My National Geographic book guide had good references about this place. So, It was the first café I entered when arrived from Kunming by a sleeper bus. They offer good breakfasts.
About tourist information, I prefer and recomend Mekong Café.
It's very nice to drink this right after you eat the spicy mango (with chilli powder, salt, sugar etc). (RMB1)
There is also another choice of fruit - cucumber. Mixed with soy sauce, salt, sugar etc. (RMB1)
The stall is usually manned by a woman.
Favorite Dish: The drink is served in a bowl.
With a big piece of ice, rose sugar, some kind of transparent jelly, another kind of translucent jelly shaped like a fat white worm.
It gives you a nice feeling especially if you backpack. There is a long chair with soft cushion for your bumps once you sit on it you don't feel like moving anymore.
The place is tastefully furnished.
Travel information neatly compiled in a file.
Free use of broadband internet upstairs.
Bicycles available for rent at RMB20 per day.
Favorite Dish: There is a Burmese drink called "patalu" (sorry can't remember), diluted milk with lots of fresh fuit pieces, then decorated with (edible) toasted bread. VERY NICE.
Other dishes are ok, tailored to westerner's taste buds. Vegetarian dishes available.
Clean. Waitresses look Thai and do not speak much mandarin either.
Menu in English which makes things easy.
The place is absolutely packed with Thai customers in the evening starting from 6pm.
Favorite Dish: Tom Yum Gung. Excellent for only RMB 25, plenty of prawns, served in a tin hot-pot which allows for coal to be put in the middle.
We didn't like James Cafe. Although pre-dating Mei-Meis and Forest Cafe, James Cafe seems to have lost its way. The staff hang around bored and are more interested in what is going on outside in the street. It also seemed expensive. We didn't have the same sense of being in a travellers den as in the other two; perhaps we were expecting too much.
To me, this now feels like a Chinese imitation of the backpacker, right-on, hippy joint that I understand it once was.
Favorite Dish: Thai food. Expensive cafe.
Mei-Mei's is one of a selection of restaurants and cafes near the big roundabout that attract much of the Western travellers through the town.
The reason is that they understand, shall we say, Western dining: it isn't neon-lit, it isn't a massive barn of a restaurant, the staff don't hover over you while you think asbout what you want to order, they don't see the need to have a TV on loudly in the corner, they encourage you not to spit on the floor, they clear up the plates on the tables between courses...and most importantly for us....they recognise that children sometimes want plain, small portions. Don't get me wrong - we love eating in China, but just sometimes, one just needs to have a bit of something that is closer to expectations of home.
Mei-Mei's is just that. Despite the sentimental guff in the guide-books, the story is a bit more prosaic. Neither the original Mei-Mei nor her family have anything to do with the restaurant now. Mei-Mei is studying in Munich now and the restuarant is owned by two sisters from Dali.
Favorite Dish: There is a massive variety of food: Yunnan, Western, American, with some Lao and Thai dishes.
The potato soup (now is that Yunnan or Western?) is great. Seriously. Really great.
Mei-Mei's is relaxing, with a variety of good music (unobtrusive), and they now have an internet PC upstairs and even a selection of DVDs and a TV in a small lounge up there.
There is a good library of books for sale or exchange, including titles we saw in French, Dutch, German and Russian.
Breakfast at Sarah's, lunch on the road, dinner at Mei-Mei's.....defineition of a good day.
The Forest Cafe, like Mei-Mei's opposite, is an institution in Jinghong. Owned solely by the charismatic Sarah, since she bought out her two original co-investors, it sits in the 'bacpacker centre' of the town.
Sarah's real interest lies in trekking and in studying the ethnic minorities in the region, and she is able to communicate with many of the different local groups.
The food at this 'hole in the wall' cafe takes a while to serve, because the kitchen is tiny. This gives plenty of time to talk to sarah about treks and tours. She is a mine of information about Xishuangbanna. If Sarah is not there, reading the menu provides a wealth of information instead.
She has a good library of books - some for exchange, some for reference.
She also sells some jewellery and handicrafts which come direct from Aini, Dai and Jinuo villages in the area. It's more fun to buy them direct though, by going with her on a trek.
Favorite Dish: The healthy breakfast, the porridge, the banana shake, the banana, orange and passionfruit shakes. We hear also that the burgers are legendary.
This place is really small, really very small, with walls painted rustic red.
We had some local dishes including a Thai vege curry, which was ok.
Favorite Dish: Don't remember.
This is about the only place in Yunnan, other than Kunming, where you can get a good burger and fries.