Wake Up & Smell The Coffee

For thousands of years, people have been waking up, cracking open a few free-range chicken eggs, toasting a slice of whole-wheat bread and downing a cool glass of Floridian orange juice, claims the Internet.

Dongguan, of late, has really started to flourish with a growing number of Western-styled bars and restaurants. While we knew there were a good amount of places around to grab a bite in the early part of the day, a person only has one morning a week to spend sipping Bloody Marys and enjoying a stack of flapjacks, so it’s good to make sure it’s going to be top-notch.

Sure, reading reviews is nice, but frankly, the web isn’t to be trusted. So, with growling stomachs, we stepped out of the chilled, air-conditioned office to try out some of the best of Dongguan’s breakfast grub. Stick around and see what we found.

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One for the Road

Long after many a soul has come to Dongguan and moved on, there’s one acronym that’ll likely be stuck in their minds years later: OFTR. Every place has its traditions and for Dongguan, that’s here.

Step inside the ever-growing bar and restaurant to always find something new. From the LED nametags to the new stage being built outside, Jason Cakebread is famous ‘round these parts for his attention to detail and inability to let the dust settle in his domain. When I was there, I watched him call over a server and point at a TV. I was confused and so was she, so he walked over and directed his finger at the tiny mouse pointer sitting in the middle of the screen. It’s care like this that has made his place successful.

Sitting down, I was soon greeted with a king-sized plate that makes up the traditional English breakfast. The classic spread of ingredients, including hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausage, ham and toast rapidly fill out my modest pot belly and all I can think to do next is have a lie down and relish the moment.

Breakfast is an all-day thing here, and that’s a good thing because even if the standard English breakfast doesn’t excite you, you’re fully free to customize as you like with a pretty impressive variety of meats and sides. If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, give the crepe-like pancakes a shot with toppings like bananas and maple syrup.

Don’t Miss: Custom, homemade soda pop and an intimidating line-up of import beers
Expected total price: 25 – 95 RMB
Hours: 11 am – 2 am

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Murray’s Irish Pub

Occupying one of the prettiest corners in Dongcheng is your go-to hangout bar. Usually, I step into the low-lit, rustic vibe that’s always hosting a sizeable sea of familiar faces to either grab a pint after a long workday or weekend brunch to satisfy my hunger pangs. The pub has frankly mastered the golden ratio of alcohol consumption and food. Plus, while the bar is reworking its menu, some of the most popular breakfast dishes will remain available to regulars. Get ready to feast.

murraysMurray’s is the only place in town that offers a brilliantly crafted corned beef and hash with sunny-side up eggs, but the menu’s biggest surprise is the breakfast burrito, which combines eggs, sausage, beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and other mouth-watering goodies, served with a side of toast. It’s crispy, creamy, messy, and delectably greasy. A distinct bar culture remains vibrantly present in their Mexicali omlette, which is pretty much a big bowl of hearty nacho blend on an omelet instead of chips.

I couldn’t go with a single, confident decision at this place as everything on the table was dangerously flavorful, but my mind is stuck somewhere in between the fully-loaded burrito and the homemade corned beef hash.

Don’t Miss: All-day traditional fry up and breakfast specials starting at 28 RMB coming soon
Expected total price: 60-100 RMB with a cocktail
Hours: 4 pm – 2 am (Monday-Friday), 11 am – 2 am (weekends)

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Tropical Grill

Perfectly squeezed between countless other coffee shops and restaurants in the Dynatown strip, there’s little doubt that this place could be an everyday stop. With a menu spanning an array of American and European dishes from traditional breakfast to wings and ribs for dinner, it might not be the most obvious breakfast or brunch spot, but it’s one worth checking out. Local foreigners have long adored the gluttonous biscuits and gravy (weekend-only), but at the same time enjoyed the option to select a nutritious start to the day with items like an all-natural kale orange juice.

The French toast is uniquely made by dipping a baguette into a vanilla, milky egg mix, cooked and topped with walnuts and maple syrup. They’re delightfully fluffy in the middle, but still toasted on the outside. The French toast was also not overly sweet, which made it easy to devour within minutes.

I also enjoyed the salmon—which is carefully selected and home cured—that’s combined with cream cheese on poppy seed bagel and served with lettuce, tomato and onion. The salmon was not powerfully salty, which I really appreciated.

Don’t Miss: Fresh bagels. A cup of coffee or tea is included in all breakfast combos.
Expected total price: 32 – 80 RMB
Hours: Breakfast from 7:30 am – 11 pm

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Alan’s World

That familiar Devon flag proudly displayed on the canopy, the ubiquitous Union-Jacks atop well-dressed tables and a fridge full of Award-Winning West Country Ciders originating not twenty miles from my hometown is all that embraces me as I enter into Alan’s World.

Outside, on the pleasantly not-wicker, cast-iron garden set, a coffee initiates my breakfast. It’s Italian and certainly one of the better cups that I’ve had since my arrival to DG. Though I thought I had my last Full-English breakfast on a cold February morning in Brixton six months ago, I was now compelled to taste what is offered halfway around the globe.

