Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Taipei's Best Vegan Restaurants

In this post I summarise Taipei's best vegan restaurants to help visitors choose where to eat while in Taipei.This information follows the same system as my books (Taiwan, a Travel Guide for Vegans and Taipei in Four Days: A Travel Guide for Vegans). If you are looking for information on vegan food you should hopefully find what you are looking for here on this blog and of course Happycow (I'm the Taipei "Ambassador" / volunteer contact person, and try to keep it and this page up to date and consistent with my books). My books do include this same information of course, but focus mostly on travel: what to see, where to go, transport, safety etc, much like conventional travel guides (eg Lonely Planet, Rough Guide) but of course only recommend vegan-friendly restaurants and animal and earth-friendly entertainment and activities.

Key & Notes

Price

$ = A basic meal can be had for around (or under) NT100
$$ = A typical meal costs between NT100 - NT400
$$$ = A meal costs over NT400

Menu & Drinks

All these restaurants are vegan unless stated otherwise (Fruitful Food also serves eggs and dairy products).
As most vegan (and vegetarian) restaurants in Taiwan are run by spiritually-minded people (or cater to them) most do not serve alcohol. Restaurants do not serve alcohol unless stated otherwise, but many offer non-alcoholic beer and other beverages.

Best Restaurants At a Glance

Links stay in the page (to come). Most of these restaurants are in Eastern Taipei (see Map). 

Restaurants by Category

Best Restaurant

Others

Best food overall

Flourish ($$$) Tofunia ($$)
Best Taiwanese Guangfu Loving Hut ($$$) Taiwan Su ($)
Best fusion food Flourish ($$$) Tofunia ($$)
Best boutique restaurant Mianto ($$$) SoulR ($$$)
Best Western comfort food Ooh Cha Cha ($$),
Tofunia ($$),
About Animals
Mianto ($$$)
Best dining experience SoulR ($$$) Mianto ($$$)
Best raw food Plants Eatery ($$$) Ooh Cha Cha ($$) serves raw desserts. 
Best buffet (not all vegan) Fruitful Food ($$$, not all vegan) Veggie Ocean Loving Hut ($$)
Best Japanese / Korean Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut ($$) Flourish ($$$)
Best burgers About Animals Ooh Cha Cha ($$)
Best pizza Tofunia ($$) Mianto ($$$)
Category not here? Please suggest it in comments. 

Flourish ($$$, Fusion)

11:00 – 21:00
Reservations are recommended. A few minutes' walk from Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, Exit 4. Make a U-turn as you walk out the exit, turn right immediately into Lane 170, and then take the second left (just after the post office). Flourish will be on your right.
Directions from your location
Facebook, Happycow
台北市大安區敦化南路一段巷32號
Number 32, Lane 233, Section 1, Dunhua South Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City.
Ma Po Tofu is usually difficult to find vegan, let alone as healthy as this.

Flourish is one of the newest and most popular vegan restaurants in Taipei. It offers a delicious range of Western, Taiwanese and Japanese-inspired dishes which are among the best value in Taipei. It's also one of the few restaurants open between lunch and dinner (and until ____) so I recommend reserving in advance (via Facebook) or else turning up between lunch and dinner, or after about 19:00. The interior is large and crowded, and service is prompt and efficient. While the whole dining experience is very enjoyable, food is the focus, not service, decor or atmosphere.

Least expensive meal set: NT300
Meal set, dessert & drink: NT700 - 1000
If it's closed or you can't get a seat: Most restaurants recommended here are in walking distance, but Kaya Kaya Cafe around the corner is also a popular jaunt for western food, but is not all vegan.

Ooh Cha Cha ($$, Western, Sandwiches, Bowls & Burgers)

Guting Station, Exit 2
Walk straight as you exit, take your first right and it's on the right when you reach the first corner (one minute from the station).
Number 207, Section 2, Nanchang Road
台北市南昌路二段207
Directions
Mon – Fri: 10:00 – 21:00
Sat–Sun: 10:00 – 20:00
(02) 2367-7133
Ooh Cha Cha is the place to come for a quick healthy recharge.

Ooh Cha Cha is one of Taipei's most famous cafes, and deservedly so, for it's been serving up simple, delicious, healthy vegan meals for years, including Taipei's best sandwiches and meal bowls. Its menu has also expanded into burgers and raw desserts.

However, there's a catch with Ooh Cha Cha, which makes it disappoint a few visitors: it's what you probably get at home (if you're lucky enough to live in a vegan-friendly city), and if you're a good chef you probably can and do cook similar food yourself. Its simple, healthy meals make it a perfect go-to cafe for resident vegans looking for a healthier alternative to the usual overcooked veggies and fake meat, drowned with salty, MSG-laden sauces, and for this it deserves its fame among health-conscious, foreign residents. However, visiting vegans often find it on Happycow (usually while visiting the nearby Dictator Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall) and turn up expecting more than a sandwich (no matter how good the handmade sauces are). If you're in Taiwan for a short time please with limited meals to enjoy please try Taiwanese food (like the Guangfu Loving Hut), but if you want a taste of home then here's the place to come for the best Quinoa bowl in Taiwan.

