TAIPEI (Undiscovered Taipei) — We all know the food in Taipei is incredible. Whether you’ve been here ten minutes or ten years, you’ll already be well aware of xiaolongbao (soup dumplings, 小籠包), beef noodles, braised pork on rice, shaved ice and a host of others.
However, regardless of how delicious Taiwanese food is, sometimes it just isn’t what we’re looking for. There are days when there are only so many guabao (刈包) or scallion pancakes we can stomach — some days, only a taste of home will do.
While holidays are often a time for reunion, not all expats can make it home to celebrate with their families. Food is a big part of many Western holidays — particularly the likes of Christmas and Thanksgiving — and sometimes it’s foods from back home that we miss the most.
Quality exotic food might not be something you particularly associate with Taipei, but the Taiwanese capital not only does it, but does it well.
TAIPEI has rounded up some of Taipei’s best authentic foreign restaurants to give homesick expats an alternative to Taiwanese cuisine when they’re missing home the most (not that there’s anything wrong with Taiwanese food, of course).
KIWI GOURMET BURGERS (KGB)
Everybody loves a good burger, and Kiwi Gourmet Burgers might just do the best burgers in Taipei. Tucked away down an unassuming lane off Shida Road (師大路), KGB’s interior is bright and welcoming, with the options of both table and bar seating.
The atmosphere is laid back in true New Zealand fashion, and the staff are friendly and proficient in English and Chinese, with the menu available in English for people whose hanzi (漢字) recognition isn’t too hot.
Their burgers use quality meats imported from New Zealand, and their salads are fresh and tasty — don’t sleep on the apple and walnut. The fridge is stocked with both local and imported beers and ciders, while milkshakes, teas and other soft drinks are also available and definitely hit the spot.
The KGB cheeseburger is a New Zealand grass-fed beef patty with a choice of either swiss or cheddar cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, red onion and ginger lime aioli. Upgrade your cheese to camembert or blue cheese if you’re feeling fancy. It’s very, very haochi!
No. 5 , Ln. 114, Shida Rd., Daan Dist.
Monday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Macho Tacos (Shida Branch)
Mexican food, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, isn’t too hard to find in Taipei, and Macho Tacos, luchador wrestler mascot and all, is more than just a contender for the city’s top spot. Incredibly popular amongst Taipei’s student contingent, the simply decorated restaurant with its long service counter and tattered brickwork serves all the Mexican fare you’d expect.
We’re talking soft tacos, hard tacos, burritos, nachos, rice bowls quesadillas and more, while drinks on offer include margaritas, tequila and even authentic horchata. The staff can take your order in English and Chinese, and everyone there speaks the universal language of Taco Tuesdays, when all tacos are NT$45 with the purchase of a drink. ¡Excelente!
It’s three tacos (soft or hard) for NT$200 with your choice of protein. The staff recommends pork, chicken and taco meat. Taco meat might sound iffy but it is simply mixed ground pork and beef, which is absolutely delectable. So there’s nothing wrong with a little mystery, is there?
No. 15, Pucheng St., Daan Dist.
Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
As an expat, finding a good pizza spot is important. Sure, you need to find a job, start learning the language and maybe sort yourself out an apartment, but pizza is also definitely a priority.
Boasting the slogan “probably the best pizza in town,” after one visit to Alleycat’s Pizza you could quickly find yourself agreeing with them.
Sporting a stylish interior with a friendly, comfortable atmosphere, Alleycat’s specializes in stone-oven-baked pizza and has a diverse menu offering pies ranging from classic favorites like Margherita and Hawaiian to more creative, locally-inspired creations, such as Three-Cup Chicken (三杯雞) and Kung Pao Chicken (宮保雞丁).
To wash it all down, they also have an extensive drinks menu consisting of international beers, ciders, wines, cocktails and even shooters.
The Maialona pizza is perfect for meat-lovers and is generously topped with homemade Italian sausage, pepperoni, chorizo and salami. The Oreo milkshake is another must and is all kinds of thiccccccck.
No. 1, Sec. 1, Bade Rd., Zhongzheng Dist.
Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. – 12 midnight
Oma Ursels German Restaurant & Bakery
Hidden down an alley off the immensely popular tourist haven Yongkang Street (永康街) near MRT Dongmen station (捷運東門站), you can find a little slice of Deutschland right here in Taipei.
Bright and cozy, the restaurant area sits separately from a small bakery where you can find various breads, pastries and treats. The female waitstaff wears traditional dirndl dresses (think Oktoberfest), and the menu is packed with genuine German dishes, such as bratwurst, schnitzel and pork knuckle.
You can also definitely expect a selection of great German beers, steins and all. Prost!
The braised pork strips in white sauce served with mushroom and mashed potatoes is a delight, while you can’t go wrong with the mixed sausage plate — a mantra to live by.
No. 8, Ln. 10, Yongkang St., Daan Dist.
Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Kouyou Okonomiyaki | 紅葉お好み焼き
Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake basically translating to “cooked how you like.” Usually consisting of a wheat-flour and cabbage base, your choice of ingredients is added to make it just “how you like.”
At Kouyou, the menu is only available in Japanese and Chinese, so it might prove slightly difficult to order for people unfamiliar with these two languages, but this, plus the fact that the owner hails from Osaka — a city dubbed by many as “Japan’s kitchen” — just adds to the little restaurant’s authenticity and charm.
Seating perhaps ten people max — like many restaurants in Japan — Kouyou is a solid option to get your Japanese fix here in Taipei, a city with no shortage of quality Japanese eateries.
Add noodles, pork and a fried egg to your okonomiyaki for a delicious, filling dish just like they eat in the Land of the Rising Sun.
No. 4, Ln. 18, Jinjiang St., Zhongzheng Dist.
11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.; Closed on Wednesday
There’s nothing quite as comforting as food. A good meal can lift our spirits, change our mood and bring back fond memories of friends, family and home.
While a trip to these eateries might not quite be able to replicate your favorite home-cooked meal or compete with that hometown spot you’d go to every week growing up, if it’s a taste of home that you’re after, or just something to temporarily distract you from living in the Taiwanese capital — which we all need from time to time — you can’t go wrong with a bite to eat at one of these top restaurants.
By Adam Hopkins
Photos by Samil Kuo, Taiwan Scene
This article is reproduced under the permission of TAIPEI. Original content can be found at the website of Taipei Travel Net (www.travel.taipei/en).