Now inside, I sat in front of a perfectly cooked fried egg among the frame of everything I like to see on a plate, which included homemade sausage and Heinz beans. Heinz! Breakfast was the right size for me, but a larger or smaller version can be requested by adding or removing items (including black pudding) for varying prices, depending on your choice.

I counted nine different teas offered and went for Tetley’s—it matches the meal well. Jasmine tea just doesn’t quite cut through bacon fat.

The friendly, attentive staff offered me a Cider, but I settled for a pickled egg, which made me dance with glee as I ambled home satisfied and ready for my juice-box and a nap.

Don’t Miss: Unlimited tea or coffee with breakfast, a bottle of Award-Winning cider and a pickled egg
Expected total price: 50 RMB for breakfast
Hours: Breakfast from 8 am – 7 pm

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Sharefoods Cafe

This elegant, yet laid back café looks like it was made especially for Chinese A-listers. Choose to soak up a few rays on the patio lounge or go indoors for the classy suede chairs or black leather booths. The menu is a total East-meets-West fusion that showcases all the breakfast classics with an exotic twist.

sharefoodsIf you can skip one morning of booze, this café will easily keep you hydrated with an extensive drink menu that includes a variety of sparkling waters, smoothies, enzyme vinegar teas, and 90+ coffees. For a cold drink, the sparkling grapefruit apple cider water is exquisite, but for something warmer, go for the truly unique oats, peanuts and matcha tea.

You can easily spend a few hours here giving breakfast the respect it deserves or pick up a quick coffee and a rich pastry from the bakery that leans on the pastry chef who spent eight year with Hyatt. You won’t be disappointed.

The poached egg with truffle hollandaise sauce is simply perfection and was my favorite dish on the table. If you want to get fancy, you can expand your eggs benedict with sourdough bread at no extra cost.

Don’t Miss: Add a coffee for just 10 RMB with any brunch
Expected total price: around 40-60 RMB
Hours: 9:30 am – 10 pm

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Dongguan Old Restaurant

One of the most iconic Cantonese foods is dim sum, period. So, it makes sense that these restaurants usually dominate the food scene in Cantonese areas, but strangely this is not the case for Dongguan.

Of the few options here, Dongguan Old Restaurant is one the most famous, especially for expats. Offering all the classic bite-sized delicacies, plus surprisingly, Western-style toilets, you can eat and drink to your heart’s content and still have a comfortable place to make more space. The expansive dim sum menu is divided into several categories such as steamed buns, steamed cakes, sweets, rice noodle rolls, porridge and other steamed items. Tea, which you continuously heat and pour for yourself, is a must for the meal. If you have a favorite type of tea leaves, bring them, or else you’ll need to pay an extra 5 RMB per person.

The “Quicksand” steamed buns (liu sha bao)—originally invented in the 20th century and now loved by people from around the world—is one of the stars here. The filling is a mixture of duck egg yolk, butter and sugar. It’s pleasantly sweet and a little bit crunchy. Just be careful with the first bite; that hot filling is just itching to squirt all over your companion.

Don’t Miss: Egg tarts, shrimp dumplings & the lotus leaf-wrapped chicken rice
Expected total price: 70 RMB
Hours: 7:30 am – 2 pm

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Moon’s Margaritas (Chang’an)

Chang’an is one of those places that you wish you could visit more often. The nearby scenic mountains offer a breathtaking view and the constantly growing list of bars and restaurants aims to never leave a dull moment.

Fortunately, we were able to steal away from home for the weekend and see if there’s any difference in the food down south. What did we find? A sunny, upbeat restaurant with plenty of signs and knickknacks covering the walls. It all gives the place a casual feel, which is also the sentiment that the owners seem to convey as they mention that they try to cook customers whatever they’d like. Plus, there’s also a full-sized hockey net out front for those looking to fire off a couple slap shots.

moonsTo sample a wider variety of many of the available breakfast options, we were offered a gigantic platter with all the morning regulars like eggs, toast, English muffins, potatoes, waffles, bacon and more. Hungover, I could see myself spending hours here, slowly packing in warm food and chatting away with the friendly staff, which is exactly what their regulars appeared to be doing. As though that wasn’t enough, we also dug into their venerated breakfast wrap (eggs, cheese, bacon and tomatoes). For people always on the run, it’d be a great grab-and-go meal. Clean, delicious and easy.

Something about the whole atmosphere and the food gave me the impression that Moon’s Margarita is probably one of the most authentic American-style breakfast joints around. It’s the kind of place where you’ll go after waking up on a warm morning, having a nice long stretch and stepping out for some satisfying eats.

