DONG MEN 東門

a guide to the foodie neighborhood around Yong Kang Street

Back in the day, there were four main gates in Taipei. North, south, east and west. Today, the only physical gate that you can admire is the north one (Beimen 北門), but each of the others remain popular neighborhoods and tourist locations.

Dong Men is the East Gate. Here, you’ll find the famed foodie street, Yong Kang Street (永康街), aka where legends like Din Tai Fung was born (not to mention many celebrated local spots). While Yong Kang Street is the center of it all, the many alleys and lanes extending from it are also full of restaurants and shops worth adding to your list. North of Xinyi Road, there are even more local options leading into Dongmen Market.

Right at the border of Zhong Zheng and Da An districts, the central location makes it an ideal place to stop for a meal, but you could (and should) easily spend a half day wandering the neighborhood. There is a high concentration of cafés, each one with its own aesthetic. There are all the trendiest foods, as well as some tried and true establishments that have been around for generations, serving classic Taiwanese dishes. This is also a great place to pick up souvenirs that aren’t tacky, with a lot of boutiques and shops that feature local artists and artisans. If you prefer to eat your souvenirs, there are also many different 伴手禮 ban shou li shops selling popular edible souvenirs like pineapple cake and nougat. For tea drinkers, there are several beautiful tea shops that have beautifully packaged local teas and tea ware.

The point is, Dong Men is a treasure trove of tasty discoveries, so let your tastebuds guide you and savor every moment.

Two pointers before you go:

  1. If there is someone in the street handing out menus and asking you to come in, you probably shouldn’t (because all the good places don’t really need advertising)
  2. If you need to use the bathroom, go to 7-Eleven, or the MRT station. Starbucks also has one but don’t abuse it.

[ GETTING HERE ]

As of 2013 Dong Men officially has its own MRT stop, easily accessible via the red or orange lines. There are also a bunch of buses that go along Xin Yi Road (Xinyi Main Line, 0 East, 0 South, 20, 22, 38, 88, 204 and 1503). If you’re taking a taxi, have them drop you off at the entrance to Yong Kang Street. If you need a landmark to drop off, use Din Tai Fung.

Exit 5 will drop you off right at the corner of Yong Kang Street. That crowd hanging out on the sidewalk? It’s for Din Tai Fung. Ignore them (you can get your dumplings at a different location). And take the scenic (or rather, aromatic) route through Sunmerry Bakery into Yong Kang Street. Peep the gift sets (but don’t buy anything yet, you can grab it on your way out rather than carrying it along).

The hardest decision you’ll be making all day is where to get lunch. You might be contemplating sticking around for dinner just so you can pick two places to dine. Which honestly, is a pretty good idea. There are many good options (and only a few tourist traps which aren’t even that offensive), so you can’t really go wrong. But if you need some pointers:

 

For a sit-down noodle or dumpling forward meal

  • Kao Chi – an established Shanghainese restaurant known for pan fried shenjianbao.
  • Zhu Ji – a more casual and accessible local chain that has similar offerings as Din Tai Fung
  • Yong Kang Beef Noodle – a touristy but solid spot for beef noodle soup
  • Lao Zhang Beef Noodle – another solid spot for beef noodle soup, less touristy
  • Liao Jia Beef Noodle – an off the beaten path beef noodle soup shop that has a cult following among Taipei locals
  • Du Xiao Yue – a Tainan restaurant chain specializing in danzi noodle and other traditional southern Taiwan snacks

 

For casual Taiwanese small-eats & solo meals

  • D-Ka Bun – a casual eatery specializing in pork hock rice and traditional sides
  • Ya Fung Fishball – a traditional noodle and soup shop by the market
  • Mama Luo Mi Fen Tang – a popular stand inside Dongmen market that specializes in vermicelli soup
  • Qi Fu Bian Shi – a casual women-operated eatery with home style noodles and wontons
  • Li Yuan Sushi – a hole in wall specializing in Taiwanese noodles and traditional Taiwanese sushi (a very different genre from Japanese sushi, it is made with more humble ingredients)

 

For a traditional Taiwanese 叫菜 family meal

  • Lu Sang Restaurant – a Hakka cuisine restaurant serving up specialty dishes
  • Feng Sheng Restaurant – a Taiwanese cuisine restaurant with traditional local plates served family-style in a nostalgic space

Some of Taiwan’s most celebrated products have brick and mortar shops in the neighborhood. There are also several boutiques in the area that feature cute and aesthetic souvenirs crafted by local artists. Stop by Cha Cha The for some Taiwanese tea (in sleek, minimalist packaging). Get some all natural soaps and skincare from A Yuan or Cha Tzu Tang. Peruse the knick knacks and souvenirs at Lai Hao, a trendy artisanal souvenir shop that has a couple locations in the neighborhood. One Day sells minimalist designy stuff, as well as boba and teas.

If it’s still early, swing by Dongmen Market to experience the smells and sounds of a traditional market. The outdoor part is mostly produce and home goods, while the indoor portion has more meats, fish, specialty foods and food stands.

There are countless cafés to choose from, so pick whichever fits your aesthetic best. There’s the industrial cool cold brew cafe Elephant Machine. Or there’s the simple, minimalist Powder Workshop. There is the old school family-owned Roaster Family Coffee. And then there’s the girly storybook Sugar Bistro. For a contemporary dessert tea room in a traditional Japanese house a little out of the way, there’s Jin Jin Ding. For a European-style afternoon tea, there’s Rose House and for fusion flavored scones, there’s Ciao Ciao. Most of cafés in the area are only open in the afternoon, and they often have a minimum order (generally 1 drink per person) and time limit (generally 90 min – 2 hours). Sit down, get some photogenic coffee, maybe something sweet to go with it.

If you’re feeling less like caffeine and more like sugar for a pick me up, opt for one of the many ice shops in the area. There’s Smoothie House right at the center of it all and there’s Ice Monster, both specializing in fruit ice. On the other side of Xin Yi Road, there’s Jingimoo, with contemporary Japanese-inspired ice desserts, while JINJIN, their newer shop right by Yong Kang Street, has more standard Taiwanese ice options. If you come at the right time, you’ll find a line in the park for Bai Shui Tofu Pudding, as people buy a servings to eat in the park before returning the bowls to the stand. If you just want boba for the road, skip the Coco’s and 50lan’s of the world and opt for Cha for Tea or KQ Tea.

The ever-present line at Tian Jin Scallion Pancake moves fast, so grab one before you go. Or, grab a soy milk soft serve at Soypresso. Or both. And maybe circle around the various bakeries one last time to see if there are any other snacks – future you will appreciate it.

don’t be confused, the stand is right under the vietnamese restaurant sign!

btw, there are two locations in the neighborhood

places

EAT:
Soypresso
DRINK:
Powder Workshop
DRINK:
Elephant Machine
EAT:
Lao Zhang
EAT:
Kao Chi
EAT:
Yong Kang Beef Noodle
EAT:
Ice Monster
EAT:
Din Tai Fung

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