Ever since moving back to Old Taipei nearly 11 years ago, I have come to rediscover it and have gained a newfound appreciation and understanding of this area of Taipei. Not only is my own history deeply rooted here, so is Taiwan’s. As I left home for college, work and my travels, every time I returned to Taiwan since I gained newer understandings of this area and am now proud that I am from and live in this part of town. As such I want to share with you the known and hidden gems of Old Taipei. I should mention that this is my own list, ask anyone in the know about Old Taipei food and they will likely have a different list based on what they grew up eating.
Taipei is Taiwan’s capital and most populous city. It is also Taiwan’s international gateway and surely where most people begin their journeys. Taipei has so many restaurants/ street stalls/ night markets one that one simply cannot eat it all on one trip, and honestly sometimes in a lifetime. Its important to note that here I am specifically referring to Taipei City 台北市 and not New Taipei City 新北市 eating options, even though in New Taipei City there are just as many options as the municipalities are much bigger.
So, when it comes time for visitors or locals alike to choose where to eat in a limited amount of time where do they go? You will hear from many folks night markets are a must, and this is 150% true, but many guides still tell you to go to ShinLin Nightmarket 士林夜市, which has sadly for years lost its glory and is no longer in my opinion the best. For that you must go to NingXia Nightmarket 寧夏夜市, or RaoHe Night Market 饒河夜市, for over all the best night market foods. Now many other night markets have specific stalls that are absolutely worth a journey. Such as LanJia pork belly bao 藍家割包 at GongGuan Night Market 公館夜市. But today I am not here to tell you about these places nor am I here to tell you which restaurants in town are the best for any occasion. My mission on this post is to give you a list of some of my personal favorite as well as local favorite spots in Old-Taipei 老台北.
Eating through and around Old Taipei is itself a vibe and lifestyle. In my opinion you truly get a glimpse, a taste, a feel of the true Taipei in its history, modernity, heritage and most important, people.
NOTE: you may show up at these places and find them crowded or with long lines and ask yourself, didnt gastronomictraveler say these places arent known or that this area isnt mentioned often? Fair. However, my intention here is hopefully to get more foreigners/Taiwanese abroad returning home for the first time in years to discover or re-discover this side of town and to taste the wonderful authentic feasts it has to offer, as you will see, its almost all locals who dine at the below spots.
Old Taipei 老台北
There are quite a few definitions out there of what areas consist of “Old Taipei.” But generally speaking Old Taipei is the Western side 西區 of Taipei City primarily consisting of Datong 大同區 and Wanhua 萬華區 districts and is flanked by the Tamsui River. My definition of the area starts from the northern tip at DaLongDong 大龍洞 neighborhood near YuanShan MRT Station, continuing on down to DaDaoCheng 大稻埕, DiHua Street 迪化街, Rear Station area 後車站, XiMenDing 西門町, WanHua/Hua Xi Street 萬華/華西街.
Old Taipei gets its name from the fact that the area is pretty much where modern Taiwan/Taipei started. Historically the area was a thriving trade port and many trading houses lined the streets. During the Japanese Colonial era, the Japanese colonists developed the area into a thriving central business hub and placed key governmental outposts, including the now Presidential Palace, in the ZhongZheng 中正 district, which borders WanHua. Heck, even Taipei’s most original airport was in this district, now occupied by the NanJiChang Night Market 南機場夜市. Many would consider this area to be the birthplace of Taiwan’s modern economy. And many large companies and banks can actually trace their roots to this area. (To get a more in-depth understanding of Old Taipei, there are free walking tours every so often and a handful of small museums scattered throughout DiHua Street, you can also visit the National Taiwan History Museum and the Taiwan Railway History Museum to get a better understanding of the roots and beginnings/ transformations of Taipei and Taiwan)
Sadly, around the late 80s and 90s the area seemingly was left behind as Taiwan’s economy boomed post-martial Law. The now glitzy East Side 東區 was the place to be and go. Up until today I feel many folks forget or dont realize what there is to do around this area and still look down upon this part of Taipei so to speak, admittedly myself included even though my family lineage has its roots here, as it was fairly run-down, grimy, and not as developed as the East side. Granted some neighborhoods do have reputations that are not so great, including Taipei’s redlight district and heavy mafia controlled areas scattered in WanHua. But nonetheless you rarely will hear people tell visitors or even locals themselves come here to explore. The only time you’d hear about it is for Lunar New Year when DiHua Street is the place to be for the festive vibes and the never-ending stalls of candies and New Year goods. And it really remained like this until around 10 years ago.
