Langman Ting: The romance of a classic dive
By Vesper Stockwell
Translated by Naomi Lai
47-5, YuDe Rd
Hours: 8 pm-3:30 am
NT$300/person minimum charge.
No service charge.
Credit cards accepted.
The nightlife of any good city will offer something for everyone. In Taichung, you can find everything from trendy discos filled with 20-somethings gyrating to pulsating beats in bikini tops and short-shorts, to beer-soaked sports bars showing the latest games on TV. And then there's the Romantic Pavilion, a.k.a. "Langman Ting", a sort of time warp where the salaryman can loosen the noose, throw back some single malt whiskey, and sing "My Way" his way.
That is, until Romeo arrives. From Monday through Saturday from 11 p.m., Romeo is a one-man, Filipino show who sings just about anything from Sinatra to the Eagles, and often takes requests. According to one patron, he does a mean "Billie Jean". The walls behind the small corner stage are papered with black-and-white photos of past jazz greats. These are not to be confused with Romeo, whose name is spelled out in glittering letters across his keyboard.
From the outside, Langman Ting is an unassuming single-story, brick structure with a side area for outdoor seating. Inside, the bar is tended by a mature, all-female staff that is very attentive to their customers—most of them older businessmen looking to unwind over a drink or two with their buddies or the hostesses. For some, it's the perfect local watering hole, offering a variety of small dishes and specials like Grilled Mackerel, scrawled on a whiteboard above the bar and changing according to what's fresh in the market. If you're lucky, that will include some delectable salmon sashimi.
A 12-year-old Chivas Regal goes for NT$200/glass or, if you want to join the regulars, NT$2,500/bottle. The more adventurous can sample the cocktails, like the mysterious "Ghostbuster" or the "Bullet" (NT$300)--a secret concoction of eight different alcohols that is sure to blow a hole through you.
This bar was reportedly named after its romantic atmosphere, although this might be a tad ambitious. While it can be considered a proper dive, the many bottles of whisky—each with its own name-tag and date—lining the cabinet shelves are testimony to the many faithful patrons here, who seem well-acquainted. One guy at the bar calls out to another a few stools over, "Hey, did your wife have that baby yet?" To which the man shakes his head. "Well," the first guy says while raising his glass, "At least you still got it."
It's this kind of casual camaraderie, in an understated low-key atmosphere, that seems to bring people back. Just like the decorative touches—a miniature Christmas tree rooted in a plastic Jack-O-Lantern—somehow it all fits together.