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. If you are coming to Taiwan as a non-Chinese speaker/reader, and only looking for information on food, then you should find it on this blog. I recommend at least reading the fake meat warning, and also taking this 'Chinese lesson' on vegetarian symbols in Taiwan, the best vegetarian/vegan  labelling system in the world.

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 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 ($$$)
Best Japanese / Korean Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut ($$) Flourish ($$$)
Best burgers About Animals Ooh Cha Cha ($$)
Best pizza Tofunia ($$) Mianto ($$$)
Also see restaurants I recommend vegans avoid


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 21:00) 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. While much of the menu is Taiwanese and Western, the food and style here is most like Japanese macrobiotic food of any restaurant in Japan, so if you will be entertaining Japanese who would like a taste of home them this is the place to come.

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.


Blossom Rena ($$, International Fusion Cuisine)



Anyone who's been around Taiwan for as long as I have will remember Sophie's Garden, which when it opened about eight years ago was the first fully-vegan restaurant in Taiwan. Blosson Rena is run by the same owner, with the same great chef, but the restaurant has moved to a much more central location, and now offers the same great (and expensive) meal sets it used to, but also delicious, moderately-priced snack food, making it great for between meals. Unlike Sophie's Garden, some dishes at Blosson Rena contain onion and garlic; this change reflects the growth of the younger, non-religious vegan community in Taipei, as most of the clientele at Sophie's were Buddhist (and thus didn't eat the Buddhist five pungents).


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. 


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 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



Tofunia serves the best burgers and best pizza in Taipei, perhaps along with Mianto (for pizza).

 One of the newest fusion and one of my favourite restaurants in 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 of here.


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).
Tue-Fri 11:30-21:30, Sat-Sun: 10:00-21:30, closed Monday
大安區復興南路一段25310
Fuxing South Road, Section 1, Lane 253, Number 10
(02) 2784-5677
Website, Facebook, Happycow




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 have a solid meal first.

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

See also: Raw vegan restaurants in Taipei
 

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.

Vegan Taipei ($$, Indian, International)

Daan Station, Exit 4    
Turn left as you exit, take the first left into Fuxing South Road, Section 2, walk 400 metres, then turn right into Rui An Street, and Fresh Bakery will be on your left in 120 metres.
Directions
Mon – Sun 10:30 – 20:00
(02) 2703 2180
台北市大安區瑞安街130號
Da’an District, Rui An Street, Number 130
Happycow, Facebook




This new vegan restaurant is actually a Version 2.0 of the former Fresh bakery, Taipei's first vegan bakery which quickly became famous for its cakes and other baked delights. While a limited range of these are still on offer, it has stopped producing its breads and pastries, however that niche has now been filled by the new Hip Pun Bakery.

Like its former life as a bakery, Vegan Taipei aims to serve healthy, affordable vegan food to large numbers. It is also the only vegan restaurant to offer an Indian curry in the north of Taiwan, and it's as authentic as it can be without onion or garlic. 


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 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 Loving Huts found elsewhere in Taiwan and around the world. 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 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).
 

Travel Guides

The format used here is the same system as in my guidebooks, Taiwan, a Travel Guide for Vegans and Taipei in Four Days: A Travel Guide for Vegans. My guidebooks share this same information (and more), but they focus mostly on sights and activities, travel practicalities (transport, safety etc), culture, history, and how to plan your trip around weather, crowds and opening hours - basically just just like any other guidebook, except that it is all written for vegans. These books better resemble conventional travel guides (eg Lonely Planet, Rough Guide) than most "vegan guides" (which focus just on food), however of course my guidebooks only recommend vegan-friendly restaurants and animal- and earth-friendly entertainment and activities. And the sections on food, culture and history are of course written from a vegan perspective. 

4 comments:

  1. Great information, thank you. Do you know if any of these restaurants are MSG-free?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry this is probably too late to help you? I highly doubt that Ooh Cha Cha would use MSG, nor Plants being raw and healthy, nor Mianto or Tofunia. At Ooh Cha Cha, Tofunia and Mianto you can ask the staff, as the chefs speak English. Please beware of the local buffets, as these have a reputation for using a lot of MSG and other unhealthy sauces.

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  2. Great list of restaurants, and website. You should also check out Vegan Taipei. It's run by the same person who runs Fresh Bakery. The food is Western/ Indian, and is probably my favorite in Taipei. Their calzone is to die for. It is located in Daan, just between Technology Building and Daan Station.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Derek! yers I need to add Vegan Taipei. At the time I wrote this I didn't have enough photos for here and my book, but I do now so I'll add it.

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