Our family has been going to Huanghuacheng to explore the Great Wall since our earliest months in Changping. At less than an hour’s drive away, we can often make a last-minute decision on a weekend afternoon to venture out there. Nothing tops off an afternoon of hiking and climbing like a good meal, and the countryside is full of dining options.
However, there is one restaurant we always return to in the middle of Huanghuacheng Village: Kui Po (奎酦酒家).
Before eating there for the first time, we weren’t sure how to pick out a restaurant from the many that lined the main road. In the absence of reviews or word-of-mouth endorsements, we selected one based solely on appearance.
With a long porch that offered a view of the Great Wall across the street, Kui Po could have mediocre food and still give us a unique experience. Our table outdoors was a wonderful spot to watch the day turn to evening, the Wall reduced from a formidable defensive structure to a mere crenelated shadow. The food – which was fantastic – included the usual countryside fare like eggplant and chaobing. The staff was also kind and indulgent with Myles and Brigid, who were given the run of the place. We were back there a few more times that spring, our afternoons in pursuit of history followed by long, pleasant meals under the Great Wall.
After one such weekend, we realized we’d lost a pair of binoculars that we remembered last using in Huanghuacheng. My husband and I thought we might have left them on the Wall somewhere. Oh well, we joked; hopefully whoever found the binoculars could get a good price for them.
Several weeks passed before we returned to Huanghuacheng. We were walking past Kui Po when the owner rushed out and yelled for our attention. She pantomimed binoculars and motioned excitedly for us to follow her. Disappearing into one of the restaurant’s rooms, she emerged with our binoculars in a bag. It was almost as if we had lent them to her and she was returning them to us in perfect order.
We were flabbergasted. We thanked her ceaselessly, both on the spot and during dinner four hours later. She couldn’t know for certain that we would ever be back, and yet still held our binoculars for us. (Maybe she was just that confident in her chaobing.) This simple act sealed the deal for us; the food and environment were enough to make us regulars, but Kui Po had now won our loyalty.
Since then, we have eaten at Kui Po countless times, bringing guests whenever we can. We still sit on the porch most evenings, though we prefer to warm up on the kang sipping hot ginger coke (jiangsi kele, 姜丝可乐) on particularly cold nights. We spent the last two Mid-Autumn Festivals there, watching the melancholy moon rise from behind the Great Wall.
So far, we haven’t left anything behind since the binoculars. The folks at Kui Po know to check our table before we drive away, but we are certain they would keep our belongings safe until next time.
Illustration by Sunzheng
This article originally appeared on p45 of the beijingkids January 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com