Eating out is practically a daily event for the people of Taipei, rather than being reserved for a special occasion. Compared to the west, relatively few people cook their own dinner, choosing instead to enjoy the impressive range of budget restaurants available. As a result of their popularity, there are a lot of these types of places, but we have picked out the finest for our list of the 10 best local restaurants in Taipei.
As you will see below, several of these places do very few dishes, but they do them well. Some are renowned for just one type of food, to the extent that the menu contains only that item or variations of it. This style of service sometimes gets to be so popular that big brands like the renowned Din Tai Fung have expanded from such humble beginnings.
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Beef noodles is one of the most popular dishes in Taiwanese cuisine – so much so that it gets its own annual festival in Taipei. A lot of eateries claim to do it best, but a common name to find at the top of that list is Lin Dong Fang. It is a humble sort of roadside restaurant, with its kitchen open to the street, it is extremely popular with the locals. The signature dish is the half-tendon/half-shank beef noodle soup which is just NT$220 – a bargain for the generous serving of good meat and al dente noodles in a clear, spicy broth.
- Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 – 02:00
- Location: No. 274, Section 2, Bade Road, Zhongshan
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2752 2556
Established in 1975, this restaurant has become a popular component of the Ximending area and practically an essential stop for any visit there. The streetside eatery is famous for its smooth noodles, served in a sweet and sour broth, with skipjack tuna, shredded bamboo shoots and salt-cured intestines. There isn’t a menu as there is only the one dish, which is so popular in Taipei that it is usual to see a lengthy queue to get some. Once you reach the front of the line, the chef will ask if you want a small bowl (NT$50) or a large one (NT$65) and how spicy you want it. There are two other branches (in Shilin and Daan), but the Ximending one is the first and finest.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 22:30
- Location: No. 8-1, Emei Street, Wanhua
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2388 8808
The night markets of Taipei are extremely popular among the Taiwanese as great places for great cheap eats. Shilin Night Market is the largest and has the best choice, with well over 500 stalls in the covered food court. It is crowded and noisy, but the range of local snacks and meals available is unrivalled, with the quality of many also being very high while the prices remain very low. Particular favourites include oyster omelette, gua bao and stinky tofu. The average price for a hearty meal is generally well under NT$150.
- Opening Hours: 17:00 – 24:00
- Location: In the area of Dadong Road, Danan Road, Wenlin Road and Jihe Road, Shilin
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2882 0340
When the people of Taipei enjoy a group meal with their family and friends, they will generally have a hotpot and they will usually have it at Chuan Ba Zi. So popular that it can be difficult to find a place in the 100-seat restaurant on a weekend, the communal pot is filled with a Sichuan-style red chilli soup base, into which you can add any of 18 main ingredients, including beef, chicken, mutton, fish and vegetables. Leave it on the boil for a while and then scoop it out and eat when it is cooked. The chilli soup base costs NT$488, but other options are available, making it a cheap, fun and filling choice.
- Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 12:00 – 02:00, Sun 12:00 – 24:00
- Location: No. 144, Section 1, Fuxing S. Road, Daan
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2776 5011
Pin Xian is the best of Taipei’s popular kuai chao (quick fry) eateries. The simple streetside restaurant serves a massive choice of food, mostly fried and mostly priced at about NT$100. They specialise in seafood, with notable dishes including deep-fried squid mouth, black pepper tofu with oysters and spicy shark soup. These sorts of places are particularly good for hanging with beers after work, with Heineken-outfitted ladies rushing around topping up the drinks. Pin Xian, in particular, is so popular that it stretched into the stores on either side, making it now three storefronts wide.
- Opening Hours: 17:00 – 02:00
- Location: No. 68, Leli Road, Daan
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2735 8373
Braised pork rice is one of the top local dishes in Taipei, and the Lu Rou Fan is so good here that it is part of the restaurant’s name. A simple streetside eatery, with fans attached to the tiled walls and cheap tables and chairs packed into the narrow shop, the open kitchen is widely thought to turn out the best pork rice in town. Hot, fatty and full of flavour, a bowl of the signature dish is priced between NT$25 and 45, depending on the size of the serving. You can also try variations on the theme, including braised eggs (NT$10 each) and braised fried tofu (NT$20).
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 01:00
- Location: No. 10, Section 1, Roosevelt Road, Zhongzheng
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2396 0808
What Shilin Night Market has in sheer quantity, Raohe Street Night Market could be said to make up for with quality. It is surprisingly common to see TV crews filming cookery programmes along the 600 metres of stalls, showing off popular local dishes like spare ribs stewed in Chinese herbal medicine, pig’s blood cake and oyster vermicelli. Stores and restaurants line the road, with a further line of stalls and places to sit down the middle of the street. Prices are very low, with NT$100 buying enough great food to easily fill most people.
- Opening Hours: 17:00 – 24:00
- Location: Raohe Street, Songshan
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2181 2345
- Cuisine: Chinese
Although not as renowned as the pinnacle of our list of the best local restaurants in Taipei, Yong Kang Beef Noodles is highly regarded for their namesake soup. Their generous portions of chewy noodles, tender beef and rich broth are available in a number of varieties, all of them cheap, simple and tasty, with prices around NT$160. Other dishes, such as steamed ribs, are also available and, while the menu is entirely in Chinese, there are pictures to help you choose and order. Opened in 1963, its reputation has grown to the point that you can confidently expect a queue to get a seat for lunch or dinner.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 15:00, 16:30 – 21:00
- Location: No. 17, Lane 31, Section 2, Jinshan S. Road, Daan
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2351 1051
Lan Jia is said to be the home of the best gua bao in Taiwan, with the short menu (which takes the form of a series of tickboxes, with only Chinese text) also featuring rice dumplings, four-flavoured soup with pork intestines and pork noodles, among others. Gua bao from Lan Jia can be customised to your taste, allowing you to select the fattiness of the pork meat used. These are so popular that the place regularly handles bulk orders and you can get a free one with every 10 you buy at NT$50 each. The restaurant itself is a very simple streetside place, with the kitchen practically resembling a market stall.
- Opening Hours: Tue – Sun 11:00 – 24:00
- Location: No. 3, Alley 8, Lane 316, Section 3, Roosevelt Road, Zhongzheng
- Tel: +886 (0)2 2368 2060
The name of Ice Monster is one to attract great crowds in Taipei, particularly of young Taiwanese hoping to beat the heat with a giant mountain of shaved ice topped with juicy fresh mango. Several stores have carried the name and several names have filled the ‘you have to try this’ slot, but the reputation of this rapidly growing new franchise is unbeaten. There is a choice of flavours available, but mango is always the favourite and is available from as little as NT$100 or as much as NT$200, depending on the portion size. While you would not ordinarily think of a chain store as the sort of place the real locals eat, the 50-seat store is often packed, with people queueing outside the door.
- Opening Hours: 10:30 – 23:30
- Location: No. 297, Section 4, Zhongxiao E. Road, Daan
- Tel: +886 (0)2 8771 3263