I had the luxury of spending a month in Shanghai end of last year so I took the time to explore the neighborhood eateries scattered all over the city. Most of these are less than less than 25 RMB ($4 now?) but the themes are the same - noodles, buns and some wontons!
I hosted a friend from Singapore and she mused that the simplest and cheapest noodle dish on either high end menu or those neighborhood canteens' slot board - noodles with fried scallions, often can distinguish how good the place is. So we went search for the best noodles in fried scallion oils and managed to miss THE one place old shanghai folks suggested - CangLangTing沧浪亭 on Chongqing Rd. Alas, not all CangLangTing are created equal, just like the ubiquitous FengYu丰裕shengjian。 The best cheap one we had was at 弘兴大包 （鲁班路167号）a place called Big Bun but with a slogan on its window advertising its noodles. I spotted it near Liyuan Rd in my taxi going north on Luban Road under the South/North highway. It is an typical neighborhood breakfirst/lunch place - but it has two flavors of soupy dumplings- one Shanghai and one Suzhou(sweeter)! These are far better than the soup dumplings I had at YuYuan. And the fried scallion noodle was done rather well. However, stay away from their rice and stri-fry dishes as it was clearly not their specialty.
Another good but a bit greasy rendition of fried scallion noodles was done at 鲜得来 near Huaihai Rd. They used the oils that fried the pork chops that it is famous for so it takes some meat flavors in. 排骨年糕at 鲜得来is underwhelming, I prefer the ones done at a FengYu corner shop better (my secret hang out, it also has fabulous wonton 三鲜馄饨！).
The Canglangting沧浪亭 we went to near XujiaHui was quite crowded. The food was OK but not as good as the one branch on Huaihai Rd. We had Fried carp noodles here and the fried scallion noodles were covered with fried scallions but the sauce was a bit lacking. The right one would be this:
The texture of the scallion noodles at 吴越人家 at ShanXi Rd was a bit too soft for my taste. Their yellow crocker double stewed noodle 黄鱼焖面 was OK as it should be soggy..
BTW, I was a bit puzzled by the fried dumplings from Yang's advertised as 生煎. The food is tasty - it was just not traditional! Typical Shanghai fried dumplings are 生煎馒头 with raised dough, not with solid skin like those of a pan-fried dumpling锅贴... (end of gripe)
At the end of my stay, I finally got in touch with an uncle who lives in Shanghai near Yuyuan Rd. He heard about my quest for noodles and buns and took me to his favorite XLB place near his apt not far from Jiangsu Rd subway station. The little XLBs were cheap and flavorful! I have sworn not to share but you can find it yourself. The place was full of chatty retired folks when I was there. Oh, their wontons are just OK.
Another food fad that hit Shanghai last year were the Taiwanese Yam balls. The stall at the Sun Moon Light Center at DaPuQiao Subway exit had excellent business and there were some higher end ones opening up near XinTianDi. I just could not resist.
Shredded Pork with Scallion Noodles;
Carp Noodles (CangLangTing)
Yellow Crocker Stewed Noodles(WuYueRenJia)
Yang's Fried Dumpling
XLB on Yuyuan Rd
ShuangDang, Pork Chop, scallion noodles (XianDeLai)
Pork Chop over fried Rice cake (FengYu)
Fried Dumpling and Wonton in SML Center
Yam ball soup near XinTianDi
ZhongZi vendor on YangDang Rd