Following on from just_chris’ recommendation, I thought I’d add an update to what is now more a general bar/restaurant thread for Zhongli rather than expat bars (since there is only one).
The original Pick&Eat (自由選食) is also in the CYCU neighbourhood area, with a second newer branch near Kuva that I haven’t visited yet. Never been to the states so I have no idea what a Chipotle is like. Food is good for the price and Mexican cuisine is not too easy to find around these parts, but the decor leaves much to the imagination. Its not somewhere I’d ever go to find idle chit chat with fellow foreigners (or locals for that matter).
Also in the CYCU area (I study Chinese there, so sue me!) are the following:
Diamond Hill Cafe (中壢中原夜市) - an overly indulgent, overpriced coffee shop/restaurant that actually sells some half way decent European/Mediterranean food, albeit as previously mentioned, overpriced. You are however able to find halfway decent conversation here on occasion if your an outgoing type and like to strike up a bit of banter.
Milu Cafe is rammed every lunch time with students - ok tasting coffees but fantastic subs and fries for a good price. A lot of big dining tables everyone sits around so its a good place to strike up a conversation.
Going further afield around Zhongli…
Hop In (精釀啤酒小舖) is the latest bar to grace Zhongli with its presence. A wide selection of craft beers in bottles plus a couple of local craft brews on tap. Just down the road from the River Bar, its drawing a good crowd now, good place for (expensive) beer and good banter. In fact all of Datong Rd of late appears to have rejuvenated itself with the latest generation of bars to open up, whether or not they’re any good I’ll leave for some other brave soul to find out.
I’m yet to visit, but also opened in Neili (not too far a distance from Zhongli to be fair) is Show How (精釀啤酒專賣) - as I understand it, a similar kind of concept to Hop In, but with more emphasis on food.
Lahore Nights BBQ Kitchen (夜拉合爾巴比Q廚房) is a hidden gem that has recently opened up in the Longgang area of Zhongli - the owner is from Pakistan, he’s only been running a couple of months but business is picking up fast. He makes incredible Pakistani/North Indian food, decor is great, he’s up for a bit of banter, and if you’re that way inclined the food is halal. Definitely worth checking out.
Not sure how I managed to miss House+Cafe Since 1910 last time around. Located in a neighbourhood near to the Highway No 1 exit. Pricey Mediterranean food in a gorgeously renovated/extended old Taiwanese red brick house (presumably built in 1910, but I never asked). Its a victim of its own success, I wouldn’t recommend going for dinner as service is poor and standards frequently slip. For a lunch though its not a bad option.
Dotted around Zhongli is Boske - a bakery/coffee shop selling European breads and sandwiches. Personally I only go there to buy bread, but its soooooo good, so well worth it. They have a branch by Sogo and one (strangely) in Nova.
I should also mention the obligatory TGI Fridays branch in the Metrowalk shopping center - a bit of a way to travel, but I’ve never been there and not seen a few expats dotted around the tables and at the bar.