The Village Café on Shi Da Lu, opposite the Foreign Language University, is one of the old coffee shop classics here in Xi’an. However, the term ‘Classic’ can in this part of the world revolve around slightly shorter time periods than most places would require to have such a tag applied: coffee shops being a relatively recent addition to Xi’an society. Here, 4-5 years of being open, with or without a consistent and loyal cliental, is just about enough time to earn legendary status; for The Village, however, the title is well warranted.
Although, when I was compiling a coffee shop Top 5not so long ago I did relegate it to a mere footnote mention, due to the fact that it was seemingly losing its way, even if its cakes still hit the spot. It does however seem to have turned the corner and is now back in its rightful place as a home from home coffee shop/eatery: a retreat to be savoured during the winter months that lie ahead.
The Village started back-in-the-day as a bit of a Christian collective, when it was not at all rare to hear a bible class or path to awakening being expounded beside you. It would for the uninitiated who passed through the doors back then, and we could probably include a few thousand Chinese students in that number, have seemed as if the whole Western world was indeed devoutly Christian. For my part, my agnosticism seems to have made it through unscathed, coming out the other side as simply intrigued by it all, the great hotpot of life that is, as I ever was. Though, I do now find myself wondering if the whole Western world is indeed devoutly Christian. But, that is another story.
The Village still retains a place in the hearts of this local community but it is maybe now as much for the food, drinks and comfy environment than any other higher meaning. Here, no matter your spiritual persuasion, you will find yourself uplifted and guided to a higher plane by the presence of as good a homemade cakes, chunky wedge fries and chocolate milkshakes as you’ll find anywhere. Not to mention cheeseburgers, veggie lasagnes, burritos and cappuccinos. Lost here in space and time is truly to be living the life; nourishment is nourishment, noodles are noodles but occasionally a feast is indeed a feast. Veggies and meat eaters are equally well catered for, vegans maybe not so.
A friend of mine who used to live in Xi’an took me to a place in Beijing recently, claiming it was a top spot for western style cake lovers: “Do me’a favour!” I said, in my best cockney (London) accent: “You wanna get ye’self back d’an The Village in Xi’an son, thas ye home in China f’ya muvvers cakes.” Beijing may have The Village of San Li Tunand its Frank Gehryexhibitions but we’ve got The Village on Shi Da Lu and its exhibit A: Hummingbird cake. Xi’an is Xi’an and we’ve got our spots and don’t let those poor deluded Beijingites tell you otherwise.
The Village or XiāngCūn (香村), not to be confused with NóngCūn (农村), has recently added some comfortable and more private sofa-esque style booths, which have definitely improved the downstairs area. Upstairs there are a number of tabled seating spaces, suitable for laptops and food. While a couple of the old sofa-chairs left over from the original owners and old days can still be found. Which, if the air-con heating is doing its stuff, allows you to sink in, relax, read, study, shàngwǎng (上网), chat and snooze the afternoons away. This place for the old hands is a legendary spot, for the newly initiated it is, as I was over hearing a couple exclaiming recently, a damn [emphasis added] good find.
*Here is aMap, it is opposite the China Bank on Shi Da Lu, near the Xi’an Foreign Language University’s Southern entrance. Shi Da Lu is just off Chang’An Nan Lu near the TV Tower. 陕西省西安市雁塔区师大路32号, (029) 8522 2150