By Douglas Habecker
Translated by Anna Yang
64, WuQuan 1st St, West Dist
Hours: 11 am-10 pm (open to 12 am Wed-Sat), closed Mon
No service charge.
The fact that Pipe attracts a regular stream of customers day and night, despite its very low-profile exterior and quiet surroundings, says something about the comfort food, drinks and relaxing ambiance that it offers.
For the past two and half years, friendly co-owner Jason Li (who also speaks fluent English) has managed this cozy two-floor place with girlfriend Woody Tseng and his older brother. With a small bar and tables, the downstairs has glass walls facing an alley that leads into the old covered Zhongxing Market, where a number of Bohemian cafes, restaurants and galleries have set up. Pipe's slightly rustic, artistic vibe, which includes various wooden tables and regular art exhibits in the upstairs area (also available for special events) means that it fits in with its neighbors, including the adjacent Art Museum Parkway.
Pipe is actually a younger sister to the also-popular Noob burger eatery, although Jason notes that it features many unique food offerings among its 10 burgers (NT$230-290), five burritos (NT$210-220), three pizzas, salads and other entrees and snacks. Made with a handmade, thick and juicy 7-8 oz. (210-230 gram) patty, the Pipe Cheese Burger remains the top-seller along with the Salsa Shrimp Burger.
For something more exotic, be sure and try the vegetarian Radish Kimchi Burger, whose ingredients include radish cake made by Jason's father in Tainan the traditional way over a wood-burning stove. Many other things are also handmade here, including the salsa and tartar sauces, chili con carne and tortillas (freshly-made to order) used in various burritos, of which the Salsa Chicken remains the favorite.
Other popular options include Buffalo Chicken Wings (NT$180), Fish and Chips (NT$180), Cheese Chili Fries, and a "volcano" Brownie (NT$80), filled with a chocolate sauce.
Part of Pipe's appeal is the fact that it doubles nicely as a drinking spot, offering over 10 quality imported beers (NT$150-280) like Fuller's, plus cocktails and spirits. There are also coffees, teas, juices and a menu drink titled "Whatever" (NT$120)--a changing, non-alcoholic concoction that Jason creates on the spot.