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Note that most Ximending shops and restaurants are closed during Lunar New Year.
Let’s start our culinary tour with breakfast in Ximending (you can learn more about Taiwanese breakfast foods in my guide to Taiwanese cuisine!) If you’ve only got one morning to find a good breakfast in Ximen, head straight to Hankou street section 2 (漢口街二段), the unofficial “breakfast street of Ximending.”
To get there from Ximen MRT exit 6, walk straight down the main pedestrian street (Hanzhong street 漢中街) about four blocks until you reach Hankou street.
Here at the corner you’ll find your first option, Ximending Soy Milk (西門町豆漿, Hanzhong street #22 漢中街22號, 6am to 2pm). This legendary Taipei breakfast spot is nothing more than a humble cooking stall and fridge run by an elderly Taiwanese woman. A sign proudly displays that the stall has been serving breakfast in Ximending since 1978.
So what’s on the menu? Only a handful of things. Besides the Taiwanese breakfast classics like scallion pancakes (蔥抓餅), dan bing or “Chinese crepes” (蛋餅), and sticky rice rolls (飯糰), there is one unique item that jumped out at me: tuna, egg & sticky rice Chinese crepes (鮪魚蛋香米卷). Note: she told me this item is only available before noon.
I’ve never seen sticky rice put on a dan bing in Taiwan! The laoban niang (female boss) lathered the rice-topped egg with black bean sauce, then topped it with dollops of creamy tuna, finally handing it to me as a wrap, rather than cutting it into bite-sized pieces like dan bing are usually served. It was super yummy and filling!
A few steps west down Hankou street you’ll find the second hot spot for breakfast in Ximen: Yong He Soy Milk Ximending (永和豆漿西門町, #30 Hankou street section 2, 漢口街二段30號, 5:30am to 2pm). Not to be confused with the popular chain Yong He Soy Milk King found all over Taipei, this tiny shop only has a few tables, but it is extremely popular, so there is always a line, or more like a crowd of people around it. For this reason, I didn’t try it.
Check out the best food and cooking courses in Taipei here.
It’s best to grab a menu, stand aside and think, then step up and order decisively once you’re ready. Otherwise, you might get shouted at or completely ignored by the frantic cooks.
The menu includes all the typical Taiwanese breakfast items like dan bing, steamed buns (饅頭) stuffed with various things, sticky rice rolls, scallion pancakes (蔥抓餅), radish cakes (蘿蔔糕), soup dumplings (湯包), and warm salty tofu with fried dough sticks (先豆漿加油條). Of course regular soy milk is on offer too.
Just past Yonghe Soy Milk Ximending, there’s also a beef noodle soup shop, if that tickles your fancy.
For completely different choice, at the other end of Ximending just south of the Red House LGBT bar area, Golden Flower Toasted Sandwiches (金花碳烤吐司專賣, Neijiang street #21, 內江街21號, 8:30am to 3pm, closed Mondays) specializes is enormous, multi-layer toasted breakfast sandwiches, some of which are dripping with copious amounts of melted cheese.
Wondering what that special ingredient accenting the cheese is? Yup, it’s peanut butter. Don’t knock it till you try it. The sandwiches are so big that they give customers plastic gloves to eat them. We insisted on not using one for environmental reasons, but ended up using half a pack of tissues instead…Waiting time is usually more than 10 minutes.
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Street Food in Ximending
There are plenty of options in Ximending for a quick bite while you stroll. In fact, many of the most famous Taiwanese street foods can be found in Ximendin!
The best spot in Ximending for street food is Wuchang street section 2 lane 50 (武昌街2段50巷), running for two blocks between Emei street and Wuchang street (aka movie theater street, where you can also get a knife massage), passing tattoo street in the middle (see my Ximending guide for more info on these streets).
Some of the stalls you find here include grilled mochi (烤麻糬), Prince Cheese Potato (王子起士馬鈴薯), aboriginal boar sausages (山豬肉香腸) rice sausage stuffed with meat sausage (大腸包小腸), Korean Tteokbokki (or, as I like to call them, rice tubes in spicy sauce) (韓式年糕), and Blow torched Beef Cubes (火焰骰子牛).
