Free-flow coffee? You bet. Free-flow buffet? Absolutely. Free-flow wine? Give it to me. Free-flow noodles? Say what?

Baochao Noodle House is one of Beijing’s few hutong hideouts that’s all about the unlimited. Like adding more milk to a bounteous bowl of cereal, if diners need a topup of thick, tubular noodles to chaperon their toppings, the waiters at Baochao Noodle House will happily abide. But when has anyone ever craved infinity noodles, aside from those lowly nights when excessive drinking leaves a gaping hole in the stomach, one that can only be satiated by grease and carbs? This isn’t that kind of place – it’s decorated like mom’s country cottage if she was the crafty type in the ‘80s and ‘90s. That’s one too many painted anchors and flower pots for a hangover. So when?

Manager Cui Kai says the most noodles anyone has ever eaten was four bowls because, simply, he had a huge appetite. Think you can challenge him? Go for it. The prize? More noodles. The noodles themselves taste like they’re lacking preservatives, salt, or MSG, and that’s because, unfortunately or not, they are. What’s bland for some is refreshingly healthy for others, and an obsession for yet others – the owner, who like most kids, grew up finicky about food, claims his mother conceived of the restaurant’s recipes as a way to trick him into eating his vegetables. From this came such combos as noodles with broccoli, cauliflower, red and yellow pepper, and mushrooms (RMB 23) and eggplant, eggs and pork (RMB 20). Strangely, the noodles don’t mask the greens at all – someone needs to hide the salt shaker from momma.

Sometimes, though, marketing plays a leading role in a restaurant’s success. The colorful, signed sticky notes and cartoon drawings dressing the walls nod to a longtime favorite, Mr. Shi’s Dumplings, just two buildings down the road. But in the end, it’s the noodles, not the flair, that will need to stand on their own. And there sure are enough of them.

Baochao Noodle House
Daily 10.30am-2pm, 5-10pm. 76 Baochao Hutong, Dongcheng District (5728 9673)
600m southeast of Guloudajie station (Lines 2 and 8 )

Photos courtesy Mitchell Masilun

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