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A Walking Tour Through Taichung’s Little Europe

From our archives, Compass Magazine, June 2000.

Little Europe? That was the response of some readers when this magazine decided to attach the new label to a popular swathe of shops, cafes and restaurants just off of Taichung Harbor Road.

Although this district may bear scant resemblance to a European setting for someone who has just arrived from the west, there is no disputing the fact that several city blocks in the general vicinity of Ching Cheng and Tunghsing roads have taken on a unique ambiance that draws residents from all over the city, not to mention the rest of the island.
A closer look even reveals that the area has several attributes which justify the Little Europe name–like some of the city’s nicest European-style restaurants, its most European hotel, and no small number of European-style fashion boutiques. All this is crowned by the very popular “cafe/tea street”, Chingming 1st Street, where sidewalk cafes and quaint-looking shops provide a distinctive European feel.

In addition to its special attractions and pleasant atmosphere, Little Europe’s convenient location just off of the main business/hotel district on Taichung Harbor Road has made it a popular strolling area for residents and visitors alike. Provided one doesn’t linger too long at a cafe or shop, the entire area can be enjoyed on foot in the course of a couple hours.

Most of this district is contained in a box bordered by Taichung Harbor Road and Talung Street to the north and south and by Chungming South and Tunghsing roads to the east and west (see map). A good landmark to start at would be the Sogo II Department Store (the smaller brown one vs. the big white one). Head down Ching Cheng Road from Sogo and you’ll immediately see the three-floor Ad Cafe/Vogue boutique building on the left, the first of dozens of upscale fashion and jewelry stores scattered through the area. Just past that is the deep blue Prince Cafe and across the street is the Ideal Picurism Cafe (the name remains an enigma to this writer) with NT$160 set meals and other items.

At the corner of the first lane to the left (Ching Ming Rd.), is the vintage Cocona Pub and, opposite, the attractive white Tropics Caribbean Restaurant & Bar (11, Ching Ming Rd., tel. 327-8974), serving Jerk Chicken and other Caribbean delights from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Further down side road–which leads over to The Landis Hotel–is another eatery worth trying–International Street Beef Noodles Restaurant.
The Finga’s chain of restaurants, run by New Zealander Dereke Bruce, is a well-known Taichung institution. Further down Ching Cheng Rd., strollers will encounter the first of these, Finga’s Fine Foods, which serves great sandwiches, Mexican and other dishes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and also hosts a bakery and imported goods grocery store. On the same side, further down, are the 24-hour Yukaly Cafe, with meals and coffee starting from NT$35 a cup, plus the tiny techno-music pub, The Zoo (wearing all-black clothing and dark eye-liner will help you feel “in” here).
Opposite Finga’s, along Lane 50, are two very European establishments. The first is a new addition, Fatty’s family-style Italian restaurant, opened by Grand Formosa Taichung Hotel’s former general manager, Hendrick Frijling. The second is the Joric German Deli, managed by Jorg Rossow and his wife, Roi, who provide good German cuisine (lunch 11:30 am-2 pm, dinner 5-9 pm) and a small European-goods grocery store. Also directly opposite Finga’s is the Guay Guay Gun Shop, where you can buy military-issue clothing and gear, BB guns and GI Joe dolls.

At the corner of Ching Cheng Road and Lane 50 begins a series of pleasant shops, starting with the San Fang Er Ting (“Three Rooms, Two Halls”) shop (open 12:30-10 pm) with beautiful imported, scented candles, candle holders and other home decoration items. Heading down Ching Cheng Road and taking the next right onto Tatun 19th Street takes one past fashion stores with names like Hugo, Ross, Patti Pat and the assertive-sounding I’m A Woman shop. There’s also a Body Shop, with its usual beauty and health products.

Tatun 19th Street also brings one to one end of the very famous and popular “tea street” or “cafe street” (depending on who you ask), Ching Ming 1rst Street. Before turning left into the street, you might want to head right, where there are some back alleys of shops, eateries and, for the skate-boarding crowd, Mecca Skateboards & Streetwear, full of caps, baggy jeans, boards, stickers, T-shirts and other paraphernalia that go with this sub-culture. Further down Tatun 19th Street, opposite the big parking tower is a similar skateboard-stuff store, DCSHOECOUSA (open 1-10 pm). Heading straight on Tatun 19th will also bring you to the corner Sha Wu Li Shabu Shabu Restaurant (open 11:30 am-2 pm, 4:30-9:30 pm) with its Japanese-style “hot pot” dishes starting at NT$199.