Ooh Cha Cha also serves vegan beer. 

Price range: NT150 - 500
If it's closed (or you can't get a seat): take the MRT a few stops south to Wanlong Station and get a burger at About Animals.

About Animals (動物誌, $$, Burger Bar)

Mon - Thu: 14:00 - 22:30, Fri - Sun: 11:00 - 22:30 Wanlong Station, Exit 2
Turn left at the top of the escalator and walk past the Japanese shop and 7-Eleven. Then walk to the opposite side of the road island (towards about two o'clock), continue to the left, then take the first hard right. About Animals will be on your right just around the corner.
9 Jinglong Street
Directions
(02) 2935-3633 
This is about as healthy as About Animals gets (Salad Burger).
 
This unique burger bar is undoubtedly Taipei's most famous hangout for animal rights activists, and also serves as a support base for gay rights (Taiwan is almost certain to become the first country in Asia to achieve marriage equality, probably within the next few years). Besides their original burger creations (I recommend the sesame-tofu) it also serves excellent fries and other greasy comfort foods. If you're looking for a vegan pub this is your answer. It allows smoking outside, and while it's totally smokefree inside, the odd person complains about having to walk through the smoke-filled courtyard to reach it, especially if travelling with children. Smoke aside, many visitors and readers of my book report that About Animals was their favourite restaurant in Taiwan.

Price range: NT200 - 500
If it's closed: the (rather strange) iVegan restaurant is nearby, but I would get some snacks at iVegan if you are hungry, and then take the MRT back a few stops to Ooh Cha Cha.

Guangfu Loving Hut ($$, Hotpot)

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station, Exit 2Continue south as you exit the MRT. Cross the roundabout (circle). Take the second right (Lane 280, Guangfu South Road) and it's a few buildings down on the right.
Directions from your location
11:30 – 14:30, 16:30 - 21:30 (last order 21:00)
台北市大安區光復南路280巷30號
Guangfu South Road, Lane 280, Number 30
(02) 2777-2711 (Call to reserve a table during weekends.)
Facebook, Happycow, Vegan Taiwan

Hotpots are the Guangfu Loving Hut Staple, and the best place to enjoy this quintessential Asian dining experience in Taiwan.

Hotpots are a popular North-East Asian cuisine in which the diner is served a plate of raw vegetables and tofu (and traditionally meat - fake meat here of course) and cooks them at their table. Most broths traditionally, of course, contain animal products, but the Guangfu Loving Hut makes its own vegan versions, and some new creations of its own. It's a good place to try Ma La (spicy) sauce, a popular flavour from SiChuan in China, and also some more Western-inspired broths. 
This Loving Hut is very different from most other Loving Huts, most of which serve simple "comfort food" aimed at non-vegan Taiwanese. This branch also serves a few staple fusion dishes (I recommend the Tom Yam Tahini Rice) and some rich desserts. This is the most authentic restaurant among Taipei's high-end vegan restaurants.

Price range: NT200 - NT600

If you can't get a table: the original branch of Veggie Creek (and the only branch not inside a shopping mall) is a short walk away, but you might not get a seat there either.  Consider walking to the Veggie Ocean Loving Hut.

Tofunia ($$, Fusion)

Xinyi Anhe Station, Exit 3 (turn right) or Exit 4 (turn left) into Tongan Street. After 250 metres turn left into Lane 38, Tonghua Street.
11:00 – 21:00 (Please call first, or if closed irregularly walk to the Veggie Ocean Loving Hut or The Green Room.)
09 0566-5565 (mobile) or (02) 2755-7380
Number 19, Lane 38, Tonghua St, Da’an District
臺北市大安區通化街38巷19號
Happycow , Facebook

Taipei's only vegan Quesadilla
 
One of the newest fusion restaurants on the Taipei vegan scene, this charming, two-story establishment, run by a European chef, serves authentic Western favourites at surprisingly low prices, especially for this expensive area of Taipei (near Xinyi Anhe Station). If you're looking to enjoy a delicious, healthy meal out on a low budget - or even if you're not on a tight budget - then this restaurant is a top choice. Their desserts are also amazing - try the ice cream if it's on the menu.

Price range: NT200 - 500
If it's closed: Most of Taipei's best restaurants are within walking distance or a short MRT ride, but I would recommend the nearby Veggie Ocean Loving Hut the most.

