From traditional teahouses to charming cafes, the capital of Taiwan has plenty of secret spots that not many can find among its warren of busy streets. Here are some of its lesser-known hangouts, as recommended by a local.
Hangzhou Xiao Long Bao
While tourists flock to big chain restaurants such as Din Tai Fung for their fix of xiao long bao (dumplings filled with soup and meat) this dumpling restaurant is a big hit with the locals. Order its signature pork or shrimp xiao long bao followed by red bean pancake for dessert at affordable prices. Located next to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Hangzhou Xiao Long Bao gets busy at around 6pm, so make sure to beat the rush.
No.19, Section 2, Hangzhou South Road, Da’an District
Nearest MRT: Chiang Kai Shek
R&D Cocktail Lab
In a quiet alley in downtown Taipei, mixologists are creating concoctions that may raise a few eyebrows. There are no menus at R&D Cocktail Lab, which brings to mind a traditional Chinese inn – you simply tell them what flavours you want in your drink and they’ll give you some suggestions. This speakeasy-style bar also works with more creative ingredients like Sichuan peppercorn, coriander, chilli and ginseng – it’s not called a lab for nothing.
No.36 Jiaxing Street, Da’an District
Nearest MRT: Liuzhangli
Ruins Coffee Roasters
Wedged between dilapidated-looking shophouses, Ruins Coffee Roasters could be mistaken for a hip carpenters’ workshop. The cafe is run by a group of young Taiwanese, who are passionate about single-origin coffee, cold brews and delicious desserts. With a great atmosphere and excellent hand drips, this place is a must-visit.
No. 242, Section 3, Muzha Rd, Wenshan District
Nearest MRT: Muzha
Yumin Street Night Market
No visit to Taipei is complete without a tour of its famous night markets. Avoid the lost-looking crowds of tourists by visiting this bustling local one instead, where you can get a steak meal (above) for a mere 200NTD (US$6.65). Other popular items include their delicious oyster vermicelli and chicken broth.
Yumin Street, Banqiao District, Xinbei
Nearest MRT: Xinpu
Lan Jia Gua Bao
Make sure not to miss the delicious Lan Jia Gua Bao, a stall concealed amid the crush of Gongguan market. These fluffy white buns (above) are filled with juicy pork belly, topped with crushed peanuts and coriander. If pork buns are not your thing, you can also try their savoury pork intestine soup.
No. 3, Ally 8, Lane 316, Section 3, Luosifu Road, Zhongzheng District
Nearest MRT: Gongguan
Though it is situated near Taipei Main Station, this sliver of a Japanese-style yakitori restaurant and bar is easy to miss due to its diminutive size. Its cosy atmosphere, however, makes it the perfect place to relax with your closest friends. Kick back with a cold Orion draft beer and make sure to try their grilled chicken heart and fried oolong. Space is limited so call to book a spot in advance.
No. 2, Zhongshan North Road, Section 1, Zhongshan District, Taipei City 104.
Nearest MRT: Taipei
Wistaria Tea House
Set in a Japanese-style wooden house built in the 1920s, Wistaria serves high quality teas in a quiet, calming space with wooden floors – some laid with tatami mats. The abode, which is set in a tranquil garden, offers an excellent selection of pu-erh teas, fermented to achieve a rich, smooth taste. Escape the blare of traffic and go “ohm” here.
No.1, Lane 16, Xinsheng South Road, Section 3, Da’an District
Nearest MRT: Taipower Building
This article was first published at Silverkris, 6 September 2017.