If you want a truly Shanghai experience, go to Fu Chun Xiao Long restaurant. As newbie white people with practically no Mandarin ability, we were in WAY over our heads. We didn't know this until we arrived, of course, but we knew it as soon as we entered.
The place is a madhouse. Completely packed with locals (so you know it's good) and so full of life and energy that it's contagious. We tried to watch others to understand the process of ordering and seating, but it was totally bewildering.
Luckily, some very kind locals with decent English took pity on us and explained the ropes, which I will explain here:
1. Order your food as soon as you enter and pay for it right away. A local took care of ordering for us, thankfully. The cashier will give you a ticket with your order. Hold onto this ticket.
2. Wander the restaurant until you find an unoccupied table/seats at a table. It doesn't matter if you know the other people at the table. If there are open seats, they're fair game. Sit down and don't move.
3. A busser/waiter will come by to clean the spot you took. Give them your ticket. Stay in your seat or someone else will take it. The food from your ticket will go back to that seat, whether you're in it or not.
4. Admire your food when it comes, but only for a second. It's packed and other people want your seat, so eat fast.
Xiao Long Bao is a special Shanghai-style dumpling. Well, it's not technically a dumpling; it's a steamed bun, but it's commonly referred to by westerners as a dumpling, so I will too. It's steamed and filled with pork and soup. It is ridiculously delicious, but there is a proper way to eat it so as to not burn yourself on the piping hot soup inside.
1. Pick one up with your chopsticks.
2. Bite the top end off and let the steam out. Wait for at least 10 seconds.
3. Sip the soup out of the opening. Love it. It's like chicken soup mixed with heaven.
4. Take a bite out of the dumpling. Savor the pork and soup together. Mmmmm.
5. Finish it off and repeat.
It's fun. You absolutely must go to this restaurant if you're in Shanghai. It is a crazy amazing and memorable experience. We got two baskets of Xiao Long Bao and a thing of fried pork for a total RMB 26, which is about $4. See below for a video of the whole experience.