SHANGHAI and TAIPEI for a solo traveler -- any recs?
Howdy all- I will be in Taipei and Shanghai for 2 weeks on a work trip - usually I am with our local teams, which means I am (thankfully!) not involved in the restaurant picking or ordering, only the delicious eating!
This trip I am solo for a few days in each city -- I am looking for recs for places that are : (a) OK for dining in alone -- counters, sitting at the bar, not looked at like a tragic orphan for sitting alone, not stuck with someone else's group because the staff doesn't know what to do with you... and (b) are manageable for someone who can't read or speak anything local (pictures on the menu is fine).
Any great ideas? The more local the food, the better!
I enjoyed Formosa at the Howard Plaza Hotel in Taipei - was back there recently:
It's been one of the most popular restaurants offering Taiwanese cuisine in Taipei for the past decade. Okay to dine alone (I did!) - there's an English menu as well as English-speaking staff. My rather substantial lunch cost me only about US$30.
For breakfast, I would check out a branch of Yong He - I was a little disappointed with the northern Chinese / Taiwanese style breakfast in Taipei until I realized that, unlike in Shanghai, you can't find hole in the wall breakfast places in every neighborhood, and a lot of the dou jiang places don't open as early as you'd think. On the last day of our trip, finally made it over to the 24 hour branch of Yong He mentioned here:
and it was well worth the trip. Maybe not miles better than best comparable place here in LA, but definitely as good, and probably at least a little better. Ordering might be a little challenging, but I think it'll be Ok (just point, or bring a print-out of what you want).
There are carts with fan tuan pretty much all over the place, and a lot of them are pretty good. Might be a little hard to communicate, but since they only serve a few things, pointing at what everyone else is getting will probably serve you Ok, as long as you're not vegetarian.
jia jia tang bao is a hole in the wall in shanghai but has very delicious soup dumplings. plus you can go across the street afterwards and get an order of fried dumplings. you won't have any problems ordering there.
xintiandi is a big expat area in shanghai -- it is one area where you can go most places and not worry about language issues. din tai fung is another dumpling house which i recommend -- although i have heard the branch in taipei is even better.
For Taipei - I would definitely recommend the night market at Shi-lin for dinner or a late night munching for local street food. It's accessible by metro (Jiantan stop) and food court ordering is easy even if you don't speak the language. You can point or some of the stalls have pictures. IMHO, Taiwan has the best street food in the world.
If you are staying near the Taipei Train Station, there are lots of breakfast stalls and they open pretty early. Not much English around here but pointing works.
Thanks, everyone - I just got back, and had a great time. As always, eating in TPE and Shanghai did not disappoint. Unfortunately, most of my meals came from stalls and mobile vendors, so I can't even pass along recommendations, except for the general one for Taipei -- be open to anything and eat whatever looks good!
One observation - I spent some time at the Expo in Shanghai, and most of the pavillions have excellent restaurants attached, many serving food local to the host countries that are hard to get in Shanghai (or elsewhere). These places are for whatever reason almost completely ignored by the Chinese visitors - if anyone is expo-bound, I'd definitely recommend they check some of the places out.
If you have time next time for short trip up outside of Taipei - great seafood in YehLiu along the north coast. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehliu
THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) → Kuo-kuang Bus (bound for Jinshan Youth Activity Center) to Yeliu stop.
Thank you for the advices on Expo restaurants - heading out there this weekend.