First of all, we should establish that 'Car Park' is not actually the name of this well-known shwar hangout. It is merely known as such by expats in Tianjin as it is located in the car park of the Home Inn on Weijin Lu, close to the Tianjin TV Tower. The motel is situated in a small courtyard just off the main road, with the restaurant taking up residence outside. Describing 'Car Park' as a venue is something of a tricky task. Many of the normal adjectives we might use in a restaurant review – 'lavish', 'well-decorated', 'welcoming' - all dramatically miss the point. Even slightly more scaled-down choices such as 'comfortable' or 'hygienic' may even be too much. Instead, I find terms like 'rustic', 'rough and ready' and 'colorful', springing to mind.
Essentially, Car Park amounts to little more than a collection of battered tables and cheap plastic stools on the edge of the courtyard. I realize this may not sound particularly inviting, but Car Park is not famous for its design, atmosphere or ambiance. Instead, it is popular for two things: its food and the opportunity to drink insanely cheap cold draft beer in the open air – 4 RMB a go! There are a variety of dishes on the menu at Car Park, including some intriguing soups and vegetable numbers. However, these are best overlooked in favor of the house favorites; the mutton and chicken shwar. Both are hot, greasy and utterly delicious, especially when doused in traditional spices.