Posted on September 27, 2015
Posted on September 27, 2015
We don’t travel as much as many people we know, but enough to want to discover the ‘hidden treasures’ of a city rather than simply stick to the tourist stuff.
These short city guides will be a helpful reference for those that like;
– places not so fancy you need to go into savings, but nice enough to make a meal feel like an occasion
– People who take their coffee seriously and don’t just give burnt instant and call it coffee.
– Interesting twists and details on regular fare
– Places that you can turn up at and don’t have to make a reservation a few months in advance
– service with authentic friendliness but not over the top persistence
– a place catering to locals not just tourist traps
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Here’s our take on some places we discovered or came to with local friends in Tainan, Taiwan;
Tainan in Taiwan is the third largest city in taiwan and is increasingly a tourist destination for those in and outside of taiwan. I was told it has some of the oldest architecture and is one of the last places where a visual and cultural reminder of Japanese rule is in place.
We were in town for work to teach at a discipleship school, which I’ll talk about in our ministry newsletter here, but I have purposefully stayed to reviewing places for people visiting this city for any reason;
Mistake..don’t end up here.
OK, but some serious set backs
A Good option.
Excellent, fully recommended
The best place in the city..Only 1 per Guide
猛男咖啡 No. 32, Section 1, Dacheng Rd, South District, Tainan City, Taiwan 702
We ended up at this place from a recommendation from our friend David Pan who, amongst other things, owns WeekNight after hearing I was enthusiatic about good coffee.
I should say we were treated to a special ‘cupping’1 session at the end of the bar from the owner rather than walking in as random customers, but I watched attentive service towards all the other customers during our time there.
BeefCake Roasters is the venture of a couple of brothers who also happen to workout alot (hence the name)! They also know plenty about both coffee making and roasting. They prepared a Panama natural processed coffee through a Hario pour over, and then two Ethiopian Yirgacheffe’s over ice, one water processed, the other naturally processed. Finally they let us try a 100% robusta (an unusual variety not normally associated with good coffee) from their very own farm in mainland china. I’d love to say it was amazing, but unfortunately with the amazing complexity of the earlier two yirgacheffe beans, I wasn’t won over to robusta.
What is clear though is that BeefCake roasters is certainly the most capable and enjoyable place to spend time enjoying coffee. They have bar seating for about 8 and then comfy seats for another 4, so you might be tempted to take out. But I definately recommend you stick around and enjoy David’s (the barista) charm, humour and coffee knowledge.
No. 26 Dong An Road, East District, Tainan City, Taiwan 701
There is no way I would have stumbled on to this place without help. To the best of my knowledge, this place is not listed on any tourist guide, but it is consistently packed with locals (which is a good sign!).
Shang Hai serves dumplings, noodles and small meat and rice plates. The best way to go is to order 5 or 6 things between 4 people. The vibe is like an asian cafeteria and it’s relatively cheap, but very good. You might need some language help, although they did bring out a picture menu when they realised we were foreigners.
There must be over a hundred seats here, so you are always likely to get a seat. It should be noted though that it is unusual for taiwanese to drink and eat at the same time (so we were told), so the second time we brought our own ice tea, which we were asked to not put on the table. Despite the rough shod diner style of this place, it is a place with great food to dine and dash.
Must Try: Soup filled Dumplings
尚品咖啡 702, Taiwan, 台南市南區 台南市中西區南門路341號
I have some affection for this place. The first time I was in Taiwan, I met with a good friend and few times here and bought my hario TCA-5 Vacuum pot from them (they are the hario distributor for taiwan).
This time round, they still had good service, but the coffee is a little too darkly roasted and they make all their premium coffee’s using the vacuum pots which are a marvel to watch, but produce a very dense taste palate. It may be that I’ve come to enjoy lighter fruitier coffee since the two years I was here, but it fell from the favourite coffee place in Tainan on this trip.
The one positive is that they made a mean unique take on the club sandwhich, but both times the food took an unreasonable amount of time and came well after the drinks (and in no particular sequence).
中西區忠義路2段48號 (靠近 鄭成功祖廟), Tainan, Tainan 700, Taiwan
We stumbled upon Asahi Gyudon House through a foursquare rating which called it ‘the best beef bowl on the island’. We ended up arriving on a hot and sticky evening in jeans (which continued turning darker shades of blue) and discovered there are only 10 seats inside this tiny eaterie. On top of that the seats were in high demand; there was a line of about 10 others seated outside on benches! We convinced ourselves to wait in the heat for 45mins outside before we were called in to see if it lived up to the hype.
We were not disappointed, in my enthusiasm for how delicious their famed beef bowl was, I imagine I spent about half the time it took to wait to eat this delicious offering. From what I could tell (with no english menu), they serve once dish with about 3 varieties. We chose the Gyudon bowl with garlic butter (and without egg), and it was fantastic.
After waiting in the heat, they served Asahi (a famous japanese lager) in a frozen glass. The service was minimal but exceedingly warm. So much so we came back twice during our stay and even brought some friends.
Our local friends said it was higher priced for what it was, but agreed once they had it, it was exceptional quality. There is only 3 staff, but the beef bowl is in front of you within 5-10mins of sitting down. On busy nights they have a 45min max for eating, so this may not be the place to unwind over a long conversational dinner, but we will certainly be back here and recommending everyone else comes too.
炸去啃. No. 70, Section 2, Yongfu Road, West Central District, Tainan
This is a tiny, almost hole-in-the-wall style place, but late one night after a meeting, we wanted to find a place to snack, unwind and debrief our day. Fried Go Eat does a great job at being unflashy but clean (something that does not come together very often in our experience of Taiwan). The accessible menu (thanks photos, we owe you one) was helpful as well as the young owner, Geo, who tried out his english and made some great recommendations, plus threw in a free Taiwanese beer (which the taiwanese are peculiarly nationalistic about) for the tourists.