Plants Eatery ($$$, Raw)

450 metres north of Daan Station, Exit 6 (not to be confused with Daan Park Station). Continue walking north for five minutes, then turn right into Lane 253 and it’s on the right in 50 metres (at the first corner).
700 metres south of Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, Exit 3. Do a U-turn after walking out the exit and then at the intersection turn left into Fuxing South Road, Section 1. Walk south for 8 minutes then turn left again into Lane 253 and it’s on the right in 50 metres (at the first corner).
Hours are not finalised; call first (staff speak English).
大安區復興南路一段25310
Fuxing South Road, Section 1, Lane 253, Number 10
(02) 2784-5677


Taipei's only raw vegan restaurant, Plants is most famous for its desserts, but also serves sprouted grain-based dishes, hummus and other raw favourites found the world over. Raw food requires quality ingredients and is time-intensive to prepare, so it's never going to be cheap, but the price to quality ratio is much higher than the same restaurant would offer in London, New York or Melbourne. If you're really hungry then consider a hearty organic meal at the Veggie Ocean Loving Hut ($) first.

Price range: NT200 (snack) - NT800 (meal + drink + dessert)

SoulR Vegan Cuisine ($$$, Fusion)

Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, Exit 1
Mon – Wed: 14:30 – 21:00, Thu – Sun: 11:30–21:00 (Last Order 8:10)
Continue walking west as you leave the MRT. Take the fourth road on the right (Lane 217) and then the first left (not counting a tiny alley) into Alley 1 (at the 7-Eleven). The restaurant is on the right.
忠孝東路321716
Zhongxiao East Road, Section 3, Lane 217, Alley 1, Number 6. See Eastern Taipei Map.
(02) 2771-1365
Thai Pasta

SoulR offers Taipei's finest vegan dining experience, serving exquisitely presented Taiwanese fusion cuisine on to a small number of tables in a comfortable (if somewhat dark), exclusive restaurant atmosphere. Specialties are pasta (with some unique flavours, including Thai and Mexican sauces), but they are most famous for their rich desserts (visit in the afternoon for their waffles).

Personally I value originality of food over dining atmosphere, so if I'm going to spend several hundred NT on a meal I look for the more original fare found at the likes of Flourish or Mianto, but SoulR is undoubtedly one of Taipei's most popular vegan establishments, among residents (both Taiwanese and foreign) and among visitors to Taipei, and (like About Animals) many readers of my book report that it was their favourite in Taiwan.

Price range: NT400 - NT1200+ (steak dinner set).
If it's closed: Flourish and Fruitful Food are in similar price brackets, or if all else fails Veggie Creek Dunan Store is always open.

Mianto ($$$, Fusion, Boutique)

Tue – Sun 11:00 - 21:00
(02) 2321-9749
新生南路一段146 7
Xinsheng South Road, Section 1, Lane 146, Number 7
Macaroni Cheese

Mianto is Taipei's boutique vegan restaurant. It serves a delicious range of healthy, authentic, vegan cuisine, and Michelle (the owner / chef) is a great host. Diners mostly eat at one large table, but there are also a few small corner tables (for two) overlooking a small park. The warm and pleasant interior also shares its space with a design company. Michelle also makes some incredible baked desserts.

Food prepared individually, or for such small numbers, is inevitably more expensive than its equivalent at a large, busy restaurant, so expect to spend up to NT1000, but if you're looking for a more personal dining experience then Mianto is the place to come.

Price range: NT300 - 1000+

If it's closed: there's not much else around here; take the Tamsui (red line) to Xinyi Anhe Station for Tofunia ($$, fusion) or the Veggie Ocean Loving Hut ($, traditional Taiwanese), or further for the Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut (Korean, Japanese).

Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut ($$, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese) 

11:30 - 14:00, 17:00 – 20:30
 247 Songde Road
信義區松德路247號 500 metres East of Xiangshan Station, Exit 3
Directions
From Exit 3 continue walking East along the left hand side of Xinyi Road, Section 5, around a gentle turn to the left. The first major intersection is Songde Road (松德路Eastern Taipei Map.  

This Loving Hut lies somewhere in between the fine-dining Guangfu branch (see above) and the traditional, inexpensive Veggie Ocean Loving Hut (below). This branch, which is run by a multilingual Korean lady and her family, serves Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese favourites, and is often overlooked because it's a little further out than other restaurants but only a few minutes walk from Xiangshan Station (the last stop on the red line, one station after Taipei 101). I recommend this to anyone wanting to try Japanese or Korean food or a good, inexpensive meal out.

Price range: NT200 - 500

If it's closed: take the red Tamsui line back to any restaurant in Eastern Taipei. Consider a stop to pick up a bite to eat at Vegan Heaven on the way (writeup coming soon). 