Finally, there’s a famous fried chicken stall right outside Ximen MRT exit 6 called Ji Guang Fried Chicken (繼光香香雞, #121-1 Hanzhong street , 漢中街121-1號, 11:30am to 11pm). Popcorn chicken is their signature dish, which they marinate in 10 spices and supposedly always use fresh oil. They’ve also got fried squid and king trumpet mushrooms (杏鮑菇).
Taiwanese Food in Ximending
The top of the list for every (Asian) traveler to Ximending is usually Ay-Chung (A Zong) Flour Rice Noodles (阿宗麵線, #8-1 Emei street, 峨眉街8號之1, 9am to 10:30/11 pm), operating since 1975. The shop sells nothing but mian xian (麵線 or mee sua in the local language, Taiwanese), a classic Taiwanese street food.
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The dish usually comes with oysters and or pork intestines in Taiwan, but here your only choice is intestines. A small bowl is NT50 and large NT65, and you can add your own black vinegar and spicy sauce from a stand across from the counter.
There is pretty much always a crowd of Asian tourists standing on the street eating the noodles here, and I remember they used to serve it is real bowls, but sadly switched to disposable ones now.
Another great place to try is W4 Taiwanese Hamburger (四方刈包, No. 29, Neijiang Street, 內江街29號), which does a larger than usual assortment of guabao, aka Taiwanese hamburgers, including vegetarian varieties.
For more Taiwanese classics, head to the end of Hanzhong street (漢中街), the main pedestrian street. Just before Hankou/breakfast street, you’ll find a collection of simple, cheap local restaurants such as a 40-year old squid stew shop (謝謝魷魚羹, #1, lane 32, Hanzhong street , 漢中街32巷1號).
Next door at 365台灣小吃 you can get oyster omelets (蚵仔煎), the oyster version of mee sua, and braised pork rice (滷肉飯).
For more simple Taiwanese fare, try Neijiang street on the block going west of Red House. Here you can find mi fen tang (米粉湯, the Taiwanese version of American chicken noodle soup), noodle shops, a fish ball soup (魚丸湯) shop, and fried milkfish belly at Ah Cai Milkfish Belly (阿財虱目魚肚, #53 Neijiang street, 內江街53號).
For something a little fancier (and belly warming), popular Malading Spicy Hot Pot (馬辣頂級麻辣鴛鴦火鍋, #30 Xining street, 西寧南路30號, 11:30am to 2 am) serves up classic all-you-can-eat spicy hot pot, complete with Haagen Dazs ice cream.
For a completely different kind of eating experience, also check out my food tour of Little Burma in Zhonghe, New Taipei City, or my try traditional Taiwanese foods on Dihua Street just north of Ximending!
If you’ve got a large group and no reservation on a Saturday night, your best bet is Marine Seafood (馬林漁生猛海鮮, #135 Chengdu Rd., 成都路135號, lunch and 4pm to 2 am), a large quick fry at the end of Chengdu road heading toward the river.
This style of noisy local restaurant features cheap, fried local grub, heavy on the seafood, washed down with Taiwanese beer. Some of my friends don’t like this quick fry compared to others in Taipei, but I’ve also enjoyed it.
Finally, I can’t write this article without mentioning the Ximen Modern Toilet Restaurant (#7, lane 50, Xining South Rd. 西寧南路50巷7號, 11/11:30am to 9/9:30pm), a toilet themed restaurant.
The food served in porcerlain thrones here is mediocre Taiwanese and Western fare, and the shaved ice is a ridiculous mess, but let’s be honest, we go for the novelty and photos ops, not the fine cuisine.
Japanese Restaurants in Ximending
There are tons of Japanese restaurants in Ximending, which seems suitable as the district was first developed by the Japanese.
Beginning in the heart of Ximending, Da Che Lun (大車輪火車壽司, #53 Emei street, 峨眉街53號) was supposedly the first conveyor belt sushi shop in Taiwan. Oh, and the sushi (and other Japanese foods) come around on a mini train!
Personally, we found the food here a little overpriced and not so special. Just check out the train going by in the front window.
Across the street is another old-time institution: Mei Guan Yuan (台北城老舖 美觀園, #36 Emei street, 峨眉街36號, 11am to 9pm), running since 1946. There’s no choo choo train, but we like the food better here.
