Besides venturing to scenic places, I also enjoy cafe-hopping these days, as you may already know. 😉 Having read about the many interesting cafes in Taipei prior to the trip, I was itching to check them out. While cafes along Yongkang Street & Huashan Creative Park are trendy places known by both locals & foreigners, I wanted to explore areas less touristy yet still exude unique vibes. It was then I chanced upon local bloggers sharing about their cafe-hopping experiences in 1 of Taipei’s oldest districts in Dadaocheng, just up north in downtown Taipei.
Once the most prosperous area in the 19th century, the historic Dadaocheng district is home to many Chinese medicinal shops, dried foodstuff stores and temples. Of course, there are diverse styles of architecture one can find here, besides the notable Xia-Hai City God Temple as well as oldest markets in the city. In recent years, a number of interesting cafes have also set foot in the culturally rich Dadaocheng district. This sounds like an attractively offbeat place to cafe-hop, so yes we made our way there. 🙂 Here’s a compilation of the cafes & sights during our half-day visit in the charming Dadaocheng district!
1. Starbucks Store @Bao-An Street 星巴克 保安门市
I’m not a Starbucks fan, but this was 1 of the recommended cafe-hopping spots in Dadaocheng because of its location in the old beautiful mansion at the intersection between Chongqing North Road & Bao-An Street. Construction of the mansion began in 1926 & was completed in 1929. It was built for 1 of the most prosperous businessmen in Dadaocheng – Mr Yeh, nicknamed Pineapple King as he built his empire through manufacture of pineapple products. After Mr Yeh passed away, the historical mansion’s ownership changed hands several times, until it was designated a Historical Architecture for preservation purpose by the government around 1997.
The 3-storey mansion is 1 of the most elaborate & gorgeous buildings of that time (1930s), featuring the Baroque architecture style. Starbucks managed to find its way into the iconic building in Sep 2014, adding a contemporary touch to the nostalgic district. While the building exteriors were old, the modern cafe relaxed & hippy theme blended perfectly into the grand retro furnishings all around. Although we didn’t sit down for a cuppa here as we came here straight on a cab after a scrumptious hotel breakfast, a quick tour of the first floor of this Starbucks outlet was enough to send us going “wow”. No wonder it is known as 1 of the 9 most beautiful Starbucks in Taiwan. We also did the touristy thingy before proceeding to our next stop. 😉
I’m sorry my photos do not do justice to the beauty of this unique cafe housed in a gorgeous old mansion, as we didn’t spend too much time here. You have to visit the outlet yourself to see with your own eyes!
Address/ 地址: No. 11, Bao’an Street, Datong District, Taipei City/ 台北市大同區保安街11號
Open/ 营业时间: 7.30 am to 10.30 pm daily/ 每天早上7点半至晚上10点半
Directions/ 交通方式: Take the MRT to Daqiaotou Station and leave by exit 2. Walk straight down Chongqing North Rd Sec. 2 until you see the intersection to Bao-An Street. Cafe is on the right./ 搭乘捷运至大桥头站，2号出口过民权西路，直走重庆北路二段到保安街交叉口。咖啡座就在右边。
Website/ 官方网站: Starbucks Taiwan
2. Boan 84 Space 保安捌肆
Just a short 2-min walk down Bao-An Street is Boan 84 Space, a cafe cum art space transformed from a restored building constructed since the Japanese colonial period. We almost missed the shop as there wasn’t any distinct signage indicating its name (see pic above). Instead, as you can see from pic above, Boan 84 Space, which occupies the middle shophouse, is a shabby-looking beige-coloured 3-storey shop with the Chinese words “surgical hospital” in front. The Japanese-style wooden doors were still shut as it was 5 min before its official opening time at 11 am. Only slightly after 11 am when a staff opened the shop did we see the small & faint shop name (in Chinese) on its inner glass door 😅.
Since we were the first customers at Boan 84 Space, we could roam around & snap photos without anyone else in them. Seats were available on the first 2 levels of the shop for cafe-goers to chill over a cup of good coffee or enjoy some food, while level 3 is reserved for art displays, exhibitions or seminars (available for private booking). As Boan 84 Space used to be a hospital during the Japanese colonial period, we could still find traces of the equipment & furniture used. Love the atmosphere here, especially because tables weren’t placed too close together creating an airy feel. Given the cafe is known for its strong brewed coffee, & it was a particularly sunny day, we each ordered different types of iced coffee to try.
The iced coffee here was indeed quite good, be it my cafe latte (150 TWD, ~S$7) or my friend’s caramel coffee granita (200 TWD, ~S$9.35). I think real coffee lovers would like it here. A relaxing place to chill out with friends for rich caffeine. 🙂
Address/ 地址: No. 84, Bao’an Street, Datong District, Taipei City/ 台北市大同區保安街84號
Open/ 营业时间: 11 am to 7.30 pm daily/ 每天早上11点至晚上7点半
Directions/ 交通方式: From Starbucks, walk to the end of Bao-An Street. It is on the other side of the street from Starbucks./ 从星巴克 保安门市过去对面，直走到保安街的末端就能抵达。
Facebook/ 面簿: Boan 84
Thereafter, we left Bao-An Street for Dihua Street, a street known for its dried foodstuff & Chinese medicinal shops, as well as the famous Xia-Hai City God Temple notable for the God of Marriage (Yue Lao). It was pretty easy to get there, thanks to Boan 84 Space approachable staff that showed us the directions. Just head towards Liangzhou Street at the traffic junction near the cafe & the third street is Dihua Street, parallel to Bao-An Street.
