Updated 2017: Added some new options that have opened in the months – wow, years – since I penned this little post.
The options for American food in this city have come a long way in the past few years. And it’s not only paninis, burgers, salads and fries – even region-specific food trends and chains have made their way over to this little island: Honey Pig, Lee’s Sandwiches – and Cajun-style seafood (okay, soooo I guess the “region” in question would be Southern California). It’s also been exciting to see a crop of “New American restaurants” – doing slightly upmarket spins on American classics. Here’s my rough list of what’s out there at the moment:
RIP EIEIO Gastropub: It’s now closed, taking this fried chicken with it.
CASUAL AMERICAN & NEW AMERICAN
• Toasteria: They totally label this place as “mediterranean” but I didn’t know paninis….? were a classic Greek comfort food…? Pretty sure they don’t eat that many paninis in Greece, but who cares because paninis are awesome and delicious and Toasteria has got loads of different ones. They just opened up a huge three-story spot on Yongkang Street next to the OG Din Tai Fung. The shakshuka is also incredible; do not miss. I think that’s actually Greek.
• Pig & Pepper: Tried this way back in the day as part of a media tasting when it first opened. Went back with family a few years later – the space is nice, but the dishes still seemed overpriced to me (the appetizers are absurdly priced) for the portions – walked by recently around dinnertime and it was empty. Figures.
• The Diner: Ah – no matter how many fancy craft/artisan/whatever restaurants open up, what could possibly take the place of The Diner – ABCs should built a shrine to it. Hearty comfort food: from big salads to nachos (still my favorite nachos in Taipei) and mac n’ cheese. Good for brunch – here’s a list of more brunch spots in Taipei.
The famed CORNER OFFICE TACOS via @taipeifoodie
• Corner Office: To be honest I’ve never made it over to this spot but it seems pretty chill. A place for beers, wings, assorted fatty fried foods with cheese on them, and it’s actually their tacos (I guess it’s a competition between them and Twinkeyz at this point) that got the most attention.
• SPOT Taipei: With a menu overseen by Shanghai’s beloved son of all things fried, fatty and delicious Austin Hu (of Madison Kitchen fame); SPOT is well, THE SPOT for mouth-watering (and gut-busting) updates on American classics. There’s the much-loved fried chicken waffle sandwich, as well as delicious fries (I LOVE me some fries) and macaroni n’ cheeeeeese.
Note 2: Since I’ve already included them on this post, I didn’t want to feature them again – but the two “American” restaurants I actually visit the most often are Herban Kitchen & Bar (the pastas are excellent) and Mia Cucina (get the paninis) – they’re both vegetarian, but serve hearty comfort food sans meat.
Never thought that this would make its way to Taipei, much less two restaurants doing the same concept. Between the two current competitors: Brookhurst Seafood Bar and Shrimp Daddy, I have to say that I prefer Shrimp Daddy for the atmosphere; but the two are essentially interchangeable.
The burger trend has been on the rise in Taiwan’s capital – more than pizza, salads, artisan sandwiches, hamburger joints have been opening at a prodigious rate. Taipei has always had burger options, but they’ve been very “localised”, not keeping pace with “modernist” burger trends in the US and abroad (ex: Father’s Office, specialty ingredients like Umami’s truffle burger, etc.) For years, joints like EVANS Burger were the only options besides fast food chains, and they sold extremely localised burgers: peanut butter burger, anyone? KGB in Shida used to be my go-to burger spot – their veggie burger with yoghurt (yes, burger purists, keep rolling your eyes) was a common lunch order.
The recent openings – the “new wave” of burger restaurants – signals the concept of “craft” coming to Taipei’s gastronomy scene (this isn’t counting the divisive opening of CaliBurger, the In-n-Out fake). Here’s a short list:
Burger Fix goes by “craft”, while Burger Ray goes “luxe” with their foie gras burger. It’s attracted the attention of a certain Taipei crowd, and my Facebook feed has been inundated with socialites and models pretending to “enjoy” a Burger Ray foie gras when we all know they dumped that shit 2 seconds later and ate a salad. Both seem a bit gimmicky, but overall – the burger quality has improved in Taipei.
Out of all, my far and away favorite is Burger & Co, which recently opened a new location in Tienmu. The menu is limited to a few items – besides burgers, a veggie burger and pulled pork sandwiches are also available. It’s fresh, cheap and their cheese-topped fries are delicious. (Plus, killer buffalo wings). True story: I once at here while completely blacked-out drunk for an 8-hour period, and the only thing I recalled back from this lost time was the memory of scarfing Burger & Co’s buffalo wings (buffalo wings beat out French fries for title of “Stephanie’s favorite food”). BEST BUFFALO WINGS IN TAIPEI, undisputed fact.
For a sit-down burger experience I’d opt for BING, located near Taipei City Hall. They’re famous for their bone marrow burger and smothered ox-tail fries – hearty, heavy “New American”. Washed down with local beers (read: 55th Street).
features photo via Burger Ray, photos via Sean Marc Lee, Shrimp Daddy