Don’t Miss: Try the surprising collection of imported hot sauces. Some of them are made with fire, so get the drinks ready.
Expected total price: 50-55 RMB
Hours: 9 am – 12 am

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Zhu Chang Fen

Rooted in the heart of old Guancheng city, this local breakfast joint has been running for over three decades and has been favored by generations of Dongguaners. Nonchalantly located in a quiet alley beside Guancheng Central Primary School, it lacks even a proper name. The only way to find it is to locate the small blue sign marked with the name of their signature food: the “pig intestine rice noodle” (zhu chang fen). Thankfully for some, this food doesn’t involve any gut parts; its name merely comes from its peculiar look. Each morning, hordes of people from various walks of life descend on this little spot for a simple breakfast that’s become quite a tradition. This tiny eatery can never supply all its fans seated across the eclectic collection of a dozen desks and tables. Get there too late (we recommend before 9:30 am) and there’s a pretty good chance the rice noodles will be all gone. Not really the place for conversation, people get filled and move on.

After observing other locals, it appeared the most popular items were two bowls of rice noodles and a bowl of soy porridge. Compared to supermarket rice noodles, the pasta here has a delightfully thin and crispy texture. Be sure to mix well with the soy sauce and oil before chowing down.

Don’t Miss: Pig Intestine Rice Noodle
Expected total price: 8 RMB
Hours: 6 – 11 am

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Liberty Brewing Co.

When you’re looking to satiate that “dude-food craving,” get yourself over here. Since evolving from Al Caliente, much has been improved, from attractive, modern renovations to a brand new menu that aims to set itself apart in Dongguan. Centered in lively Dongcheng, Liberty Brewing Company is quickly building up its brunch reputation as the place where the best of us will turn up to close out a weekend of boozy shenanigans.

libertyAlready quite well known for their classic all-American burgers and beers, this place lays down a killer weekend brunch menu with a staggering list of indulgent options. If you’re like me, you’ll definitely struggle choosing just one item, so I recommend gathering up a few of your buds and ordering a few savory and sweet breakfast dishes to chow down.

We gave our taste buds the best of both worlds with the must-have eggs benedict with salmon set upon a Dongguan-exclusive New York bagel, the hangover killing meatball flatbread and finished up with the chocolate lover’s French toast waffle that’s topped with bananas and a rich chocolate ganache. When you get thirsty, look no further than the signature Bloody Mary to compliment your late breakfast. Holy mother of spicy, unlimited Bloody Marys!

Don’t Miss: Bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s for only 100 RMB during brunch
Expected total price: 50-150
Hours: Brunch from 11 am – 4 pm (weekends)

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Dip-It

Keep your eyes peeled for this hidden gem as it tops the charts of breakfast spots in Dongguan. Though only in operation for around a year, they’re already diving headfirst into the breakfast game as they flip the script on conventional morning fare with innovation and flair. Delving into the more intricate side of Mediterranean cuisine, you’ll experience a friendly family-kitchen and a warm, home-cooked meal. Dip-It fosters such an ease that you can grab your own drink while watching your meal being arranged before you using only fresh products and other homemade sides.

dip-itThe Israeli owner has brought some of the best recipes from home and luckily for us, she’s happy to share the wealth. The muesli I tried is made completely from scratch, and she also makes the yogurt and bakes the granola by hand. Here, you’ll find plenty of lighter options for breakfast, as it’s customary in Israel to avoid meat in the mornings or evenings, with lunch being the biggest meal of the day.

The toasted Jerusalem Bagel is one of their premier morning dishes that looks a bit like a panini, but actually is a crunchy, freshly baked bagel that’s filled with warm vegetables, mozzarella cheese and a homemade pesto sauce, and all sits alongside fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and a tasty yogurt sauce. I also tried the spinach quiche that’s cooked in a pastry crust. It’s fluffy, it’s cheesy and it’s generously filled with egg, cream, spinach and finally topped with feta cheese.

Don’t Miss: The traditional Israeli breakfast and Arabic coffee
Expected total price: 35-90 RMB
Hours: Breakfast from 9 am – 2 pm (weekends)

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Martin’s

Strolling to and fro here are Chinese and expat clientele picking up the morning bread and baked goods or enjoying a high quality meal. Tucked slightly into IEO—in the vicinity of other well-known spots—is a traditional German restaurant, deli and bakery quite similar to what you’d find in the old country.

It’s a clean, modern and cozy place to enjoy an anytime meal in the care of tremendously hospitable staff. Not only is Martin’s a nice place for breakfast, but also admired for their delicious—and timely—holiday pastries.

martinsIt’s open early, which seems to be a rarity in Dongguan, and although they’re famous for their signature breads and sweets, I might encourage you to try their tasty homemade muesli that’s made using imported ingredients like yoghurt, oats, almonds, fruits, milk and honey.

A variety of set breakfasts are 55 RMB (only available 7 – 10:30 am) and include an essential cup of coffee. My favorite was the Farmer’s Breakfast that boasts with authenticity in every bite. The perfectly golden and crispy-on-the-outside egg concoction is served with thin layers of potatoes, bacon, fresh tomato and a delicious basil sauce. It reminded me of a mix between a Spanish tortilla and a French quiche.

Don’t Miss: Classic German desserts like kaiserchmarren, authentic pretzels and freshly made sandwiches from the deli.
Expected total price: 40-60 RMB
Hours: 7 am – 9 pm

Contributors: David Mark Arnold, Cindy Altamirano, Matthew Goff

Category Cover Stories