at 8 a.m. After your caffeine fix, dig through the well-edited antiques and unusual relics at nearby Buchuo 不辍旧物管, then browse the many nearby shops until you’re hungry again. For lunch, two choices: Jingang Bingshi 金刚冰室, an airy loft space created by young Xiamenese artists, serving modern takes on traditional dishes such as fried oysters or beef noodle soup; or the more old-school Wutang Shacha Mianguan 乌糖沙茶面馆, where locals queue up for shacha, a beloved dish of noodles, ginger, peanuts, chili, shallots, and fish balls or tender squid. The rendition here—made fresh daily for 35 years by the wife of owner Wutang—is easily the city’s best, and worth forgiving the humble view of the parking lot. The couple’s English-speaking son Xiaobai is now in charge, but one thing remains: they sell out every day by 2 o’clock. Pick up a jar of their homemade shacha sauce as a savory momento.
It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Conrad to Daxue Lu (University Road), which becomes Minzu Lu. If you’re short on time, take a taxi back from the strip’s far end. Note that many Xiamen restaurants close in the afternoon, and cafés have odd hours, so check times before you head out.
YUBAOSAO 芋包嫂: 45 Daxue Lu, Simeng district; +86 1895-000-7598; open 8:30 a.m.– 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.
BH BARISTA HONOR CAFÉ: 2 Daxue Lu (at 102 Minzu Lu), Simeng district; +86 1581-072-7650; open 8 a.m.–11 p.m.
BUCHUO CUIROSITIES SHOP 不辍旧物: 120 Minzu Lu, Simeng district; +86-1380-602-8428; open 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
JINGANGBINGSHI 金刚冰室: 126 Minzu Lu, Simeng district; +86-188-0592-1218; open 10 a.m.–10 p.m., closed Tuesdays.
WUTANG SHACHA NOODLES 乌糖沙茶面: 74 Minzu Lu, Simeng district; +86-0592-204-1658; open 6 a.m. until sold out, usually by 2 p.m.