In the last 10 years, the area has been put back on the map as the trend to find authentic vibes and real flavors of a locality has picked up. It is also thanks to a younger generation of folks who really believe in preserving culture and heritage as well as promoting Taiwan’s arts and creativity. Old Taipei, especially DiHua Street, has gone through a renaissance and is now quite a popular area. Many boutique stores, cafes, bars, restaurants have popped up. They occupy former trading houses and family homes, many nationally registered historic landmarks and many that have gone through meticulous restoration. But what has not changed are the variety of foods available throughout Old Taipei. Sure, locations may have changed due to gentrification/ urban development (such as the sad demolition of the Taipei Roundabout nightmarket), but many of these old-school spots have maintained relatively consistent tastes and recipes through their decades long lives. Some are multi-generational now. When visiting these places you will see young and old dining, and while some have now fallen into the spotlight (thanks to Michelin guide and media coverage), others still dont get as much attention from social media or tourism pamphlets but regardless all places often have lines and people in the know will continue to patiently wait for that bowl of noodles they grew up on.
Where and What to Eat in Old Taipei
Some important things to note when eating in Old Taipei, be it a restaurant or a street stall (these apply to any hole in the wall/street food/very local restaurant in Taiwan), other than of course going in with an open mind, ready to try everything and soaking in the true flavors, aromas and charisma of Taiwan/Taipei:
- Some places have Winter/Summer menus.
- Rule of thumb is bring CASH, most places are cash only, and you will only slow down service if you are not prepared with enough cash.
- A lot of places will have you pay first after your order. Others will have you pay once they bring you your food and they will tell you how much. Need to expense it? Sorry, most of these places wont have receipts either.
- Some places that have become famous have English menus/ English speaking staff. Many places are still Mandarin only or a little Japanese. Again, hands/point/ or ask.
- Owners and staff are generally friendly, but these are nonetheless mainly family run businesses that go off a high-speed operation process. Dont be offended if they suddenly give you a wee bit of attitude or seem annoyed that you taking a while to make a decision. That being said, dont be afraid to ask questions about what dishes are what…etc, especially if you are a foreigner, they will be more than happy to explain. Also, please do not go in expecting fine-dining restaurant level service.
- Most places are clean and sanitary. The food you eat is clean. However, a handful are on the dirtier side and certainly wouldnt pass a health inspection in the United States. I only say this as a caution, it does not mean you’ll get sick from the food nor does it mean the food you actually consume is dirty. But just be ware that standards are different.
- The flow at each places varies. Some owners will tell you to find a seat first (you then either order from a form or they will come take your order), some will tell you to order first (either form or tell them). If you see a line make sure to check if its dine-in or take-out as some places have separate ones. Most places though are one in the same line for take-out and dine-in.
- BYOB(everage). Some places do have drinks but most street food stalls wont, so bring a bottle of water or tea or something to stay hydrated as hot soups wont suffice.
- Many places open early morning till they sell out or early afternoon.
- Many places closed on Mondays or Wednesdays and in some cases Weekends. Holiday hours vary and is usually up to the owner.
- That being said, I highly recommend to check the restaurant’s Facebook or Instagram if they have one to check up to date operating hours. Many stalls/ hole in the walls operate on their owner’s will and they can be out on vacation at a moment’s notice.
The area that these spots covers can be easily reached by MRT, bus or taxi or walk. Key MRT stations are: LongShan Temple, XiMen, Taipei Main Station, Beiman Station, DaDaoCheng Station, YuanShan Station, MinQuan West Road Station.
Personally, I recommend you start in one area and walk. Frankly, you’re likely to only hit about 1-2 areas unless you have a bottomless stomach, in which case what a blessing. Ideally you are doing these food runs with more than one person as it makes it easier to order a few things, share and get a taste of everything. Although I do Old Taipei food runs on my own all the time, I just spread the meals out and go by area.
後車站/迪化街 Rear Station/ Di Hua Street area
福元胡椒餅 FuYuan Pepper Pork Bun
During rush hour or weekends you might need to put in an order, get a number and return in 45 minutes or in the posted time for next available batch. It is a very popular stall and usually they sell out of each batch they make and its all made and baked fresh.
