Arguably the most popular and best all around Western restaurant in Kunming, Salvador's has been a fixture of the international community since it opened in 2004. Originating in Dali, the café's funky ambiance is very much in the spirit of its namesake, the eccentric Spanish artist Salvador Dali.
The relaxed environment, suave tunes, and top-notch menu are great for anything from a hearty breakfast and coffee to a Friday night drink with friends. Readers of GoKunming.com recently voted Salavador's "Best Café" and "Best Cocktails" for 2007. There's no doubt Salvador's earned every vote.
Nearly every item on the menu stands out among foreign cuisine in Kunming. The mix of offerings is perhaps a uniquely American blend of Mexican, Italian, and even Middle Eastern fare. My personal lunch/dinner favorite is the Deluxe Quesadilla (available with a choice of chicken, beef, or shiitake mushroom, ¥24), served with a side of salsa that actually tastes like salsa. The spaghetti selections are also excellent, one-upping even the city's Italian restaurants. After meal options are just as appetizing, featuring ice cream sundaes like the "UFO" and the "Star Destroyer." Beware though of the milkshakes. Despite the best efforts of the management, the staff routinely over-blends and under-fills them. The result, unfortunately, is the somewhat typical "milky shake" found at many a Chinese Western establishment.
Though Salvador's last call on the early side at 11:00pm, it is in fact one of the better bars around. The best time to enjoy their strongish cocktails is during the generous happy hour (4:00-8:00pm, daily) when Gin Tonics, Vodka Tonics, and Screwdrivers are all available at ¥10. Beer drinkers might be at first disappointed with the absence of the local Dali Beer, but can find solace in the moderately up market – though superior – Lao Beer.
When it comes to coffee, it is obvious that Salvador's takes its Coffee House moniker seriously. With imported Nuova Simonelli espresso machines and a specially selected blend of Yunnan coffee beans, the entire range of their java selection is phenomenal. Until 2:00pm each day you can enjoy a bottomless cup of regular brew coffee (¥12). While free refills go together great with complimentary WiFi access, the real draw is the espresso drinks (¥10-28). Thorough staff training produces a consistently tasty cup. For those that can't get enough, you can take a bag home (¥38 for a small bag, ¥72 for a large).
While Salvador's certainly deserves its reputation among the international resident community with authentic recreations of Western cuisine, the secret to its success lies in its ability to attract ever-greater numbers of local Kunming fans. If you plan on making a first time visit, it is best to avoid the usual lunch or dinner rush and try mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Salvador's makes an effort to be welcoming to new visitors, with menus available in Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, and Thai.