Ching Ming 1rst Street stands out because it is off-limits to all vehicles and provides a great European-style setting with its outdoor cafes and little shops. The street is bordered on one side by the high-rise Taichung Commercial Center (TCC) office complex. Entering the cafe street from the Tatun 19th side, you’ll first see the Chun Shui Tang (Spring Water) tea house on the left corner. This famous place reputedly introduced the enormously-popular “pearl milk” tea (jen ju nai cha) to Taiwan and serves all sorts of drinks and snacks.
Walking on, most of the cafes are located on the left, including the Japanese-brand UCC Coffee, the very pleasant-looking Cafe Magician (open 11 am-midnight), the Oak Tree Cafe and Logoking Cafe (open 11:30-1:30 am). You can sit inside or outside to order a drink, snack (waffles being popular) or light meal (usually a spaghetti dish or something similar). One large, notable tea house on the right side is the Butterfly Tea House (10-1:30 am), with its striking Chinese-style interior design. In most cases, sitting outside will bring a waiter to take your order. At Butterfly, however, order and pay at the counter and pick up a numbered table placard so the waiter can find you outside.
There are plenty of shops on Cafe Street to browse through. One notable favorite, Jade Sportswear Clothing Store, is located on the left at the far end. Jade provides a wide range of cheap brand-name clothing from labels like Gap, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Polo and so on.
At the far end of Cafe Street is Talung Street, which is lined with shops and eateries. Turning left on Talung leads back to Ching Cheng Road. On the way, you’ll pass Aloha Restaurant (11 am-9 pm), a vintage restaurant serving Mexican and other dishes. Turning right on Talung takes you to the narrow Ching Ming 2nd Street, between the TCC office building and the parking lot. Along here Zino (open noon-midnight), a small cafe for cigar, pipe, wine and coffee aficionados, which has a second-floor walk-in humidor for cigar lovers.

Across Talung, opposite Ching Ming 2nd Street’s entrance, are two big teahouse/restaurant places where one can stretch out with a drink or meal. The first is 3 Dimension Space (10-3 am) and the other is Lung Lung (Dragon, Dragon), a 24-hour place with live music from 6 to 11:30 p.m.
Back on Ching Cheng Road, continuing past Tatun 19th Street takes one to several other great restaurants. The first is Ba Fen Baau Restaurant (open 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5-9:30 pm), with its almost-Japanese architecture and great Chinese food. The next is Finga’s Italian, long one of Taichung’s favorite expatriate hang-outs with nice ambiance and great food.
To the left of Ching Cheng Road and stretching up to Ching Ming South Road is an older quiet residential neighborhood and a maze of alleys with some notable establishments. Opposite the right-side Tatun 19th Street is the entrance to Ching Cheng 5th Street. Turning left here (at Lu boutique) takes you to Merry In Box Mexican Restaurant & Cafe and KK Cafe. The next left-side alley is Ching Cheng 6th Street, where one can find Merry In Box New Orleans Sea Food Restaurant. After passing Finga’s Italian, a left on Ching Cheng 7th Street brings you to Frog III Pub, with its outdoor garden, drinks and Mexican food. Finally, a left on Ching Cheng 9th Street, opposite the neat-looking Indigo clothing store, will lead all the way to the charming and attractive Villabella Ristorante (tel. 326-1761), where Stefano and his family will treat you to a delicious dinner from his native Puglia region of Italy.
Two more European restaurants in need of mention are on Tunghsing Road, the western border of Little Europe. The first, almost opposite The Landis Hotel (which has its own excellent restaurants), is the small but very good Papa Mia Italian Restaurant (412-1, Tunghsing Rd., sec. 3; tel. 328-6034). The other is the upscale Swiss restaurant, Euro Choice (397, Tunghsing Rd., sec. 3; tel. 329-9796). Further on is the above-mentioned, Tunghsing public parking tower–the best place to put your car (for NT$40/hour).

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Written by 何道明 Douglas Habecker

Douglas Habecker is the editor-in-chief of Compass Magazine

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