No. 42-19號, Huayin Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
大稻埕魯肉飯-推薦在地特色小吃 必吃美食 平價老字號
Braised pork rice 滷肉飯, English menu available
No. 17號, Lane 220, Chang’an West Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
11:30AM-8PM, closed Sundays
Douhua/tofu pudding, grass jelly, shaved ice dessert, also hot liquid grass jelly 熱仙草
No. 5號, Lane 220, Chang’an West Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
10AM-4:30PM, closed Sundays
Rice Cake, rice dumpling and soups for all-day breakfast
No. 1, Lane 177, Chang’an West Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
7AM-5PM, Closed Mondays
金春發牛肉百年老店天水路總店 JinChunFa Beef Restaurant
Visited by the late Anthony Bourdain. It is a restaurant that serves all parts of the beef in mainly stir-fry form. If you are brave, go for the trifecta of Cow Penis, testicles and liver.
No. 20, Tianshui Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
11:15AM-9PM, Closed Mondays
黑點雞肉食堂 Black Dot Chicken
Order 1/4 or 1/2 a chicken with some chicken oil rice 雞油飯, so aromatic
No. 38號, Huating Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
7:30AM-7:30PM, Closed Sundays
San Coffee 森高砂咖啡館
Single Origin Taiwan coffee, their packaged pour over coffee are perfect gifts for people back home. English menus and instructions available
No. 1, Section 2, Yanping North Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Almond soup, tofu pudding, barley beverage
No. 9, Yongchang Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Old-school, historic nostalgic Taiwanese noodle spot. Also famous for their shaved ice.
Must order Dry-Wonton noodles with sweet chili sauce, and assortment of sides AND shaved ice
No. 202, Guisui Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
10:30AM-8:30PM, Closed Wednesdays
Summer: shaved ice or cold rice noodles
Winter: rice noodle soup, Taiwanese style O-den, Taiwanese assorted tempura
No. 34號, Ganzhou Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
9AM-5:30PM, Closed Mondays
永樂米苔目YongLe Rice Noodles
No. 111, Minle St, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Dadaocheng Cisheng Temple大稻埕慈聖宮天上聖母
Experience true Old-Taipei life with locals socializing and eating at the Temple Courtyard, everything is tasty but here are my favorite stalls.
Here you order and say where you sitting and they’ll deliver to you, but some are stricter than others regarding sitting near their stall and/or returning their utensils. You can also sit directly at their stall as well.
Did you know that in Taiwan, street food started off from these humble roots as vendors selling food outside Temples? Temples and their surrounding courtyards used to be the central gathering spots for neighborhoods.
Taiwanese fish roe fried rice, when facing the temple this is on the left side
No. 17, Lane 49, Bao’an Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Next to fried rice stall, Taiwanese style cured squid
No. 17, Lane 49, Bao’an Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Porridge and fried red yeast braised meat (紅燒肉）
No. 17號, Lane 49, Bao’an Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Four god soup, hearty Taiwanese soup with pork intestines, job’s tears and chestnuts
Lane 49, Bao’an Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Pork Spare Rib soup, when facing temple, this is to the right near the corner
Lane 49, Bao’an Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Old School Ba-Bu Ice Cream Kart
If you are lucky and hear this ba-bu honking horn, run outside and see if its the old-school Taiwanese ice cream kart below. This was the ubiquitous “ice cream truck” sound for Taiwanese children of yester-year. Flavors: Taro, peanut, pineapple.
A-Jiao Red Yeast Fried Pork 阿角/劉美麗紅燒肉
Best fried red-yeast-braised pork chops in Taipei that I’ve tried so far, 台式炸紅燒肉
No. 2, Lane 247, Section 2, Yanping North Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Hours vary, check their Facebook page
Summer Tree Sweet 夏樹甜品
Shaved ice heaven, there is even almond tofu pudding shaved ice and it is amazing
No. 240, Section 1, Dihua St, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Yan-zai’s Noodle 賣麵炎仔(金泉小吃店)
Noodle shop. Awarded Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand. Noodles are good, but you should also try the Pork Fat Rice 豬油飯 and smoked shark.
No. 106, Anxi Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Taiwanese style sticky oil rice, so good, make sure to get it with sunny side up egg. They only sell the rice until they are sold out!!! And it can sell out fast on a weekend!
No. 186-1, Minquan West Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
7AM-2PM, Closed Sundays
Daqiaotou rice cakes 大橋頭筒仔米糕
Rice Cakes, its good but not amazing IMHO, though awarded Bib Gourmand as well.
No. 41號, Section 3, Yanping North Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
6AM-4PM, Closed Tuesdays
Old Noodle Shop 老麵店
Legit some of the best noodles I have had in Taipei.
No. 215-8, Section 2, Dihua St, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
8:30AM-7:30PM, Closed Sundays
Rice Dumplings/ rice cakes/ Taiwanese braised tempura. One of those places that is truly hole in the wall family run, the food is good and the staff are nice to customers but you may, like me, be there when the family is in the middle of a quarrel of sorts.
