Fun Around Town Relaxing in the midnight breezes around Ximending's Red House
By Scott Moses Translated by Ann Lee
Photos by Andy Lin
As big as Taipei may be, there are few places where one can sit outside, away from traffic, have a drink and enjoy the midnight breezes. If this sounds like an attractive setting, you may want to take a stroll over to Red House (ex-Red Theater) in Ximending neighborhood. Although many Taiwanese see this area as a "gay only" type of place, in reality it is very welcoming to all individuals, whatever your personal preferences may be. To its left is a very large open area filled with shops, restaurants and outdoor pubs (with minimal indoor seating).
Assuming you're feeling hungry, head over to pizzeria Alleycat's outdoor dining area, located solely on the second floor of the establishment. This restaurant, which has a number of locations around Taipei, offers some of the tastiest pizza you'll sink your teeth into. The Napoletana (10-inch NT$410, 12-inch NT$470) is always a wise choice. This thin-crust pizza screams "New York" and is topped with freshly sliced tomatoes, goat cheese, anchovies, olives and spinach. Hoegaarden draft beer (NT$220 500 ml) is readily available for washing down this yummy mixture of Italian creativity. Just as attractive is Alleycat's outdoor seating area with great bird's eye views of the entire area and action taking place below.
After ingesting your scrumptious meal, head downstairs to Shibuya. Located in the heart of this area, it is the perfect outdoor pub to soak in all the action and do some people-watching. It also has quite a large array of drinks, especially during the summer. In the warmer months, you can purchase a mini keg of beer for NT$850 and draft beer goes for NT$150/glass. If beer doesn't do the trick, be certain to try their mixed drinks, including a large variety of "Jamaican style" drinks that are hard to come by in Taiwan. Strongly recommended is the drink "Listen" (NT$200), a guilty pleasure best described as candy for adults. Beautiful Love and Sleeping Baby, both around NT$200, also get the job done and are guaranteed to leave you with a pleasant Caribbean vibe.
If you're looking for some flashier ambiance with techno beats raging all night long, just next door is Mudan. Here, they offer a wide range of mixed drinks and shots that go for about NT$200 each. Options include a beverage called Special Fruit Punch (NT$300) that sounds very exotic and is worth the price. The flamboyant decor and more attractive seating at this place also draws a much larger crowd.
By contrast, for those seeking something quieter, there's Le Chat Bottle, which for three years has been tucked away on the second floor, perfect for those who want to get away from the crowds downstairs. It also offers nice, comfortable seating and higher quality alcohol then most places provide in this area. For instance, the Cucumber and Hendricks Gin (NT$250) is a very tasty drink and perhaps one of Ximending's best mixed drinks. From time to time, half-Japanese, half-Taiwanese owner Kenji breaks out his projector and shows DVDs of Japan's finest bands. If you happen to walk in and observe a number of Taiwanese waving their hands in sequence to Japanese music here, do not be alarmed.
It is important to keep in mind that there are quite a few places to check out in this area. Besides pubs and restaurants, this laid-back outdoor shopping district also includes a fair number of clothing stores and other assorted shops great for helping pass the time. Needless to say, your evenings in the Red House area of Ximending won't be boring ones.