Come for classic Japanese dishes, giant beers, giant sushi, and some interesting Japanese-Taiwanese hybrid (I think?) dishes like this cheese baked rice in papaya:
Below Malading Spicy Hot Pot (see above), Gou Yi Xia (literally ‘dog a moment’?) (狗一下居食酒屋 lunch and 5pm to 2 am) has an intriguing menu of Japanese fare, including fully loaded, over-the-top sushi rolls, and fried rice served in the shape of Taiwan.
There are more interesting and artful Japanese dishes on offer at Lan Shan Shi Si (嵐山食肆, #123 Chengdu road, 成都路123號, lunch and 5:30-10pm). The long sushi board picture at the top of this article was shot here, as well as the eel bowl below.
Try to reserve one of the few spots at the atmospheric sushi bar on the main floor, because the second floor overflow area feels like a cafeteria.
International Food in Ximending
There are two Thai restaurants in the Ximen area that we absolutely love. The first is Red House Thai (西門紅樓泰風味), the second bar into the Ximen LGBT bar area (see below in drinking section) when you are entering from the MRT exit 1 or front of Red House.
We love it for the great patio atmosphere and people watching, but also for the simple yet authentic Thai fare cooked up by the ayi (and fridge full of Thai beers).
Second, Jolly Brewery and Restaurant is not technically in Ximending, but it’s close enough and I have to mention it because it’s so good. More upscale (and expensive) than the above, the food here is nevertheless divine, not to mention the fact that it is one of Taipei’s first (and only) legitimate brewhouses, as in the beer is brewed on site.
There are only five standard beers plus a rotating seasonal one, but it is still enough to get me excited, and they’ve got some giant glass options or sample trays.
The main pedestrian shopping area in Ximending has plenty of Korean, Japanese curry, and risotto restaurants that mostly appeal to younger Taiwanese.
If you must eat Western food in Ximending, Choir Café Ximen (快樂美式餐廳, #85-2, Wuchang Street section 2, 昌街二段85-2號 12pm to 12am) on Theater street has reliable Western fare like steaks, toasted sandwiches, quesadillas and fish & chips.
Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Ximending
While vegetarian restaurants can be found all over Taipei, one of my favorites is located just outside of Ximending, actually a couple blocks south of Taipei Main Station. It is listed on GoogleMaps as Three To Vegetarian Restaurant (三來素食館 Sun Like Vegetarian Restaurant). This definitely the best place to sample traditional Taiwanese vegetarian food in Ximending. What makes it stand out is the sheer variety of foods on offer, and you may even share a table with a monk or nun!
At this type of traditional vegetarian restaurant, load up your a plate from the buffet table, then take in the counter to pay by weight; a ful plate will cost around 90-140 TWD. Let the clerk know whether or not you want rice, and he or she will give you a bowl to help yourself from the large rice cookers. Usually white rice and multi-grain rice are available. At the end, you can also fill your bowl up with soup.
This is a must-have food experience in Ximending and Taipei, so don’t miss, whether you are vegetarian or not!
Another interesting traditional food to try is the vegetarian version of guabao (Taiwanese hamburgrs) and W4 Taiwanese hamburger (see the “Taiwanese food” section above).
Tea, Cocktails, and Craft Beer in Ximending
If you’re interested in real Taiwanese tea, you can enjoy a traditional (albeit pricey) tea experience in a wooden Japanese era teahouse at Eighty-Eightea Rinbansyo (八拾捌茶輪番所, Zhonghua Rd., Sect. 1, #174, 中華路一段174號, 11:30am to 9pm). In Ximending proper, there are bubble tea shops at every corner.
One that stands out is the bright rainbow colors at Dream Color Teas on Tattoo Street (the blue is a natural dye from butterfly peas).
The latest trend for bubble tea is to cook the tapioca pearls in brown sugar syrup, and then pour it around the insides of the cup so that it looks all pretty and drippy for your Instagram needs.
You can find this at Xingfu Tang (幸福堂, #29 Chengdu road, 成都路29號), but when I visited, the flamboyant side of me couldn’t resist this bright pink strawberry bubble tea.
Bear Yummy (熊好呷乳酪烘培餐廳, #5, lane 50, Wuchang street section 2, 武昌街二段50巷5號, noon to 11pm) serves hot drinks with cute foam characters in the same lane but further south from the best street food stalls in Ximen.