Dihua Street is lined with 2 rows of historical shophouses just like Bao-An Street. Besides many Chinese medicinal shops, there were the occasional cafes & creative art shops along this once-prosperous street. Continue reading to discover what we saw & tried. 😉
3. Dadaochen Tea shop 大盗陈茶饮创始店
As mentioned earlier, Xia-Hai City God Temple, located along Dihua Street, is known for Yue Lao, i.e. God of Marriage that has seen many successful marriages after devotees come here to pray for some luck in love. In addition, Dihua Street also equates to Chinese medicine & the Chinese New Year (CNY) market for youngsters in the city. Just like many other indie cafes that have quietly set foot in this historical street, Dadaochen Tea shop, or DdC for short, was set up by a young couple who got hitched thanks to Yue Lao from the temple just 5 min walk away. Opened earlier this year, DdC is proud to be the first & only tea shop in Taiwan selling the innovative Oolong Milk Tea topped with Mullet Roe (80 TWD, ~S$3.75).
If you don’t know what Mullet Roe is, it is a type of cured fish roe that we often see in Japanese dishes. This savoury item is commonly sold at the CNY market & DdC owners decided to use it as a topping on the aromatic Oolong Tea beverage, to inject some unique local flavour at the first original shop along Dihua Street. Of course we had to try such a special beverage! 😁
Very nice combination I must say! Because of the Mullet Roe, there was a unique crunch as we sipped the fragrant Oolong Milk Tea. It also sort of covered the strong taste of Oolong Tea that was usually evident if you just drink it on its own. The milk was smooth as well. My friend commented this DdC specialty tasted much better than Singapore’s LiHo Bubble Tea Shop’s Cheese Tea specialty. The beverage may seem expensive at 80 TWD (~S$3.75) but it came in a large size (500ml), & considering Mullet Roe is generally on the expensive side, I thought the price was quite reasonable.
We browsed through the menu & also saw many other tempting flavours to try, such as the signature Yue Lao Milk Tea series with cute Chinese names representing different love stages to tie in with Dihua Street’s landmark. Beverages were also all prepared only after customer ordered, so we had to wait patiently for the beverage to be ready, but that also meant it was fresh. DdC also has a vending machine selling the signature Yue Lao series near the legendary temple, where customers could find a love divine lot in the bottle. Sounds fun, although we didn’t locate the machine in the end. 😛
Address/ 地址: No. 217, Dihua Street Section 1, Datong District, Taipei City/ 台北市大同區迪化街一段217號
Open/ 营业时间: 11 am to 6 pm from Tuesdays to Sundays / 周二至周日，早上11点至傍晚6点
Directions/ 交通方式: 7-min walk from Daqiaotou Station/ 从大桥头捷运站步行大概7分钟
Facebook/ 面簿: DdC
4. Fleisch cafe 福来许 咖啡馆
From DdC to Fleisch cafe, there were many interesting shops that caught our attention. Hence by the time we saw Fleisch, it was past 2.30 pm. Somehow, the sunny day tired us out & my head was aching & stomach growling. So we were so glad to see a cafe where we could settle down for late lunch & drinks.
Fleisch is a small 2-storey cafe with only bar counter seats on the first floor. Although there were more seats on its second floor, I was too tired & hungry to climb up, so we settled downstairs to eat first. The cafe serves Japanese fusion food, as well as exquisite pastries & desserts. There were also creative artworks displayed on the shelves beside the bar counter, which were unique but not cheap.
The lunch set portion, Grilled Wild Catch of the Day served with rice (390 TWD, ~S$18.20) wasn’t very big, maybe because it’s Japanese style haha. Nonetheless, it was still OK for us so we had room for desserts. The fish was very fresh, tender & well marinated. Besides rice, a small bowl of salad (with a little wafu sauce dressing) & a small bowl of sweet corn soup was served too.
The sight of the Earl Grey Guanyin Tea Cheesecake (150 TWD, ~S$7) on the desserts menu tempted us to order, as we both thought it sounded like something special & yummy. It was a wise choice made, as the subtle aroma of earl grey tea mixed with guanyin tea blended well with the strong cheese flavour. While waiting for our meal to be served, we were a bit surprised when the waiter suddenly came up to us, confirming if we were fine to have the cake which wasn’t in a perfect condition (see pic above showing a slightly dented cake at the side) at a discount of 25%. Lovely gesture by the cafe, which we certainly didn’t mind! 😉
After satisfying our hunger pangs, we went up to level 2, which was the cafe’s main seating area where quite a few tables were filled. The washroom was located here too, together with more exquisite art pieces on display. The large red banner with a big Chinese word “fu” (see top left pic in first collage) indicated that the cafe hopes to deliver the blessings received from the Xia Hai temple just across the street to its customers, which was why the cafe was named as such. Nice one!
Address/ 地址: No. 76, Dihua Street Section 1, Datong District, Taipei City/ 台北市大同區迪化街一段76號
Open/ 营业时间: 11 am to 10.30 pm daily / 每天早上11点至晚上10点半
Directions/ 交通方式: 10-min walk from Beimen Station exit 3/ 从北门捷运站3号出口步行大概10分钟
Facebook/ 面簿: Fleisch cafe 福来许咖啡馆
And that marked the end of our half-day cafe-hopping adventure in Taiwan’s most important commercial & trading centre 2 centuries ago. Below is a map of our journey for your easy reference.
There are still many fascinating sights in the alluring cultural district that we couldn’t check out such as Dadaocheng Wharf, morning & night markets, & lots of charming old architecture. I’ll be back again to explore further! 😊