Must Try: Deep Fried Sweet Potato with Plum Salt
704, Taiwan, Tainan City, North District, 和緯路与海安路交叉口
This is the biggest of the night markets here in Tainan, and was supposedly voted the ‘best market in tainan’, we enjoyed our time here but it was 33c at 9pm, high humidity and very crowded. This outing isn’t for the light of heart.
The pro’s of these markets is that they are a tourist marvel;
– types of fish you never knew existed deep fried for your enjoyment
– stuffed animals to win by popping balloons with a bow and arrow
– Cheap knock off electronics (especially USB power packs)
Dare I say though, there is alot of repitition in this market, the same stall every 3 or 4 stalls. I’d opt for a quieter market over this one next time.
Must Try: Potato swirl on stick
Linsen Road, Section 1, near Chongde Rd., East District
This was a smaller night market than Hwa Yuan, and slightly less crowded. The clothes, games and electronics stalls are all worth giving a miss in terms of quality, but we did discover some great taiwanese snacks at this market.
There are stalls that sell noodle and soup bowls which would feel more like a meal but their menus are not very accesible for non-taiwanese speakers. The easier stalls to navigate are the snack stalls, normally they are only selling a few varieties of one kind of thing and you can make that out by what they are handed over to the customers before you. Night market stall owners don’t tend to speak lots of english, so hand signals are the order of the day.
No. 76, Section 2, Minquan Rd, West Central District, Tainan City, Taiwan 703
We ended up in Uta Maro early on in our trip. Despite our recommendation to come here saying there was no english, we ended up enjoy great service with good english.
We ordered the Katsu curry set meal and it was delicious. Japanese food is sold at a slight premium and given the decor and vibe of this place, the price did seem a little steep (which we confirmed with some local friends).
The vibe is authentic japanese, with the style being slightly old and cluttered but enough traditional to make is feel worthwhile. The food was great, we’ll definitely try to come back next time.
Must Try: Katsu Chicken Curry Set Meal w/ Asahi
Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, West Central District, Tainan City, Taiwan 700
A couple of years ago we stumbled upon muji and since have become a little obsessed with this japanese store that sells clothes, homeware, food and travel items. Muji consistently creates well designed wares at reasonable prices. The name is a shortening of the word meaning ‘no brand’ and as such the products seek to be inconspicuous. I didn’t quite bring enough smart casual clothes on this trip and within a half hour here I found chino’s and a shirt, with lots of willing help from the staff. This was an unusual feature of our trip, whereas most service staff not used to speaking english are overcome by their timidity, the muji staff persisted in being as helpful and confident as they could even with their faltering english.
Between coloured pens, hand cream, clothes and the odd small homeware piece, most of the things we are taking back from Taiwan are actually Japanese, and they come from muji.
199 Fuqian Rd (Fucian 府前路) Sec. 1, West Central District, Tainan City, Taiwan 700
Taiwan is known for its shaved ice. There are 2 main camps from what I could discern, more traditional, which includes mochi and lemongrass gelatin etc. The other camp being fruit, and being in Tainan during the heat of august fruit shaved ice was well justified one more than one occasion. Of all the places we tried, a place across from where we were teaching had the freshest fruit (which could have simply been seasonal). There is no indoor seating, it is basically a street stand with a few tables on the street.
The long menu (all in chinese) is like a mesmerising bingo card, so the first time I paid attention to what our hosts ticked, and then had the same thing all but one time when we returned.
The ice is cold, the condensed milk is sweet, the mango and banane were ripe…this is the place to come.
Must Try: Mango Ice bowl to share with milk
Not being american, my only exposure to baseball has been movies, but in our first week when we discovered the ‘little league’ (U12’s) world series was being played and that taiwan was a big part of it, we thought it would be fun to go along.
It turns out that taiwan loves baseball, and the nice thing about a little league is that there are less innings (which makes it considerably shorter) and the quality at national level is truly extraordinary.
Even if you don’t like baseball heading to Tainan baseball stadium is a fun evening outing, with the added bonus that it is on the approach for tainan airport, so you get some nice low-level fly overs when the baseball action gets slow.
No. 1201, Zhonghua 5th Rd, Qianzhen District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 806
Not exactly in Tainan, Kaoishung is about 45 mins away. After a week or so of Taiwanese cuisine we decided to make the most of our Monday off and look for some small household items from ikea (as there is nothing that really compares in South Africa).
It seems strange to review something a ubiquitous as Ikea, and for the most part when you get into the inner labrinth you could be in Sweden, Scotland, the US, Jordan or Taiwan (all places we have been to Ikeas). That being said something about the Ikea here was off, the food was just under mediocre and the staff struggled to pull together any warmth. Finally, my favourite ikea beverage lingonberry didn’t exist (although being a proud ikea export everywhere else I’d gone.
An honourable mention that didn’t make it into the guide is a new businesses that we happened across. They were in their early stages of business and so I am keen to check them out when we return soon, but they are well-worth finding (especially as they are close to many of the other places we listed here)
This was our second visit to Tainan, and we had significantly more time to get to know the place. Tainan is emerging as a popular holiday destination both within and without Taiwan and deservedly so. The attraction is not so much that is has a clear tourist-bent (although admittedly we didn’t make it to the beach area which is known for being historical and touristy), but that you can make rewarding discoveries on almost every street, whether it is finding a steamed bun takeaway, small boutique clothes shop or a juice shop, you can peruse, eat and drink your way around this city.
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