For a very “Ximending” cocktail experience, seek out Hanko 60, a hidden movie theater-style speakeasy bar. Expect ultra creative cocktails, and some drinks even come hidden inside a box of popcorn, the movie theater equivalent of “paper bagging it.”
Check out details and photos on this Hanko 60 review by my friends from Local Nomads.
For outdoor cocktails & beers, head to Taipei’s best collection of bar patios, the Ximen Red House LGBT bar area. Menus are mostly similar so you can choose based on which has the best feeling. Be warned that the “all-you-can-drink” cocktail deals use low quality, hangover inducing alcohols (speaking from experience).
As beer lovers, we usually head to Sol Bistro at the end, which has a range of Fullers beers and some other good choices.
In my opinion, Driftwood (#46 Kunming st., 昆明街46號, Mon-Thurs 5-11:30, Fri 5-1:30am, Sat 3-1:30am, Sun 3-11:30pm), one of Taihu brewing’s taprooms, is the best craft beer spot in Taipei.
Little goblets of mostly local and Asia craft beers cost around NT200, but you will not be disappointed. The atmospheric setting features wooden floors, low sofas, and log tables.
There’s another little craft beer pub surrounded by cinemas on Movie Theater Street (Wuchang St) called Ximen Beer Bar (酒肆西門, 83-2, Wuchang St. Sect. 2, 武昌街二段83-2號, Sun-Thurs 6pm-1am, Fri/Sat 5pm-2:30am ).
Another tiny beer bar worth checking out is 58 Bar (台灣自釀啤酒專賣, #58, Kaifeng Street Sect. 2, 開封街2段58號, 6:30pm-1am).
Shaved Ice and Ice Cream in Ximending
Finally we get to the ice cream, perfect if you’re visiting Taiwan in summer!
Let’s start with the most unusual option: Snow King (雪王冰淇淋, 2F #65 Wuchang St. Sect. 1, 武昌街1段65號2樓, 12-8pm). Located a block west of the Ximending pedestrian area and facing Zhongshan Hall, family-run Snow King has been serving weird and tasty ice cream since 1947.
Today they claim to have 73 kinds, though some are seasonal. My personal favorites were honey, cinnamon, custard apple, mulberry, and especially Asian basil. Taiwan beer and kaohliang were straight up disgusting, while my vegetarianism was my excuse for not trying the weirder meaty ones like pork floss, sesame chicken, or pork knuckle. Prices range from NT80-150 for a large scoop.
If you want to try very traditional Taiwanese style ice cream, head to Yongfu Ice Cream (永富冰淇淋, No. 68, Section 2, Guiyang St, 貴陽街2段68號, 10am to 10 pm or 11pm on Sat/Sun). The shops serves old-time ice cream that is typically sold from little pushcarts and around Taiwan.
The ice cream is smooth and creamy but much lighter and a little less sweet than Western ice cream, almost like sherbet. The flavors on offer when we visited were lemon, strawberry, passionfruit, egg, plum, longan, peanut, and taro. For only Nt40 you can try three kinds, in a cup or on a cone.
Ximending is also a great place to try xue hua bing (雪花冰), an interesting variety of Taiwanese shaved ice. Sweetened condensed milk is added to the ice, and it is shaved in layers, giving it a kind of smooth consistency that lacks the crunchiness or regular shaved ice and melts instantly in your mouth. It comes in all different flavors and may be topped with fruits, beans, pudding, or normal ice cream.
For more famous ice cream and bubble tea shops, check out my article on the best things to do in Taichung.
Three Brothers and Sisters Xuehuabing (三兄妹雪花冰, Hanzhong St., #23, 漢中街23號, 10am to 11pm) at the end of Hanzhong st. and near the Taiwanese restaurants and breakfast street mentioned above, has a pretty typical xuehuabing menu.
Another choice is the Xuehuabing shop connected to TAKAO1972 Kunming Restaurant (#46 Kunming St., 昆明街46號, 11am to 11pm), in the same building as Papa Whale Hotel and Driftwood craft beer (see craft beer section above). The strawberry xue hua bing picture above was shot there.
It’s a little more expensive, but served in a classier dimly lit setting, and they’ve got something special that the other one doesn’t: pearl milk tea xuehuabing. Mango is still my favorite though.
I must say that I truly enjoyed researching this article! If you find any treasures for drinking or eating in Ximending that I missed, or one of these places has closed, please let me know!