The Beijing Hotspots Obama Won't Visit

On Obama's first visit to Beijing, he'll probably eat Peking Duck and climb the Great Wall like Nixon did on his monumental trip to China in 1972. While Nixon spent his evenings tossing back the local firewater at banquets and then retreating to his guesthouse, Obama will get the chance to see a booming city with thousands of restaurants, bars, and clubs that cater to expats from all over the world. After his meetings with the Chinese, Obama won't be given free reign by his handlers to roam the city, but if he were, here's what he might do.

While the White House administration has said they will send an envoy to North Korea, Obama will not dine at Beijing's Silver Bank Pyongyang Restaurant. Ironically enough, the food is delicious, with the mushrooms, soju, dog meat, and English-speaking waitresses all imported from North Korea. If imported Korean dog hotpot isn't your thing (though it's very warming in Beijing's Chicago-like winter), the restaurant makes a great bowl of cold noodles. In its previous incarnation—within sprinting distance of the North Korean embassy—the North Korean Ping-Pong team used to eat there. If Obama braved a visit, he could sing karaoke with Korean officials and indulge them by crooning some of their favorite Western songs, including Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" and Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

Although smoking a Cuban cigar is the only appropriate chaser to North Korean karaoke, and although Fidel Castro praised Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, we can't see Obama visiting Beijing's Casa Habana Cigar Club. Opened by Castro's former Chinese translator, this place offers boxes of hand-rolled Cuban cigars and comfy brown chairs in which to smoke them. Obama could enjoy a Cohiba (which, legend has it, is rolled on the thighs of virgins) and a glass of seven-year Havana Club Rum while admiring a picture of Mao Zedong chomping on his own cigar. And while purchasing Cuban-made products anywhere in the world remains illegal for Americans, what happens in China stays in China.

Seeing that a group of protestors recently chanted Obama's name in Tehran, Rumi's Persian Grill would not be the best place to go for a low-profile dessert, even though its coffee and baklava are some of the best in Beijing. Located near the Sanlitun bar district, the favorite drinking area of many expats, this halal joint doesn't serve alcohol but allows diners to bring their own—pragmatism that would make Obama proud.

Though Medvedev suggested Russia will back sanctions against Iran, Obama probably won't be drinking with the Russians in Beijing. Popular Russian hangouts used to be stately restaurants where bored functionaries could binge on vodka in sanitized settings. Chocolate, a (literally) underground club near the Temple of the Sun, attracts the new breed of expat, Russian and otherwise, sojourning in Beijing. Featuring floor shows involving stripping nuns, a midget bouncer, walls decorated with copies of Renaissance paintings, and a healthy sense of irony, it's a great metaphor for the gritty, cosmopolitan city that Beijing is becoming. It's almost a shame that Obama will miss it.