No. 61, Lane 236, Section 3, Chongqing North Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Taiwanese pork meat ball soup, their braised minced pork rice is ok
No. 196, Dalong Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
5AM-2PM, Closed Sundays
Taiwanese street corner hole in the wall eats, Amazing food though. Braised Pork Belly Rice, Pork meatball soup, Assorted Taiwanese braised mezze
No. 2號, Alley 2, Lane 13, Kulun Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
6AM-2PM, Closed Sundays
大龍峒魚丸 DaLongDong fish balls
Some of the best Fuzhou style fish balls in town. Can buy in bulk to freeze and cook at home
No. 294號, Section 3, Chongqing North Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
7:30AM-2PM, Clossed weekends
Ah-ren Fried Rice 阿仁炒飯
Delicious fried rice
No. 2之4號, Lane 45, Hami Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10368
11:00AM-2:15PM; 5-8:30PM Closed Mon/Sun
Chongqing Soymilk and Fried Egg Crepe 重慶豆漿炸蛋餅
Fried breakfast egg crepe and the best salty soy milk
No. 32號, Lane 335, Section 3, Chongqing North Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
5:30AM-11:30AM weekdays, open till 1PM weekends, Closed Wed
西門町/台北車站 Ximending/Taipei Main Station
公園號酸梅湯 GongYuan Plum Juice
Grab a refreshing cup of old school sour plum juice to go before heading into 228 Memorial Park. Historically they brewed the juice on the second floor and piped it down with a hose into the iced cauldrons on the first floor storefront.
No. 2號, Hengyang Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
Zheng Pork Knuckle 鄭記豬腳飯
Pork Knuckle and braised intestines rice.
No. 22, Yanping South Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
11AM-8PM, closed sundays
Tiantianli Restaurant 天天利美食坊
English menu available. My favorite braised pork rice 滷肉飯, and get it with a sunny-side up egg and pan fried turnip cake 蘿蔔糕.
108, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, 漢中街32巷1號
10AM-10:30PM, closed Mondays
Sanitation is sometimes questionable, but the food is so good.
Yang Ji Peanut Corn Ice 楊記花生玉米冰
Old school sweet corn and peanut shaved ice
No. 38, Section 2, Hankou St, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Ximen Noodle 西門麵店
No. 35, Neijiang Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
5AM-3:30PM/ 4:30PM-11PM, closed Sunday
桶好呷 現滷滷味 TongHaoGa Braised Flavor
Walk up, grab a basket and tongs, pick what youd like and choose what kind of flavor you want your items to be braised in, also let them know no spice, mild, medium or high spice 無辣/小辣/中辣/大辣 and if you are ok with cilantro 香菜and garlic 蒜頭. For meat and pig’s blood you have to ask for it.
號, No. 215, Xining Rd, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
號, No. 215西寧南路萬華區台北市108
樺林乾麵 HuaLin Noodles
Delicious noodle shop, with english menu and instructions on how to eat!
No. 15號, Lane 91, Section 1, Zhonghua Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
7AM-2PM, closed weekends
Yongfu Ice Cream 永富冰淇淋
Old school style Taiwanese ice cream and ice cream cakes. Recommended flavors: taro, peanut, red bean, milk
No. 68, Section 2, Guiyang St, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
一甲子餐飲 – 祖師廟焢肉飯、刈包
Hole in the wall corner stall, Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient
Braised pork belly rice 控肉飯 is incredible, the best I have had.
Always a line for takeout, dine-in you find or wait for a seat.
No. 79, Kangding Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
9AM-7PM, Closed Sundays
華西街/HuaXi Street night market
昶鴻麵點 ChangHong Noodle Shop
Bib Gourmand recipient. Get the chicken noodle (招牌麵） or the pork cheek noodle （菊花肉麵）
No. 15 號, Huaxi Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
12-8PM, closed weekends. Get there before 12 to get a seat
源芳刈包 YuanFang Gua Bao Bun.
Bib Gourmand recipient, tasty pork belly gua bao, but LanJia at GongGuan Night Market, also Bib Gourmand is much better.
No. 17-2, Huaxi Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
12-10PM, closed Mondays
小王煮瓜 XiaoWangZhuGua Braised Pork Rice
Bib gourmand, and is also on Uber Eats. Tasty but not my favorite.
No. 17之4號, Huaxi Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
9:30AM-8PM, Closed Tuesdays
I hope this is somewhat helpful of a guide to exploring the foods of Old Taipei as well as general tips on dining locally in Taiwan. And I hope you discover some hidden gems yourself, if so, would love to hear about them. Should I continue to discover more or hear about more, I will certainly update this post.