Veggie Ocean Loving Hut ($, Taiwanese, Buffet)

Xinyi Anhe Station, Exit 1
See Xinyi Anhe Map and directions above.
It's also walkable from Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station.
Mon – Sat: 11:30 - 14:00, 17:00 - 20:00
Closed on Sundays and the second Saturday of every month.
(02) 2702-9089 (call first to check it’s open)
台北市大安區仁愛路四段300192
Number 2, Alley 19, Lane 300, Section 4, Ren Ai Rd, Da’an District.
Not just a buffet: The Veggie Ocean Loving Hut also serves good value a la carte, like this traditional noodle dish (NT100).

Buffet restaurants have been part of Taiwanese cuisine for decades, and are enormously popular for their efficiency, both in terms of preparation (thus cost) and time spent for a quick lunch. Most are very different to all-you-can-eat buffets from the West (which are more like Fruitful Food - see below) as diners help themselves to food and pay by weight, and then clear their plates away afterwards (usually to rubbish bins out on the street). Most are, unfortunately, not vegan friendly at all, with no way to know whether the fake meats, mayonnaise sauces are vegan or not (but they usually aren't). The Veggie Ocean Loving Hut offers both a chance to experience this traditional dining experience (a daily event for millions of Taiwanese) but all vegan and mostly organic, yet it's still the the least expensive restaurant in this upmarket area of Taipei (and the least expensive on this summary).

About five to ten years ago about a dozen Loving Huts exploded onto the Taipei scene, serving vegan versions of traditional Taiwanese favourites. Most have since closed or morphed into new restaurants serving healthier food, such as SoulR, however they played a vital role in Taipei's vegan scene, as they introduced the new concept of veganism and vegan food, paving the way for the more creative vegan restaurants which we now enjoy today. The Veggie Ocean Loving Hut is one of the few to remain from this era in Taipei's short vegan history.

Price range: NT100 - 300
If it's closed: there's plenty around here; my favourite is Tofunia.

Veggie Creek ($$, Taiwanese)

500 metres northwest of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall Station, Exit 1
Yanji Street, Lane 129, Number 2
大安區延吉街1292
(02) 2778-1969
12:00 – 14:00, 17:00 – 21:00

This popular chain applies a traditional Taiwanese concept found in street food and at expensive buffets (such as Fruitful Food - see below) to a vegan store. Diners choose their own fresh vegetables, tofu and fake meats from a rack, and then the talented chef whips boils them in a traditional broth and then whips them up into a one-pot wonder in minutes. The original store, which offers the best dining experience, was started by two young (non-vegan) men after they returned to Taiwan from working holidays in Australia, and they have since opened two new stores, one in the Dunan branch of the Eslite Bookstore (famous for being open 24 hours, but the foodcourt closes around 21:00) and the Song Gao branch in the Breeze Shopping Centre, close to Taipei 101.While Veggie Creek has lost its edge since the opening of so many other vegan restaurants in eastern Taipei, it's still a unique dining opportunity and an inexpensive meal - something which makes it enormously popular with residents and visitors.

Typical meal (charged by item): NT200-300
If it's closed: The branches in the shopping malls shouldn't be, except on the eve of Lunar New Year and during serious typhoons.

 Fruitful Food ($$$, Buffet, Vegetarian)

Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, Exit 3
Directions
Walk out and around to the right, and take the elevator straight from the street to the 12th floor. Weekdays (preferable): Lunch: 11:30 - 15:00 (NT600), Dinner: 17:30 - 21:30 (NT700) Weekends, Holidays (must reserve ahead): Lunch: 11:30 - 14:00 (NT600), Afternoon Tea (limited menu): 14:20 - 16:20 (NT500), Dinner: 17:30 - 21:30 (NT700).
台北市忠孝東路四段200號12F(明曜百貨)
12th Floor, Mingyue Department Store, Number 200, Zhongxiao East Road.
(02) 277-18832
Vegan Taiwan, Website, Happycow  

While most buffets in Taiwan are inexpensive, pay-by-weight affairs, Buddhists have for years run elaborate, all-you-can-eat buffets, offering diners dozens of dishes to choose from for NT500 to NT1000 per person. Most, unfortunately, serve a lot of dairy products and fake meats (which most Taiwanese expect when they pay a lot for a meal) and as service is minimum at most there's no way to tell what's vegan, making the whole process very frustrating for vegan diners. Fruitful Food, however, have a clear labelling system and a large array of vegan options, including (usually) Japanese and Western food, cakes and sorbet. I still, however, recommend avoiding all fake meat products, as at any non-vegan restaurant. As a popular spot for wedding feasts and other large gatherings, it's often booked out days if not weeks in advance, but it's usually possible to turn up on a weekday lunch without a reservation, which is what I recommend.

Price range:  NT600 (afternoon tea, with a limited buffet) - NT800 (dinner).

If you can't get a seat: Flourish or the fail-safe Veggie Creek Dunan Store (inside the Eslite Bookstore, so virtually always open).

No comments:

Post a Comment